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Advocating for Diversity of Thought w/ Rani Mani

by Faster Than Normal

I met today’s guest around three years ago when I was invited to join Adobe’s Influencers Group and I’ve been just in awe of her ever since! Rani Mani is the Head of Global Employee Advocacy at Adobe and helps teams with Influencer Relations. She’s passionate about cultivating and nurturing communities and coaching others to do the same. She is currently working across Adobe teams to drive understanding, excitement, and advocacy among the global workforce in order to enable and empower all employees to be the company’s biggest brand ambassadors. Nicknamed “The Velvet Hammer” Rani’s mantra is to make the impossible seem possible through her humor, grace, and passion. When she’s not asking provocative questions and making declarative statements at work, Rani is making magical memories with her husband and four kids as they continue to visit the many wonders of the world. Today we talk about how helping others can be it’s own reward, the value of diversity in thought, and helping employees to embrace and believe in themselves, and so many other really great topics- enjoy!


In this episode Peter & Rani Mani discuss:

1:11-  Intro and welcome Rani!

2:27-  So you have been an advocate for employees’ diversity in the workforce for as long as I’ve known you, what prompted that to become your passion?

3:18-  What is the biggest change that you’ve seen in terms of employee advocacy and how people look at diversity as a whole, not just at Adobe but like worldwide?

4:30-  Do you find that employees as a whole are starting to sort of embrace their diversity as opposed to some that used to have to be hidden?

5:48- In terms of diversity what have you sort of taught Adobe? What would you say the top things are that a company, big or small, should definitely be doing without question?

7:00-  On the concept of top down structuring/leadership

9:22-  On the diversity of thought

11:08-  It amazes me that a company as big as Adobe can have all that done so well; to the point where it seems seamless, and I’m curious as to why so many other companies have a problem following suit. I wonder what the different, secret sauce is…

13:50-  On employee advocacy and “how can I solve this by helping the other person win?”

17:00-  On the importance of leading with “how can I help you?”

19:20-  On how helping others can even become physically addictive

21:00-  What one piece of advice would you give to someone who you work with to understand the value of diversity? I mean, it seems like an easy question, but like I said, a lot of people don’t get it.

23:26-  How can people find you?  @RaniMani0707 on Twitter and Rani Mani on LinkedIn

23:44-  Thank you Rani! And thank YOU for subscribing, reviewing and listening. Your reviews are working! Even if you’ve reviewed us before, would you please write even a short one for this episode? Each review that you post helps to ensure that word will continue to spread, and that we will all be able to reach & help more people! You can always reach me via [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials.


24:09-  Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits

As always, leave us a comment below and please drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse! Do you know of anyone you think should be on the FTN podcast? Shoot us a note, we’d love to hear!

We have a new sister video cast called 20MinutesInLockdown! A video podcast devoted to learning fascinating lessons from interesting humans all around the world, all in 20 minutes or less!  20 Minutes in Lockdown was born in early April of 2020, when we were in fact, in lockdown, and couldn’t do much of anything. Realizing that more than ever, people could benefit from learning from people outside of their comfort zone – people with interesting stories to tell, people with good advice, people with useful ideas that could help improve lives, we started hosting short Facebook video interviews, and we grew from there. (Plus, you can actually see my hair colors change before your very eyes!) Check it out:


Hey guys, Peter, Shankman welcome to another episode of Faster Than Normal, thrilled that you are here as always, good to have you! Today’s guest needs no introductions, but I kind of have to do it anyway because you know, it’s a podcast. I first met Rani probably almost God, two years ago, no maybe three through an invitation I was given to join Adobe as part of their insider’s group, Adobe influencers. And I have been in awe of her ever since. And I want to read your bio cause it is, it is pretty damn impressive. Ronnie Mani is the head of global employee advocacy at Adobe. Okay. What does that mean? She helps teams and influencer relations as well. She’s passionate about cultivating and nurturing communities and coaching others do the same. She works across all Adobe teams, right? So all around the world to drive, understanding excitement and advocacy among the global workforce, in order to enable and empower all employees to be the company’s biggest brand ambassadors.

I love her nickname. It’s the velvet hammer. There’s a lot of fun. So talk about that. Ronnie’s mantra is to make the impossible seem possible through her grace humor and passion. When she’s not asking provocative questions and making decorative statements at work, she’s making medical memories of their husband and four kids.

One of whom I believe is somewhere on his way, back from India, as they continue to visit the many magical wonders of the world. Ronnie, welcome to faster than normal. I’m thrilled that you’re here.

Thank you so much. So happy to be here. 

So you have been an advocate for employees, diversity in the workforce for as long as I’ve known you, what prompted that to become your passion?

People are my passion. Right? I feel like people are amazing and they need to know that they’re in me willing to unearth their potential and truly be, I believe it’s my calling in life. Pray to really help people understand who they are and what they have to offer and to draw that out of them and make them believe in themselves if you will. So it just seemed like a really natural fit. 

