Ann Lewnes ’83, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Adobe, was the guest lecturer for the Donald M. Gruhn ’49 Distinguished Finance Speaker Series on Nov. 15.
Ann Lewnes ’83 is not afraid to take risks. After graduating from Lehigh with a dual degree in international relations and journalism, Lewnes packed up her Honda Civic and drove the nearly 3,000 miles to Silicon Valley.
“It was a huge risk to leave my family, my friends and every single thing I knew,” said Lewnes, the featured lecturer for the Donald M. Gruhn ’49 Distinguished Finance Speaker Series on Nov. 15. “I thought I would try it for a year, and that was 31 years ago.”
After two weeks in Sunnyvale, California, Lewnes went to the Palo Alto Women’s Resource Center to look through a binder that listed available jobs. This helped her find a job at Intel, she said, where she would help build global demand for the brand among customers, business professionals and key computer channels. She was part of the team that managed the highly successful “Intel Inside” program and oversaw groundbreaking campaigns.
From that first position at Intel, Lewnes grew professionally, becoming vice president of sales and marketing and director of partner marketing of the company. Lewnes shared four key factors that played an important role in her success—taking risks, thinking creatively, delivering results and working well with people. She provided other valuable advice to the audience: Be an advocate for yourself, learn from your mentors, recognize what you need to do to advance and know when it is time to make a change.
All of these experiences helped Lewnes when she transitioned to Adobe in 2006 as executive vice president and chief marketing officer. In her role, she oversees the company’s corporate brand, communications, and integrated marketing efforts worldwide. She has managed the expansion of Adobe’s brand and marketing initiatives as the company has become a leader in cloud-based solutions for digital marketing, document services, and creative. Lewnes also oversees Adobe’s internal communications and corporate responsibility efforts.
In her talk, Lewnes said that seven years ago Adobe took a risk. Creative business revenue was plateauing, and the company needed to make a dramatic shift to drive up revenue and make it more predictable. At the same time, Adobe entered into the business of digital marketing, she said. Adobe made the shift when it recognized the need for its customers to not only create compelling content, but to then measure the impact of that content on the bottom line.
“Over the past 10 years Adobe has completely transformed,” Lewnes said. “Whether you’re streaming the next Lehigh-Lafayette game on your tablet, whether you’re booking your next flight home on your app, or watching the next episode of Stranger Things, Adobe products are helping you do that.”
Lewnes presented her hour-long talk, “From Lehigh to Silicon Valley: Marketing in a Digital Age,” in Baker Hall in the Zoellner Arts Center. The hall was packed with attendees, many of whom were represented by a cross section of students from business, journalism, and marketing.
The annual speaker series in finance was established in 2008 by Donald M. Gruhn ’49, thus formalizing his long tradition of bringing speakers to the College of Business and Economics to address students on business topics. In his introduction of Lewnes, Gruhn announced to the audience that she had just made Business Insider’s inaugural ranking of the 50 Most innovative Chief Marketing Officers in the world, at No. 8.
Story by Margaret Burnett ’17
Photos by John Kish IV