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Six Lessons Learned
at the Adobe Summit

From the latest and greatest tech innovations from Adobe to meeting and exceeding the needs of customers to provide a more personalized and seamless experience in the ever-changing landscape of digital innovation — Defakto's Reagan Alhadef shares six key work and life takeaways from the Adobe Summit.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Adobe Summit along with eight other members of Defakto. In addition to hearing and watching demos of the latest and greatest tech innovations in the world of Adobe, we also learned more about how we can meet and surpass the needs of our customers to continue to provide them with a more personalized and seamless experience in the ever-changing landscape of digital innovation.

Aside from the knowledge I gained about the developments within the Adobe space, I also learned six key lessons that I will take with me moving forward in my career.

I believe that despite technological advances, these six lessons will remain relevant at a time when digital transformation is a priority across the corporate world.

#1 Your health should be your No. 1 priority

Unfortunately, almost everyone has experienced that moment where they find out someone they care about is sick and the world stops.  

We often feel as though these situations are out of our control, but to some degree there are factors and steps we can take to ensure that we are, in fact, in control of our health and overall well-being. Think pro-active annual exams not reactive when we have physical symptoms that then push us to get examined.

Daymond John, an American businessman and TV personality on Shark Tank, reiterated that wealth without health is meaningless and that we should take a proactive approach to our health in the same way that we have to do to be ahead in our careers. As easy as it is to delay a doctor’s appointment, we must also remember to treat our health as our number one priority.

Although Daymond mostly touched on physical health, I believe we should also take this approach with our mental health. We must take care of ourselves when we need a personal day to regroup – that’s why we have them in the first place. Lastly, we should all mark our calendars for our next physical exam, even if it means clearing our calendars or rescheduling a meeting.

#2 It is okay to fail

Why are we so afraid to fail? Time and time again we hear from the most successful and powerful people in the world today that they too have failed, and that is okay.

JJ Watt, American football defensive end for the Houston Texans who is also known for his philanthropic work, described an analogy to us that he learned from a previous coach. He compared our journey to a giant tree.

Imagine that you have two options: There is fruit that resides near the bottom and at the top of the tree. The fruit at the bottom is fine and it is appealing because it is safer and closer to the ground. The other option, at the very top of the tree, has the sweetest and most delicious fruit. The higher we climb, the longer the fall can be, but the higher we climb, the sweeter and more rewarding that climb will be. Now, which one do you go for?

Entrepreneurs, athletes, actors have all failed at certain points, and they too have fallen trying to reach the top of the tree. Even the ones who have reached the top might have fallen once or twice on the way.

Watt then told us a time in his life when he took a big risk by leaving his former university, Central Michigan University, where he decided to give up his starting spot and scholarship in order to walk on at The University of Wisconsin. His parents only had enough money to pay for one year of college, and this meant that he only had one year to prove himself to the coach.

While we were in Vegas, Watt joked about at that time in his life and how he was “all chips in,” explaining how transferring schools was a gamble. He then paused and said, that it was not a gamble after all.


Because Watt was in full control of the situation. Unlike going “all in” with your Vegas bets, where the risk is out of your hands, Watt could control how many hours he put in practicing on the field or in the gym, and that was the difference. He knew the steps he would have to take to climb to the top so he could eat the sweetest fruit.

#3 Invest in people, not companies

The people we choose to build our relationships and strategic partnerships with are crucial. We have been told it is not exactly what you know rather who you know. Daymond John reiterated that we should “invest in people not companies.” He reflected on a time where he believed in someone and it did not work how the way he had planned, but he was able to see some successful outcomes regardless. This is because he ended up making an invaluable partner out of one of his worst investments.  

This also rings true for supervisors and managers who are hiring new employees.

There is great value in investing in employees for retention purposes. The more our supervisors and bosses invest in us, the harder we are willing to work for the company, and the better work we produce. This is a continuous cycle.

This also applies to all relationships in life: the more we put into a relationship with a friend or our loved ones, the more we are likely to get out of it. So, stop and actually listen to others – whether it be our employees, our friends, or our family members.  

#4 Do not try to do everything, but be the best at what you do

Daymond John referred to his retail experience by relating it back to the retail floor. He said he told his employees we do not have to cover the whole floor, but sometimes it works in our favor to go narrow and deep – do not be afraid to go niche. Some might worry they will not appeal to the general population, but some products and services do not need to appeal to the general population. We do not all have to be generalists in a field where people are looking for someone that specializes in one area and does that particular service or offering exceptionally well.

I have also learned this through my current company, Defakto, in its efforts to specialize in Adobe Experience Manager with a focus on UI/UX as opposed to trying to specialize across several different areas.

#5 Do not answer emails within the first hour of work or engage in social media

Who is addicted to their smartphone?

Me—and I know I’m not alone.

When we get to work, we are constantly checking and responding to emails as well as checking up on our friend’s latest social media post.

Daymond John pointed out that when we look at Instagram we might think there is always someone cooler, prettier, more extravagant, more successful, or more adventurous, so why do we want to start off our day scrolling through our Instagram feeds wishing we were somewhere else?  The way our social media feeds are designed is affecting a majority of us when it comes to productivity, attention span, and overall happiness.

In regards to our email, someone once told him we can look at our outbox as our offense and our inbox as our defense. Why should we come to work immediately having to respond to other people’s needs when we can reach full productivity by keeping ourselves organized and prioritizing what needs to happen today, tomorrow, or even this week? Although some might be reading this thinking this might be thinking too optimistically or not realistic enough, we should strive to follow after this model and realize the power of the potential this could have on our productivity and happiness.

#6 Schedule time for yourself

We schedule meetings with our clients and meetings within our teams in addition to 15 minutes status meetings to check up on the moving parts of our projects. However, do we schedule time to keep track of the moving parts of our own lives and the lives of our friends and family? Some may say they do schedule themselves a massage or a date with their wife on special occasions, but this is not the time I am referring to. Scheduling time for ourselves and others can be as simple as scheduling a time once a week to catch up with one of your family members or scheduling time to have dinner with your own family every night.

We love “talk” about accomplishing a healthy work/life balance, but do we actually “do”? Whether it is a phone call, meeting for drinks, a workout, or a dinner date we need to be better about setting a time aside and physically marking our calendars. We should treat this time as a priority just as we do with our client meetings.

In conclusion

In a time where the conversations tend to focus around connecting online and offline experiences, we need to remind ourselves that often times the experience for our customers begin with our own journey offline. If we consider these six pieces of advice, then we can possibly be one step further to reaching our full potential. I believe our mind and body, friends and family, and customers will thank you for it.

About Defakto

Defakto crafts authentic experiences that connect with today’s evolving consumer. We do this by offering an unmatched combination of strategic consulting, design and user experience, technology enablement and data optimization. Headquartered in Dallas, Defakto’s clients include Lexus, Abilene Christian University, Spectrum and iRhythm, as well as Fortune 500 companies in Automotive, Health Care, Technology & Media Industries.

Updated Wed., April 18 at 3:40 p.m.

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