How long have you been at Adobe now?

12 Years at Adobe and 5 years in this role. 

Wow. And what is the biggest change that you’ve seen? I mean, in terms of employee advocacy, you know, I’ve seen a massive shift in how people look at neurodiversity, but diversity as a whole. What have you seen? Uh, what, what change have you seen since when you started? Not, not just Adobe, but like worldwide.

What change have you seen when you started and between them and now, referring to diversity or employee advocacy. 

Let’s start with diversity. Well, so diversity now it’s no longer about tokenism, right? It’s no longer about just representation, but the concept that it’s diversity and inclusion- I think people are catching onto the inclusion and that inclusion is not.

Something that can be really quantified per se, but it’s a feeling right? It’s do you feel included or not- and I think the focus there is the biggest change that I’ve seen. Whereas when I first started in the tech world, it seemed far more about, you know, what percentage of which underrepresented group do you have and is that acceptable and what are you doing to move those numbers, and there wasn’t much talk about inclusion at all. I find. 

Do you find that employees as a whole are starting to sort of embrace their diversity as, as opposed to some that used to have to be hidden? I’m finding that at least from the, on the ADHD side, in the neurodiversity side, I’m seeing that, are you seeing that as a whole?

Very much so. I mean, I’m thinking that I think people are really recognizing that it is a superpower- much like to your preamble at the beginning here, you know, that the seed of the blessing, not a curse, it is a gift. And I think more and more of us are really believing that as we’re invited to bring our whole selves to work. And more and more companies are realizing that they’re leaving far much at the door on the table by not inviting people to bring all of themselves to work and encouraging them not to compartmentalize like we used to have to, right. It was considered unprofessional to bring your background and all of the glorious parts of who you are beyond just the professional to work. And now it’s considered a, you know, it’s not just in quiet, encouraged, but it was required for you to excel and succeed.

Well, let me ask, okay, let me ask you this. In terms of diversity, what have you sort of taught Adobe? What would you say the top things are that a company big or small can do one of the things they should definitely be doing the basic things they should be doing without question, that should be no brainers?

Well, so we get our pipeline and, and, and, you know, making sure that you are recruiting from these underrepresented areas of populations within the community, right. That you’re actually going and seeking and recruiting from those buckets of people and keeping yourself casting as wide a net as possible. I think that that’s first and foremost. Right. And, and, uh, I don’t know that I would say much more than that, Peter, because I don’t want to overcomplicate things. Right. It’s like the right folks in the door first and foremost, just to have the conversation. And then from there. You’re bound to find the right debt. But if you only go and look at the siloed areas, you’re just missing out on a huge population of the industry of the world. If you will. 

One of the things that I’ve seen is it’s something that has to be embraced from top down, right? If you don’t have top down, buy in from this, all the hard work you do is irrelevant.

That’s right. That’s right. Absolutely. And it needs to come top down and bottom up as well. Right? I mean, the folks, your peers need to be bought into it as well. It’s not enough for it to be a leadership. Embracing it, but the folks that report to you that are your peers, it has to be a three 60 kind of a thing for it to fully take a fact and to have traction, but you’re right.

I mean, in terms of fundamentals, if it doesn’t come from the top down, it’s not going to go anywhere. Yeah. I’ve seen companies in the past, not see. Sort of they’re sort of shooting themselves in the foot and the respect. They haven’t seen the value, you know? Oh, we’re, we’re a diverse company. We, you know, we, they, they wind up being diverse as it applies to the, to the ADA, right. The American disabilities act. And they sort of consider themselves on point, but it feels more like it’s course. And what I’ve found is that when that happens, it’s you see right through that. 

Absolutely. I mean, if you’re doing it to be a chapter and the buck to get appropriate funding to be politically correct, but so obvious.

Right? How long have you been at Peter for the outside world? So obvious for employees, right. And then not going to get any kind of passion. You’re not gonna get any kind of retention. You’re not going to get employees to actually advocate and be ambassadors for you because they know they know you’re not being authentic.

You, they know that the words and the deeds are not matching. Um, and there’s nothing more tragic than that, right? Because you’re going to actually mobilize your employees to be your biggest brand ambassadors. You’ve got to be authentic and they got to believe in you and they got to believe in what you stand for.

And they want to, they got to want to be a part of it. 

