H@H: Ep 44 – Adam Ward joins host Paulina Lee on this week’s episode of Here@Haas. After studying politics in the UK, Adam came to the States on a scholarship to study the 2012 election. His fascination with people, messaging, and better understanding what persuades actions has translated seamlessly into a career in sales and marketing at MuleSoft. Adam is also the newly elected EVP of Marketing for the EWMBA class, eager to bring his passion for communication with his desire to represent and help his fellow classmates.
A lifelong passion for politics – “One of the things I’ve always loved growing up was elections… I love understanding why people think in a certain way and what are the messages that persuade them to vote in a particular way.”
Looking forward to the spring semester – “[The Leadership Communications course] is all about storytelling, presence, leadership, and I think communication is so critical to any successful leader. I’m really excited about that and also how to be vulnerable in an authentic way.
Joining the EWMBAA as the EVP, Marketing – “What I wanted to do was to use my skills to help in the need [following Covid-19]… I have good skills around how you put information together, how you present in a clear and compelling way, how you engage people in novel formats. That’s why I really want to step up and be counted.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Paulina: I’m Paulina Lee. And this is here@haas, a student run podcast, connecting you to all Haasies and the faculty that changed our lives. This week on here@haas, we are joined by a very special guest, Adam Ward, EWMBA class of 2023, and recently appointed EVP of Marketing for the EWMBAA. Welcome to the show, Adam.
[00:00:24] Adam: Paulina. So happy to be on the other side of the interview chat.
[00:00:29] Paulina: It’s so great to have you in the other seat. Now you’re in the hot seat and you’ll really be able to empathize with future guests.
[00:00:36] Adam: Exactly. And I’ll know all my filler words, which I’ve already decided as the web, like, so apologies sent me one listening if I say like a lot. I’m trying to get that to everyone.
[00:00:46] Paulina: That’s true. That I would say is one skill you learn in podcasting is how do you speak and what words do you say that are just weird and awkward, or for myself, like, how do I sound different when I’m just thinking really hard, but also trying to push a conversation along?
[00:01:06] Adam: How’s it sound cerebral 101.
[00:01:10] Paulina: Yes, exactly. Please, no one save these to your desktop and listen to it in 30 years.
[00:01:18] Perfect. Let’s dive right in. You’re very aware of our first question we like to ask all of our guests, but would love for you to just tell me a little bit about yourself, your background. We obviously know from your accent, I’m sure our guests have picked up, that you were not born and bred in the US. So, we’d love to hear you tell your story.
[00:01:38] Adam: That’s guilty as charged, British hair. I grew up in the UK in a rural town called Honiton, which is in the Southwest of the UK. I went on to study politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford. After that, I was a bit stuck. Really. I’d done my masters in politics being at Oxford for five years, wasn’t really a hundred percent sure what to do.
[00:01:59] And I was very extroverted. I loved working with people and I wanted to work for a company that was both growing up, paid opportunities. And so, I actually decided to work for a company called MuleSoft, and that was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. So, I did in the sales role, moved across the sales enablement, and we might dive into this, but I did my master’s in American politics.
[00:02:21] So I’ve always wants to live on the other side of the pond. I’ve got the opportunity to do that with that role. And then I moved from that and then recently moved into marketing. So, lots of different hats. Being at MuleSoft now, but just over four and a half years, it’s been fantastic. I love the company a lot.
[00:02:37] And then I just joined the MBA last July. So, it’s all been a bit of a bluff, but it will be very fun.
[00:02:43] Paulina: That’s great. So, I would love to dive in a little bit more about your time at Oxford. So, in undergrad you studied politics, correct? And then you got a master’s in politics as well. Tell me a little bit about your thought process there. Why did you choose politics?
[00:02:59] Adam: Yeah, absolutely. So, one of the things I always loved growing up was election. And I think it’s because I love understanding why people think in a certain way and what are the messages that persuade them to vote and it’s pits away. And I loved the elections. I think growing up, I loved the competitive side of it.
[00:03:17] And as I was going off and became more understanding the policy implications, how that impacted people and have become a lot more involved with policy work thing. And I can remember staying up to the 2000 US elections in the UK, you know, at 4:00 AM, watching those, and I loved that. So, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study politics folks in economics and an undergraduate.
[00:03:39] And after three years, you know, I still wanted more. So, I decided to stay for another CA. I continue particularly focusing on American politics and also state legislative politics. So, I’ve actually made it my goal to try and visit the old 50 state (imaudible) is definitely a passion of mine.
