How Yonn Samuels went from Oakland to Lehi, and music to analytics

The Adobe Lehi office in Utah.

The Adobe Lehi office in Utah.

By Adobe Life Team

Posted on 02-25-2021

Yonn Samuels, director of engineeringThere are many paths to a tech career—Yonn Samuels, director of engineering for Adobe Analytics, arrived by way of music.

As a physics major at Santa Clara University in California, Yonn dove into electrical engineering courses for fun. “It had a lot to do with my love of music. High quality multi-track digital recording on personal computers was becoming a reality, and I was recording my music on Windows PCs so I thought taking digital signal processing courses would be useful. Those courses involved quite a bit of programming. One thing led to another, and here I am so many years later.”

Yonn became part of Adobe when his former employer, web analytics company Omniture, was acquired in 2009. He laughs that most people’s first question, when they find out he’s at Adobe, is, ‘Do you work on Photoshop?’

While Adobe’s creative tools tend to get a lot of attention, Yonn doesn’t mind. In fact, he thinks Adobe Analytics has a lot to do with that. “Adobe Analytics powers many of the world’s largest enterprises, including Adobe itself. Adobe is a model for data-driven business. We’ve used our own Adobe Experience Cloud to optimize our world-class creative products. I tell people that if you want to make your business better, you want to use Adobe XD and Adobe Analytics.”

For the Analytics team, the main goal is to help large enterprises wrangle massive amounts of data into useful insights—which is what Yonn loves about the work. “Trying to quickly draw useful insights from terabytes or even petabytes of data is a hard task and is something few companies can do well. With Adobe’s Customer Journey Analytics, we give people the flexibility to visualize and understand their customer experience in a way that could only have been imagined years ago.”

Managing, and getting out of the way

As a director of engineering, Yonn says two of the most important skills are meeting people where they are and getting out of the way. “Back when I started down the leadership path, you could say I was a bit of a micromanager. But over time, I recognized that we have some incredible team members whose capabilities are off the charts. If those incredibly smart minds are directed at getting you off their backs or worrying about whether or not you appreciate their contributions, they’re not focusing on solving challenging problems, nor are they getting all the fulfillment out of their jobs that they could.”

So Yonn developed his 3-Laugh Rule. “I need to be making at least 3 different team members laugh every day. I find that people relax more, feel like they are a part of a team, and get more stuff done.”

“Adobe puts a lot into developing better managers and leaders,” Yonn explains, “which is a hard thing. The company’s approach has made it really easy to bring out some of the better parts of me.”

Living in Lehi

Yonn was born and raised in Oakland, but these days he makes his home in Utah. He admits that when he first decided to make the move, he worried about the lack of diversity. But years later, he says he’d do it all again.

Just last summer, as issues of racism and social injustice rocked the country, Yonn’s coworkers made a concerted effort to check on his wellbeing and ask about his perspective.

The Adobe Black Employee Network (BEN) in Lehi has meant a lot for Yonn, too. “People can share their thoughts and feelings in a safe space, which was helpful when it seemed like the world was turned on its head,” says Yonn.

With his teams working remotely during COVID, Yonn misses the mostly unplanned micro-interactions that happen in person. But he sees the bright side of having more time to focus in quiet surroundings and notes that this new reality equalizes the playing field with Adobe’s remote offices.

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He’s also found a couple of unexpected silver linings, including more time to get back to recording music and his other passion, golf. “One of the things Utah has over California is an abundance of fantastic and cheap public golf courses. It’s a way to be out in nature. It’s how I meditate.”

Topics: Employee Impact, Adobe Life, Brand

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