Interesting that companies that, uh, the rewards that they reap from. Pulling pushing forward on diversity right now, even, not even just trying. Right. But when they actually do it, they find benefits and rewards that they didn’t even know existed, but they weren’t even seeing about.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, think about the diversity of thought, right? If you, first of all, if you’ve got a group of people that are mirroring or a workforce that mirrors their customer base and the communities that you’re trying to serve, they’re going to be able to bring ideas to the table in terms of consumer buying habits are what, what experiences customers and community members want. Right? They’re going to be able to problem solve, but make credit products be more innovative, right? I mean, the philosophy at Adobe is that if you feel appreciated and included you are going to be more creative, innovative, and ultimately more successful what we call our belief and we named that hashtag Adobe for all, right? But I tell you, Peter, it’s not a hashtag. Right. It’s not solely the lifeless, nameless hashtag. I’ve been at Adobe for 12 years and you know, that’s unimaginable in tech. Right. But I stay there and I we’re always tell people someone’s going to have to really walk me out the door for me to leave just because the company embraced stays so fully and, and you see it pretty much in every action, right? Every summit, every product, every tough conversation we’re having in terms of our numbers, in terms of complete employee surveys. It’s a real joyful thing. I mean, by no means have we arrived. There’s tons of more work for us to do as will be the case at any company but effort the actual passion and the commitment is unmatched. I have yet to see something like this. 

You know, at such a huge company like Adobe. I mean, you guys are, you guys are a monster you’re massive. And yet it’s almost second nature in that the diversity of inclusion within the company is automatic.

Right. And it amazes me that a company that big can have that done so well. Right. So to the point where it seems seamless, and I’m curious as to why so many other companies have a problem following suit. I wonder what the different secret sauce is.

It’s hard to tell Peter, but I would say from an inside out perspective, I think.

There’s this like intimacy at scale at Adobe, for example, one of our MVPs recently retired. Here’s this senior, senior sales, exactly who reports to our CEO and this gentleman, I mean, he’s flying the world. He has a massive organization that he’s leading and yet, Peter, there has not been a single day that he’s run across me at the elevator or wherever, calls me by name knows something about my children, knows something about what’s going on in life, you know, and of course you may feel like, Oh, that’s specific to me, but then I’ve seen him do that to employee after employee. And I feel like it’s that like small mom and shop feel that the company has continued to hold on to, even though we’re 24,000 strong worldwide.

So there’s that real, you know, there’s that real investment in people and truly, truly believe that our workforce is our biggest asset. And so I think from that fundamental, like innate embracing of that, then you scale, right? Which is why I’m calling it an intimate at scale. Get into bed and get up close and personal first and then put the operational rigor in place to expand and scale, but start with that relationship first. I think it’s the same in  our insider’s program, right. We have a real tight knit group of people who would probably go through fire for one another, but we’re doing things at a massive scale, but I think it’s because we prioritize the relationship first.

When, I guess, I guess I’m trying to figure out how to phrase this. One of the things that I’ve always found interesting about you, and I want to switch over to it to employee advocacy for a second. One of the things I’ve always been thinking about you is that you, from the first time we ever taught, I found that you approach things from the perspective of how can you help, um, the other person win.  I’ve always seen that you look, you look for things in terms of how can I help? How can I solve this by helping the other person win. And think it’s a trait that connects into advocacy in that if you are, if the employees believe that they are working at a place that cares for them and respects them and values them, they become advocates sort of by default. ]Naturally] I saw that at America Online when I was working there in the 90’s and that, and that they really let us work the way we wanted to as long as we got the work done and that translated into us having a better sort of work life quality. But the interesting thing is that it only takes one employee, who for whatever reason, isn’t buying into that to ruin it, you know, for a lot of people. If there’s one bad and if there’s one employer, one manager who, for whatever reason, isn’t on that same page that can trickle down and cause a tremendous amount of drama.

Yeah, but I also might.. that if it’s indoctrinated into the culture, the community will course correct. And that individual will stick out like a sore thumb and will naturally fall off. Because they just don’t fit. So I think that’s the other secret thoughts of how we do it at Adobe that this notion of we care for you we invite you to bring your full self, we need, we appreciate you. We value you. We are looking at what they had for you like for employee advocacy. For example, I don’t lead with. Here are five really important pieces of Adobe news. Please go amplify it. That’s not how I started the conversation, right? I start the conversation with clearly in the 21st century, you need to have a social footprint. Let me help you develop your social personal brand. Let me give you access to tools that will cure rate, but high-impact content at your fingertips. Let me show you how you can grow your social network by 10x over a year. Right? Because all of these things are transferable, wherever you go. And you know, there’s so much research out there that says that the more active you are from an advocacy standpoint, the more your career gets accelerated. Right. So I lead with, what’s in it for them. And by the way, should you do this, the company benefits, right? So it’s a total gift to get process. 

I’ve seen that a lot though. You know, I think that the smartest marketers, the smartest communicators, the smartest people are the ones who lead with, how can I help you?

Right. And it turns out it winds up being a, a, a, a win-win in that, you know, every email I send out my mailing list, you know, winds up becoming a, um, help, and not a sales pitch. 