[00:03:56] Paulina: You can really see it come through. And what I found so fascinating is I think when I was thinking through what questions to ask you, I was like, surely, he went into politics because he just wanted to be like the next star in parliament. Or I listened to a lot of podcasts. So, the last year I’ve heard a lot of that guy who’s just screaming order.
[00:04:16] And so I was like, that’s the role that Adam could play. But the twist here is that we’ve got a Brit who’s probably more educated in the American politics system than most Americans are. So why American politics?
Adam: What’s interesting to me about America is the sense of where you are in the country. There is this sense of being an American and people hanging up the flag, and that can range from liberal events to more conservative because, I actually in 2012, won a scholarship to follow the presidential election. And I did a shoddy plane banking for a bomber in the old Chicago. I also started the Republicans battled down that and actually got the opportunity to start at the RNC. So, I saw a lot of the American flag thing was use in a lot of it.
[00:05:03] Different contacts. And that’s how the USA, whether that’s at the RNC or actually when, by them one in the street for the Castro, two very different places, people with completely different mindsets, but the sense of America and the promise of America. And I just find that variation across the state extremely interesting, which is why I think I’m very interested in federalism as well.
[00:05:25] How does state create identities around themselves and how do they express that? Particularly in the Capitol building.
[00:05:30] Paulina: And I think you talk a little about it, but you haven’t explicitly mentioned it. We’d love for you to tell me a little bit more about 50 for 15 and what that was and your experience there.
[00:05:43] Adam: Yeah, of course. So that was the 2015 UK general election. And it was a very contested election. No one really knew quite what was going to happen. So, for those of you who don’t know about the UK election system, we have a lot of what we call constituencies. You would call them districts in the American context.
[00:06:00] And like in America, there are some swing districts and there are some very safe seats as well. And what I did with wo of my really good friends is a road trip across the UK, going to fistula the most marginal constituencies or swing districts in the country. And when we were there, we talked to politicians, we talked to interest groups, but we fundamentally, and most importantly, pokes the voters.
[00:06:22] What were the key things, but driving the conversation in different places across the country. And it was fascinating because these places were going to determine who won the election. Rather than national government was going to be. And a lot of things that were driving it were who was serving the potholes on the road, or what were the local plan for housing development, all very important things to people, but it was really interesting to see that blend of local and national.
[00:06:49] And I loved that opportunity. And I think that’s actually what got me interested in podcasting and telling people’s stories because we did a lot of media. We. Yeah. So, come radios. We’ve tried to create creative and visual things as well as sort of blogging in general. And I think it’s a huge passion of mine is you can tell by the way I’ve animated.
[00:07:07] I love politics. I think it’s so important to people. And I think I have the skills and the communication skills to be able to explain to people about politics, what it is, how it works, why you should be interested in financing, why you should vote. And that’s always been something that I love doing, and I hope to continue to do it doing in the future.
[00:07:28] Paulina: Yeah, you can really see your passion. I know people listening probably can’t see it, but I can see it. And hopefully people can hear it in your voice. So, you did 50 for 15. You really dug into politics. What drew you to MuleSoft?
[00:07:41] Adam: A lot of people ask us like, Oh, you love politics. You love storytelling. Why at company?
[00:07:47] And I think the key reason is that I started in sales and sales has lots of similarities with politics in the sense of understanding, listening to people, what are people concerned about? One of the messages that really resonate and ultimately trying to help people and sales is a lot of it is helping people understand is this product right for you? Is it not? And I was just really excited by the opportunity to be in a company that was growing very quickly. I consider myself a generalist. And being in a company that has that growth and that scale, you have a real opportunity to put your set in, help with the culture, and get involved. And I’ve really seen that at MuleSoft.
[00:08:25] Paulina: That’s so great. So, you start at MuleSoft in the UK and then came over to the States. How did that happen?
[00:08:30] Adam: There was actually a role at MuleSoft to run our sales onboarding bootcamp. Now, this is a three-week sales council where everyone who started to the company and inside sales org. And that’s where the people calling people on the phone, sending email kind of getting that.
[00:08:46] They was from anywhere across the world, they would be flying to conferences and they would be met by me and we would cover everything. They would learn the technology, they would love the fundamental integration, but there’s also live sales skills. We have people moving from different industry.
[00:09:04] Fundamentally also though it was a great opportunity to dive into people’s values and beliefs about why they were doing this role. And one of the sessions we would do halfway through is what are you sad about? What are your biggest failures? Where does that come from? And we really dove into that and it was like to see, to work with a number of awesome people.
[00:09:21] Overall, I watched through 150 people coming into the company and that role was based in San Francisco.
