By Kevin Tankersley
Not making the Lady Bears basketball team was one of the best things to happen to Sarah Kennedy Ellis during her time at Baylor.
Instead of spending the final two years of her collegiate life dedicated to basketball, Ellis found “some other really amazing things that gave me yet another set of friends and family in the Baylor community later that year,” she said. “Honestly, I view it as a blessing that I didn’t make the team.”
Ellis, an outstanding high school athlete, tried to make the team as a walk-on player, but coach Kim Mulkey, early in her career at Baylor, ended up filling those spots with recruited players. Still, Ellis was grateful for the experience.
“What was great for the school was also great for me because candidly, when I was told I didn’t make the team, I was so relieved,” she said. “It was a great character-building experience for a full year. For me it was very isolating, very lonely and very difficult. But I also accomplished more in that year than I ever thought was possible.
“It was the first and only time I will ever run a sub 6-minute mile,” she said with a laugh.
Ellis graduated in 2004 with degrees in business management and business journalism, and earned her MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2007. She is now vice president of global marketing, overseeing all marketing efforts for Marketo at Adobe. (She was formerly CMO at Marketo before it was acquired by Adobe.) Ellis is based in Denver, though she doesn’t spend much time at home. In 2018, she was on the road for 50 weeks, working with her teams in London, Sydney, Tokyo and other locations, with several stops in California’s Bay Area, where Adobe’s headquarters is located.
“I never have enough time with any given office,” she said. “I feel like I don’t get to see any of them collectively enough, but I’ve got to split my time as much as possible to make sure I can stay connected. A lot of times you have to sit in a room together. There’s no perfect substitute for a whiteboard in a room and being face-to-face over late night pizza to solve problems. And as a leader for a large organization, I think it’s more important than ever to stay connected.”
At Adobe, Ellis leads an “end-to-end marketing organization” that encompasses demand generation, social media, public relations, product and brand marketing, customer marketing, content marketing, sales enablement, event marketing, marketing operations and everything in between.
“In B2B marketing, I am selling someone the success or the failure of the job they’re in and potentially their career,” she said. “They’re spending tons of money on our marketing software and are relying on me to solve a very large problem for their business. And if I don’t succeed for them, then they don’t succeed. And I take that responsibility very seriously. I take a lot of pride in playing a part in another marketer’s career progression and their success by doing my job well.”
Drift.com recently named Ellis as one of the 21 Best CMOs to Follow on LinkedIn, where, she said, “my strategy is honesty to a fault, and I probably delete as many things before I post them as what I actually post. I’m just super honest, and I like engaging in a legit, meaningful and honest dialogue. Having fun with people and staying connected and celebrating their success is really fun, so I’m just constantly out there in very small ways, and over time, something small adds up to something impactful.”