That’s right. If you, if you have that mindset, you will never have to sell at a single day of your life. Right. You will never have to sell. And it’s just, it’s unfortunate that so few people understand that the person who helps the most wins period, there’s no like there’s no conversation about that. 

It blows my mind. It blows my mind that people still don’t seem to get that, you know, I can’t tell you how many times I’ll get an email from someone I haven’t heard from in five years and, you know, Hey, how’s everything going?

Listen. So I’m looking for a new job. I’m like, where the hell have you been? Right. Right. I told you two and a half years ago and you weren’t looking for it to call and say hey, how are you doing? Right. Right. You know, and, and just, even in this day and age, I just don’t, you never even really to convince people. Some people just don’t get it.

And, and, you know, but that goes back to the whole concept of the customer experience is so low, right. In that, in that the bar is set so low, your interaction and it’s things like that, the approval suck slightly less. That’s right. That’s right. Because that bar is so low. There’s not a lot. You have to do.

That’s right. That’s right. But I would think for, for no other reason than the sheer gratification that you get from seeing somebody else’s thing and knowing that you had a fingerprint on that, like you would think that that would be enough to drive, to drive people to do this, but I guess not, right? Like, I guess not enough endorphins have been released or how dare you try to bring common sense into this. What’s wrong with you? 

You know, this is we’re currently in a country that believes that injecting bleach will cure coronavirus. So let’s not, let’s not start dragging common sense into these things, but I think, I think that, I think the interesting point though, is that it does become addictive. Oh yeah. Becomes a, a very, you know, you like helping people and it becomes a, a passion. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Right. And you want, you want more of it? It does release don’t mean it does release a serotonin. It does become a physical thing and you want to keep doing it, It is. It’s very addictive. 

Oh, yeah. I can tell you it physically manifests you, right?

If you are happy and you feel like you are contributing to other people’s success, it just, it just boueys you up, you know, you’re my word is singing, but someone goes a lot of physical challenges. I found. Peter, the more I lean into what have I done for someone today who say prayers in my answering? Like the more I make that focus, it’s like all my aches and pains just kind of go away. It’s pretty miraculous how that happens too. And now, you know, when you are in the service of someone else that you kind of take attention away from what’s going on with you and that’s been nothing short of life changing for me. 

That I’ve definitely found that. I think when I, when I, when I am upset, when I am like depressed and I’m going through some tough times, I tend to head over to the animal shelter I’m here for a bit.

And then that is not only a wonderful feeling, but I mean, let’s also be honest. It’s okay. Uh, just, um, uh, uh, You know, being surrounded by fuzzy little animals always makes everyone feel better. Well, oxytocin there for everyone. 

What would you, what one piece of advice now I’ll close it on this one, I wanna be respectful of your time.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is, uh, in a position to either be able to help? Or what have you advice would you give to people that, who you work with? To try and get them to understand the value of diversity. I mean, it seems like an easy question, but like I said, a lot of people don’t get it.

Yeah. Yeah, maybe, maybe it’s, uh, saying to yourself, you know, maybe it’s putting out a problem that you’ve been wrestling with for awhile and rather than go to your tried and true folks that you normally go get opinions from, or, you know, whoever serves as your normal cabinet of advisors, um, your lifeline, right, your call a friend. Really pivot and go tap folks to her fundamentally different from you who are fundamentally going to give you that other perspective that you normally wouldn’t have any, we all have those people in our lives. Right? We all know if I, if I were to add the, as you know, if you have a bright idea, Who are three to four people hold that you kind of don’t even want to talk to about these ideas, because you’re a little afraid about what they might say, just because, you know, you fundamentally don’t agree.

I would say, push yourself to go present whatever that is to those three to four people, because chances are that diversity of perspective and diversity of thought is going to just make whatever you’re working on 10 times better. I I’ve seen that. I’ve just seen them play out time and time again. So, I mean, maybe it’s not necessarily that you’re seeking out diversity in the ethnic, religious, sexual orientation way that we typically think of a diversity. Maybe you just go down the path of just diversity of thought and people that you know, that you typically don’t see eye to eye on and, and be humble enough to seek out their opinion. I think that would be a good start. 

Diversity of thought what a great phrase and what a great way to end that. I love it!

How can people find you? You know, Twitter, Twitter, and LinkedIn. So RaniMani0707, and then just RaniMani on LinkedIn. I think those are the two best ways. I love it. I love it. Guys, follow this woman. She is brilliant and she will give you brilliant advice and your life will be better for having her in your orbit!

This has been Faster Than Normal as always, my name is Peter Shankman. I thank you for listening. Please leave a review on anywhere that you download this podcast, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher. We will see you next week with a brand new episode where we continue to press the notion of ADHD and all sorts of their diversity is a gift and a curse. Thanks for listening. 

Credits: You’ve been listening to the fact of the normal podcast we’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play. And of course at I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were performed by Steven Byrom and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week. 


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