[00:09:28] Paulina: So, you started in sales at MuleSoft, and now you’re in marketing. It looks like you had a number of different roles at MuleSoft. I’d love to understand which of your roles had you learn the most from.
[00:09:39] Adam: So, I’m a bit of a salmon, I’m swimming upstream in terms of the message, right? I wasn’t a sales team, so I was delivering the message and then just sales enablement. So, it’s teaching the salespeople how to do the message. And now ultimately, I’m in marketing side helping to create the message. And I think that’s given me really good perspective.
[00:09:58] And you’ve asked the question, where do I learn the most? I’ve learned across all of them. I think in sales, I’ve learned just to be fearless and to fail fast, pick up the phone, speak to people the number of times. And I picked up and they were like,
[00:10:17] And then from that sales enablement, I think really taught me how to engage people and how to communicate clearly with people. I think sales enablement and sales enablement folks are really undervalued in organizations. People say, Oh, anyone could put on a training, but we think just so many trainings, even myself, where we just sit back, get distracted, especially now when everything’s on zoom mastery of creating a really compelling sales enablement track, and really engaging people and communicate to huge groups of people in the exact way and takeaways that you want them to take away from your session is actually quite difficult.
[00:10:54] And you learn a lot about just the real rail is like how you got interested and engaged. And then finally marketing I love, and I think this is where I’ll say this really feels like a home because it combines that messaging element and the creation, but also that’s the number side, it’s very creative.
[00:11:13] And I felt like in marketing, I see myself progressing in a way that I perhaps didn’t in sales with sales enablement. So, I really use that word home to describe it, but I’m so thankful that I’ve had those opportunities because successful marketers should understand the sales process and be close to sales, to fundamentally understand what content they’re creating and how that be used on the rubber meets the road.
[00:11:35] And actually on this journey with MuleSoft, we were acquired by Salesforce. Which we can dive into place was probably one of the reasons I asked you to do the MBA, but it was a huge opportunity to see a company that was much bigger than us and really fit into that narrative as well.
[00:11:50] Paulina: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And what I love about meeting people at Haas or anyone attending business school is that we all have this similar polyphony where we’re like, I think I want something more. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I think an MBA can help me with that. So, we’d love for you to share why an MBA and why Haas.
[00:12:10] Adam: So, to link it to that sales pitch story. I remember we all got an email from the CEO saying all hands meeting, come to the 4th floor in 20 minutes and everyone was stressed. We’d seen some things on Google. We thought that it was going to get acquisition and you sit there on the floor. We’re all crammed in. And he announces that we’ve been acquired.
[00:12:37] And I was excited, obviously, a little nervous. What did this mean immediately? What does it mean for my visa? Thankfully, nothing. But there’s some people who’ve been at the company for a really long time. It impacted them. What does it mean to work at Salesforce as opposed to MuleSoft? It ties so crucially to people’s feeling and sense of belonging.
[00:13:00] And I think for me, reflecting on that experience, that’s a real turning point to your question around wanting something more, because an acquisition impacts so many things about what you do. It’s the brand, it’s the messaging, it’s the people. How do you retain them? I’ve had to go through the much celebrated M and A course.
[00:13:20] So I have to learn from you. Everything. I feel like made me just think about business. Whatever that was means in a much broader sense than I had been just head down getting over my work and the MBA is the cost to unlock what business is and how to understand it. And I really think that was a very transformative episode in my life, in my career.
[00:13:43] Paulina: And did you look at other schools outside of Haas or just Haas in the Bay area?
[00:13:47] Adam: I looked at Haas one so the location. I live in San Francisco and I wanted that opportunity to meet people and have that in-person zoom now that, you know, hopefully it would be a thousand, but also, you know, and I’ve added these podcasts.
[00:14:03] I know when people say. I went to the domestic symposium when I was applying and so passionate, the people around Berkeley was just awesome. And the leadership principles, particularly going beyond yourself and caring more about the community and the people and what we’re actually standing for and what we’re actually trying to do was really crucial to me. So that is the whole thing was awesome. And I think it’s a great institution to be proud of and I’m really happy to be here.
[00:14:34] Paulina: So, you’re one semester down, started the second semester next week. What are you looking forward to? What are you hopeful for the spring semester?
[00:14:43] Adam: Spring semester, looking forward to two things. One is on Saturday we have our leadership comm class, which is all around storytelling, presence, leadership, and I think communication is so critical to any successful leader, but I’m really excited about that and also how to be vulnerable in an authentic way and communicate and speak about that. I’ve got a lot to learn that and I’m excited to learn about that.
