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Women Of The C-Suite: Diane K Adams Of Sprinklr On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You don’t have to figure out your five year plan. At any time in our lives, our priorities can change and impact what we want with our career. Listen to your heart. It’s that simple!

As a part of our series I had the pleasure of interviewing Diane K. Adams, Chief Culture and Talent Officer, Sprinklr.

Diane K. Adams is the Chief Culture and Talent Officer at Sprinklr, a provider of enterprise software for unified customer experience management (Unified-CXM). She has a proven track-record of scaling businesses that in turn, have doubled, tripled and increased their revenue streams 10x, during tenures at four public companies. Diane’s teams have hired more than 100K people and led 135 acquisitions. Prior to Sprinklr, Diane served as Chief Culture and Talent Officer for McGraw-Hill Education, Qlik Technologies, Allscripts, and led HR for 35K people in 152 countries at Cisco Systems. She is also the author of “More than Casual Fridays and Free Coffee: Building a Business Culture that Works” and serves as a Director Emeritus for the International Board of Directors of JDRF.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Funny enough, my Mom decided my major for me — business administration. I would follow my wise mother anywhere!

At 17, you really don’t know what you want to do with your life and Mom’s advice was to choose a major that played to my strengths and would give me lots of career options along life’s journey.

I started my career in finance which was a great foundation for the business world. I soon realized that my passion in life was making a meaningful difference in the lives of others and what better way to do that than to join Human Resources (referred to as Culture and Talent in my world).

After being a recruiter for six months where I was loving the thrill of helping others find their next opportunity, I was offered a significant promotion to go back to the finance organization. At 24 years old, this level of promotion was really tempting.

After lots of thought, I decided to stay in Human Resources and do what brings me joy. I’ve always thought about this simple, yet powerful, life lesson — do what brings you joy — it was a defining moment for me. I’m forever glad I made the choice to stay with what I love and not be tempted in the short term by money. There’s nothing better than “doing what you love and calling it work”, a line from one of my favorite country songs!.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, and Rick Justice, former CRO of Cisco Systems; believed in me, cared about me personally and professionally, and allowed me to thrive in all areas of my life without regrets. Most notably, they gave me opportunities, visibility, and flexibility.

When my role would typically be in Silicon Valley, they gave me the flexibility to move back to North Carolina when my Dad had prostate cancer. Long before the pandemic changed the world, they trusted me and my team to deliver. In addition to being amazing business leaders, they showed that caring about your people and creating a culture where people thrive personally and professionally are the differentiators for an amazing growth story.

I’m now fortunate to work with John Chambers again, as he now serves as a member of Sprinklr’s board of directors since September 2017.

Rick Justice is soaring in heaven and I think often of him and his legacy — always treat people with dignity and respect. I remember when Rick left Cisco. He received hundreds of emails thanking him and wishing him well. He responded to each and every message. That’s leadership!

These mentor relationships have been some of the most rewarding and influential partnerships of my life. Today, serving as both a mentor and a mentee continues to be a crucial element of my own personal and professional development.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

Whether you’re in an executive role or a leadership role, the role itself is the same — it’s the impact that’s different. As leaders, we must think through the impact of every decision on tens or hundreds or thousands of people, internal and external. My parents taught me from an early age — be fully informed and always, always think ahead!

The best leaders always get these two things right! First — leading with empathy, and second — driving extraordinary results. When you lead with empathy, listening to your people and showing you care, you create a space where everyone feels like they belong. Creating a culture where everyone can thrive personally and professionally starts with showing you care and communicating to inspire and engage. By setting these high standards, only then can you expect outstanding results.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Define your personal mission statement and purpose.

Make annual personal, intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual goals.

2. You don’t have to figure it all out.

You don’t have to figure out your five year plan. At any time in our lives, our priorities can change and impact what we want with our career. Listen to your heart. It’s that simple!

3. Prioritize.

Do a few things extraordinarily well.

4. Do a good job of the things you simply wish you didn’t have to do.

5. Be intentional with your learning.

Every week, I schedule time with someone that I know will spark my thinking and start energizing conversation. Whether this is someone I know or not, I always strive to expand my relationships!

What advice would you give to others who are trying to shift their careers or achieve a professional promotion?

At Sprinklr, we help brands listen to customers, learn from them, and show them love. But this is also important for anyone in any job — listen, learn, and love. To me, this means staying curious and connecting with people. Ask people their stories. Whenever I ride in an uber, I always make sure to have a conversation with my driver. It’s so important to me to listen and learn from perspectives different from my own, and show people that I care. Change happens when people feel seen and heard. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

And of course — be true to yourself in a BIG way. I like to say, be as you are XL!

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!

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Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market