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Wade Sherman – Adobe Inc.

Adobe legal leader breaks his mold guiding Workfront M&A

Wade Sherman, vice president and deputy general counsel for Adobe’s digital experience division, has been immersed in M&A since joining the company in 2009 when it acquired the company he worked for, Omniture Inc.

But the $1.5 billion acquisition of Workfront that closed in December 2020 was a new experience for him as well as the company. That’s not just because Adobe could add Workfront’s work management platform for marketers to its existing digital experience and content creation tools.

Wade Sherman | Vice President and Deputy General Counsel | Adobe Inc.

Wade Sherman | Vice President and Deputy General Counsel | Adobe Inc.

Guiding the integration of Workfront also elevated Sherman’s role as he wrote and executed the business plan to integrate the new company into Adobe while benefitting from its distinctive culture and staff, he says.

“Acquiring Workfront provides technological connective tissue between Adobe’s creative tools and marketing tools,” Sherman says. “Our approach to integrating the company was experimental by making one senior leader responsible for the M&A and integration. I was eager to take this on and stretch into the business side of our operations from my legal focus.”

Grasping opportunity

Adobe was already partnering with Workfront before it acquired the company, so Sherman says the M&A process to close the deal wasn’t lengthy.

From the company’s and Sherman’s perspective, Workfront was a natural fit. Adobe’s content creation tools enable users to add music, photos, video and data to their work and presentations. Its digital experience tools allow enterprises to analyze, measure and personalize that content for their customers. Workfront’s platform helps create an even more unified experience by allowing marketers to manage a campaign from creation to launch. They can list a campaign’s goals, progress and effectiveness.

Wade Sherman | Vice President and Deputy General Counsel | Adobe Inc.

Sherman says Adobe leaders, including Anil Chakravarthy, the president of its digital experience business and worldwide field operations, were ready to try a new integration approach with one person leading the effort. He, in turn, was eager to step beyond his legal role.

So, Sherman wrote a thesis on how Workfront’s integration would benefit Adobe, elaborating how the new platform’s capabilities would expand products, business growth and customer adoption. He also wrote the business plan to carry out the thesis, including timelines for integrating the organizations, finalizing marketing plans and migrating internal business systems.

“The goal was to bring Workfront’s new products, features and capabilities to our portfolio in order to delight our customers and to retain the great talent that created them,” he explains.

Sherman says the acquisition and integration are among the most successful in Adobe’s history due to the speed of the integration and achievements against the business plan.

Integrating traits and talents

Sherman, who leads a team of about 80 legal professionals focused on Adobe’s enterprise sales transactions and digital experience products, has provided advice and counsel on the front and back ends of almost two dozen acquisitions in his career.

“I can quickly identify issues and hurdles early in the process so senior leaders evaluate a potential deal and then eventually integrate the acquired company,” Sherman says.

To ensure smooth integrations, he says Adobe focuses on innovation with a “genuine appreciation for people that’s rare.”

Wade Sherman | Vice President and Deputy General Counsel | Adobe Inc.

Workfront has similar traits, but Sherman says there were also nuances to merging the cultures and philosophies of the companies. Workfront had about 1,000 employees and a startup culture, while Adobe now has nearly 30,000 employees and 40 years in the software industry.

“It’s a massive adjustment for any smaller company that joins a larger one,” Sherman says. “But I believe we did a good job of bringing the cultures together and honoring one of our core values to be genuine throughout the process.”

Making connections

Sherman, a native of Lafayette, California envisioned a career in environmental law as he studied biology and genetics at the University of California, Berkeley before earning his bachelor’s degree in the subjects at Brigham Young University and his J.D. from the University of Utah.

However, it was not a practice area with abundant career opportunities at the time, and a shift to IP law changed his career track while piquing his interest in technology and the law, he says.

After spending about a year as an IP associate with the firm of Osuga & Associates in Tokyo in 2000, Sherman returned to Utah and practiced patent law with the Salt Lake City firm of Jones, Waldo, Holbrook & McDonough. He also was a legal intern focused on brand protection for the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City.

Wade Sherman | Vice President and Deputy General Counsel | Adobe Inc.

Sherman joined Omniture Inc. as its director of legal affairs in 2004 and was named chief privacy officer and vice president for IP and licensing in 2006. His responsibilities included building the legal framework for licensing the company’s digital marketing software as a service, or SAAS, products and services. He was also a forerunner in developing online privacy policies and data governance practices because of the product’s data analysis capabilities.

While Sherman and his wife raised two children, he’s also been a minority owner of the Utah Warriors professional rugby team and Emigration Brewing Co., a brewpub near his Salt Lake City home.

When Adobe acquired Omniture in 2009, Sherman became senior director for Americas licensing. In 2013, he was named vice president of legal for the company’s Experience Cloud business and was also chief privacy officer in 2016 and 2017. He was promoted to his current role in 2019.

“I really love finding solutions to things that people think are impossible,” Sherman says. “I think I have a unique ability to bring people together, to connect on a meaningful level, and then to lock arms and go tackle hard things. This is what gets me excited to come to work every day.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2023 Edition here.

Published on: August 21, 2023

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