[00:15:09] The second thing, financial accounting. I said earlier, I’m a generalist, but I’m excited a lot about finance accounting, because I think in this MBA, you just got to throw yourself in something that you’ve never done before, but you’re probably not going to pick up immediately straight away and just go for it and see what happens.
[00:15:29] Paulina: Opposite ends of the spectrum from, of course.
[00:15:36] Adam: To causes that are so different. See what happened?
[00:15:42] Paulina: You’re going to love leadership communications. I think. Everyone that goes through the program and goes through lead coms always comes away with a life revelation, with a skill revelation. You learn so much about yourself as well as about your classmates and of course ours was in person, but I think it’s just as important. And I hope they’ve kind of whipped this into the syllabus as well, but just as important for us to know how to tell enough ventek story and maintain executive presence in a digital world as well. So, kind of two things I wanted to touch on next with your short tenure at Haas, but we’ve had the opportunity to get to know each other through working on the here@haas podcast.
[00:16:27] So we’d love for you to share why you joined the podcast and what surprised you, what’s been great, what’s been terrible.
[00:16:38] Adam: Why did I join? Wow. The faster you’re saying is that I love the medium, so I love listening to podcasts, The Daily being one of my favorites. And because from that experience of 50 to 15 earlier, I love thinking about people’s stories and scratching the surface.
[00:16:55] What motivates them, what’s their story. And, you know, back in that class, we have such diverse groups of students. Yeah. Just five minutes of these interviews and you’re like, wow, I have no I there about that. And it’s just a great creative outlet. Now some of the hidden secret.
[00:17:16] Paulina: Behind the scenes.
[00:17:17] Adam: Awesome. And great personalities, lots of different people that I would never have met from all the different courses, right? The executive team, the EWMBA, and the full-time. So, I’ve seen often, I think what really surprised me the first time is, you know, and I’m not complaining. It’s just, you know, you have.
[00:17:36] And I was just about the content and edit that in 20 minutes. That takes a lot of time. That actually does take a lot of time to think it through. And which parts of the story will the audience listen to? How does that work? What will resonate. What’s the clear messages that you’re trying to get across and comes back to those original themes with communicating and setting people by days and stories.
[00:17:59] Paulina: It’s been really fun having you on the team. You were a part of our first crew that we added on and it’s been such a great time having more help, but just more people to bounce great ideas off of. I’m sure our listeners can tell Adam has a lot of passion and energy and creativity. And so, you’ve definitely brought a lot to the table and we’re so grateful to have you and the whole group. Outside of the podcast, you are also a part of student leadership, so would love for you to share how you got involved and why you got involved.
[00:18:33] Adam: Yeah, absolutely. So, I’m the EVP of marketing. I still have to remember that the MBA and the main reason. And I just said, because I want to follow the Paulina Lee. (inaudible) secretary for the EVP position. I just thought she seems to be doing really well. What’s it now?
[00:19:04] Paulina: Lots of opportunity, Adam.
[00:19:07] Adam: And I went to do it. What I wanted to do was to use my skill to help in the need. You know, some of the work has done a sales enablement has bought it on internal communications.
[00:19:18] So, I have good skills around how you put that information together, how you present it in a clear and compelling way, how you engage people in novel format. So, I think with the need, I have the skill set to be able to help with that. And that’s why I really wanted to step up and be counted. And then the other reason was the people. I know other people are being interviewed for this podcast for that exceptional.
[00:19:44] And I just thought this is a great opportunity to spend more time with this wonderful group of people. I see Chloe who’s the EVP of finance. I’ve met during WeLaunch. And we just had we’re in a breakout room together. And I was like, this woman is incredible. And I want you to set up a coffee chat elsewhere.
[00:20:02] And we have that. And then we have some meeting and she was the person that originally, who said, actually, Adam, we’re really looking for someone who’s part of our team to do this marketing role. Would you be interested? And I just thought, well, I have to scale the neatest tower. I think I can help. Um, this group of people.
[00:20:18] Awesome. And so, I just thought it’d be foolish not to get involved. So, that’s the reason why I’m part of the Haas connect team.
[00:20:26] Paulina: Well, I know as the outgoing exec team, we are so excited for you guys to leave your mark on Haas, leave your mark on the EW program. I think for us, obviously the crisis management, we call it, and moving from a hundred percent in-person to a hundred percent remote was a very interesting experience. And you guys will have the reverse of that. Right? So, going from a hundred percent remote and figuring out what is the right communication, what is the right way to open back onto campus? Given all the restrictions we have from just a general policy and CDC, and then just the way people are feeling about it.
