Talking with Aubrey Cattell, VP of Product at Adobe

Kendall Pennington


As the current VP of Product and lead at Adobe Spark, Aubrey has grown a SaaS business within an enterprise company. In this episode, Joe and Aubrey sit down to talk through the DNA of an experience, how to create customer loyalty, and connecting in the modern workplace.


About Aubrey

VP of Product at Adobe Spark, Aubrey describes the app as essentially “a design tool for people who aren’t designers.”  The team is focused on making the product easy for the average person to create graphics, videos, and webpages all within a desktop browser or mobile device.

He’s had a fun journey at Adobe these past five years. Seeing Spark scale from a handful of mobile applications to launching business models and monetizing.

Prior to Adobe, Aubrey spent seven years at design software company, Autodesk. “I’ve spent a lot of my career at the intersection of design and technology, building end-to-end user experiences.” 


Adobe and the Modern Workplace

Aubrey believes that Adobe fits into the modern workplace now more than ever. 

Evolving from historically more text-driven corporate communication to a more visual means has been a major catalyst for Adobe Spark’s success.  Many professionals have started to realize how much more compelling a story can be told through a video or a well-designed deck than perhaps a Word document or Excel sheet.

Everyone trying to communicate their ideas while working remotely, “they’re really looking for ways to express their ideas more impactfully, and we see this as a huge opportunity for Adobe Spark.”

Aubrey believes we are all eventually going to return to work physically in one way or another, but that it is going to look a lot differently. Right now he’s trying to calculate how best to find the balance in the hybrid model for his Spark team.


The Roadmap

People right now are seeking “digital agency in their pocket.” How can they create professional-looking content in an easy and approachable way? Adobe Spark hopes to provide the solution.

When it comes to content production, Aubrey believes it’s a team sport.

The Adobe team is constantly trying to find ways for users to work together on the same project. Spark is looking forward to bettering collaboration amongst its users and having shared workspaces and asset templates.

He does make sure to note, however, that much of the playbook is still being written.

“Authenticity is key.”

When it comes to being a leader, Aubrey says that when in the midst of crises it's part of the job to directly address what’s going on and create an outlet for the team to get through it, but he’s not a fan of the phrase “business as usual.” It’s okay to acknowledge that things aren’t okay and allow some flexibility while still maintaining a primary focus on the customer. 


A Startup Within an Enterprise 

Adobe Spark was originally created to bridge the communication gap. Adobe found that many consumers who aren’t creative professionals were overserved by Adobe’s other products such as Photoshop and Illustrator, but underserved by tools like Microsoft Office and G-Suite.

The Spark team set out to create a product that was cloud-native, easy-to-use, and capable of creating standout content with accessible starting points. 

Aubrey helped build out the cross-functional organization to figure out how to scale users leveraging the brand salience of Adobe and its greater product line. 

Incubating a new business within a large technology company requires sequencing the way to success.  His team, for instance, had to move quickly on time-to-market and being hyper-focused on the user, aspects that made it feel like a startup in the early days.

But, once the playbook is developed, it is of course easier to scale due to the established nature of the company and the resources available.


The Role of Visual

In the Hybrid world, visuals are the best way to exchange ideas.

Tools like Adobe Spark and CloudApp are still figuring out their role in remote productivity and asynchronous communication.

Live video tools like Zoom and BlueJeans play an important role as well. Aubrey says that he has noticed his virtual meetings being much more efficient than they were in person, due to there being features like chat box options for questions and minimal distractions or small talk.


His Predictions

As companies phase back into in-person work, Aubrey says they will likely face obstacles in attracting diverse talent if they’re not willing to compromise to a hybrid model. Companies that want to stay ahead will have to be flexible in adapting to what many workers have now become accustomed to.

The way that people interact with each other and with businesses has evolved in this past year. Businesses will need to challenge assumptions they have had previously about the customer and what’s important to them. Keeping an eye on trends and doubling down on observations to meet the customer where they are will be more crucial than ever.

Listen to the episode here.

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