1:33 – Working a minimum wage job in America
8:12 – Finding out what you’re passionate about
26:20 – The dot com bubble
53:49 – Getting acquired for $240M
1:08:17 – Merging two teams
Jean-Michel Pittet is Vice-President of Engineering of Adobe since 2013. With his decades-long expertise of management and product development, Jean-Michel believes any tech-savvy person can become a skilful leader. His main concerns include creating meaningful digital experiences, cultivating purposeful customer/business connections and promoting a healthy leadership spirit.
“For me, it’s natural. I could never be one without the other.”
Jean-Michel’s early experiences as a minimum-wage sales worker for RadioShack taught him how being outspoken and knowing how to land a value can make or break your company’s productivity. But how can we apply sales know-how to product development?
Big wave surfing
“With every change, you have denial.”
After working for Siemens in the late 90s, Jean craved a younger, more dynamic workspace. In 2001, he joined Day Software, a thriving Swiss company with a passion for creating a universal digital experience where different services suit all offerings and aspirations of both companies and individual users. Despite what some might expect, “a Swiss company that is not selling cheese, chocolate, or watches can have an influence on the world stage”, and Day Software was truly taking the lead!
Pulling off an IPO was an impressive move, but the company soon stumbled: after the dot.com bubble burst, more and more investors stepped back from Internet investment. As rounds of terminations and lay-offs piled on, the company struggled to see the silver lining.
We all know change is especially tough when it affects someone’s livelihood. Collaborators soon accepted paycheck reduction and stood close in those delicate days, which shows solid company culture. The best approach, Jean defends, is searching for conscious solutions that won’t overlook anyone’s needs. If towers of paperwork and legal quests await you, it is the role of a leader to hold fast, stay fair and help every single worker get to the other side of the tempest.
Breaking on through to the other side
“To take this energy and to ride this wave, we knew we could get a lot more stuff moving if we had access to a bigger distribution channel. That was a realization we had as a team.”
In a positive twist of events, Day Software’s market dynamics and stock performance were on the rise by the late 2000s. As a public company, they knew how a valuable integration could really boost their ambitions. Adobe, already a customer to DS, couldn’t be a better choice! Having just launched a marketing cloud service, they showed how DS’s 2010 acquisition deal was a perfect example of aligned core philosophies, product visions and corporate cultures. Common passion is all in M&A: in this case, building a systematic digital environment where analytics and context evaluation work to deliver customers the most individualized experience possible.
Managing team fit in company merging and acquisition
“It’s about approaching it very consciously, realizing where you’re at but also realizing what the end goal is: that end goal is good integration and meshing of opportunities.”
What to consider in talent selection
“Part of it is intuitive, but the other part is clearly the respect for the individuals.”
Jean-Michel’s tips for fellow managers
The future of Basel as an innovation hub
According to Jean-Michel, the Swiss region has many highlights that startups should look into:
If you would like to listen to more episodes on big exits, check out our conversation with Ariel Lüdi.