[00:21:05] So I’m so excited for you to take on this role because to your point, I think you are very well versed in how to do this type of work. So, I am curious, I know we’re just in January and I’m sure you guys haven’t really had a chance to meet yet, but in your head, do you have any legacy, action items, or if there was one thing that you would have hoped to accomplish as you onboard the next year’s EVP of marketing next year, that you would want for 2021?
[00:21:36] Adam: We had a platform with three CS, so we want to connect a community, which was creating a one-off experience across evening weekends full-time, connect outcomes, which is making it easy for students to find the information they need, and then connect through COVID, as you were saying in that question, making sure people felt included, they understood the get back to in-person process and felt that they were offering that point of view and that we could take that clearly.
[00:22:05] So those are the three pillars I play primarily and connect outcomes and what I really want to do. It doesn’t sound particularly glamorous to begin with. It’s just audit all the different places that people get information. That’s fine, that different places. And I wanted to see what people are using, what’s resonating, what’s not because let’s be honest, Paulina, and there’s always going to be people, and I count myself in that, sometimes you don’t open the darn email that need opening.
[00:22:34] Paulina: Don’t read anything.
[00:22:37] Adam: I think what I used to do. Think realistically about what we can achieve to make sure that people got the information that they need, because there are so many awesome things happening.
[00:22:47] And I don’t know, half the time. So personally, this ball’s going to be great, all the different things, but that’s what’s been really important to me, but I’m interested, you know, what were some of the key things that you learned during your time in the role as well, because I’ve got a lot to learn from you as well.
[00:23:07] Paulina: You’ll just have to wait for my interview to come out. Um, no, I think for me and for our group, to your point, it was just figuring out what was the best way to communicate. What was the best way to work as a team? What was the best way to work as a program office? And I think the hardest part is always as the voice of the student body, as representatives of the student body, how do you accurately represent an entire student body, right? Not necessarily the vocal student body, because sometimes the most vocal are not necessarily representative of the whole population. And then underneath that, trying to help work with those who have special circumstances or who have passion areas or who are vocal about certain issues, work with them to understand where’s the passion coming from and then how can we help? I think we learned a lot about crisis management, for sure. A lot of it is communications. And a lot of it is understanding at the heart of everything is human emotion. Right? So, for work as a tangent, I’m reading a book called Split the Difference, which is a negotiation books, right, by the FBI investigator, Chris Voss.
[00:24:17] It really grounds you in the fact that we are all humans and we have to take in that emotional sense. And that is a very real thing that I think we saw a lot in 2020 and continue to see in 2021 is just, we are, we may claim to be logical humans, but we are often like emotional first when we make our decisions and how we communicate and work with that is a big learning for sure.
[00:24:42] Adam: Absolutely. And it’s kind of a full tux moment because that trainings to do where I had people come to San Francisco, I added it to the syllabus that people had to read before they came, because it’s so fundamental. And that’s an incredible book. I, a hundred percent, agree with you. People should go and order that book now from a local bookstore and read it. It is awesome.
[00:25:06] Paulina: Um, any closing thoughts as we wrap up our chat today?
[00:25:09] Adam: Today? Not really. I hope you’ve been, I’m not going to edit this, so hopefully I’ll find out what my filler word is. I’m sure it’s lot like Paulina. You know, I joke about following the Paulina, Liam, Dell MBA, but I’m really grateful to people like you and people who are across social rights in the Airbus, so really helped us navigate through this time. I have been on campus maybe twice. I don’t even know really what’s sad. So, you guys have really helped us understand how to make the most of the MBA and we forged these new paths together and I’m just really grateful. So, thank you so much.
[00:25:45] Paulina: Well, I would say too, our classes have learned from your class, and just seeing the engagement that you guys have. You guys have much more energy in the digital world than we do because, you know, we’re just crouched down and we’re like, ah, it was better in person, but there are a lot of silver linings to being virtual. And there are a lot of silver linings to jumping on zooms with classmates and people that you might not have a chance to chat with.
[00:26:12] Um, so thank you to you and thank you to your class as well. And thanks for coming on the show, though, you really didn’t have any choice.
[00:26:30] Wow. Thanks for tuning into here@haas. Know a Haasie that has a story to tell? Nominate them on our website, haaspodcasts.org. And if you enjoyed this week’s episode, please subscribe and leave us a rating review. It really does help. And of course, share this podcast out with your favorite bears. This episode was published with the help of one of our associate producers, Runjini Murthy, and edited by our very own special guests, Mr. Adam Ward. Until next time I’m Paulina Lee and this is here at Haas.