Name: James McCready
Title: President, Japan & Asia-Pacific, Adobe
DoB: Nov. 25, 1969
Hometown: Norwood, Massachusetts
Years in Japan: 5
As he greets the photographer who will take his picture for this article, Adobe’s head of Japan and Asia Pacific James McCready joked, “Oh, you have your work cut out for you.”
Moments later, responding to a comment that the shoot location, Adobe’s lobby in Tokyo’s Osaki Gate City, is quite nice, McCready quipped, “Yeah, this part’s nicer than some of the other parts.”
McCready probably gets this penchant for cracking jokes from his family while growing up in the Boston suburb of Norwood. “My parents and the broader family, they have a tremendous sense of humor. Always laughing, always having a good time. I think from a family perspective, I realize we’re very fortunate because we genuinely like spending time together. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of laughs.”
McCready talks about his childhood and family with a mix of nostalgia and admiration. Even though he’s never looked back since graduating college, his Boston accent lingers with the ‘r’ in words like ‘Norwood’ sometimes disappearing.
“It seemed as though everybody had a family of four or five or six children and we were always out together with not a lot of parental supervision, which today, wouldn’t fly, but it was a great experience because it was very much a community-like feel. And when the parents weren’t there, you were the responsibility of the older sisters and the older brother, and not just of your family but the other families, so it was a really great place to grow up. That sense of family, that sense of community is something that’s been instilled in me ever since I was a child.”
Throughout his career spanning close to 22 years in the technology business — the last year and a half at Adobe — McCready has adhered firmly to lessons he learned at home, as well as during a six-year stint playing professional baseball.
He first came to Asia in 2011 after accepting an opportunity to move to Singapore for what was initially supposed to be a two-year assignment. Over the next five years, he would visit Japan frequently, even living in Japan for two years before returning to Singapore. But his first entry into Japan is still something he remembers.
“The word ‘foreign’ really hit home. You would see some English, but a lot of it is just kanji and hiragana and katakana … it just seemed so foreign and pretty intimidating because (of) the amount of people, the density, and the buildings.”
This was overwhelming, but McCready heeded his father’s advice to see the world with an open mind, to observe difference but reserve judgement.
“And that really served a great purpose because it was just observe, and then you come to realize that what feels foreign today seems familiar tomorrow, and then eventually it gets really familiar and feels like home.”
He eventually fell in love with Japan and now admires the civic-mindedness among the Japanese. He learned this firsthand early on when a stranger he had asked for directions walked him to his location.
“I’ve heard that story over and over again, and I think that’s reflective of the culture here in Japan,” he said.
But before Japan, and before business, McCready played baseball for the New York Mets from 1991 to 1997. He cherishes the relationships with his teammates and the invaluable experience of being part of a team.
From family to friendships with teammates to now working at Adobe, McCready has always believed in the enduring value of building good relationships. It also seems that relationships have been at the core of important turns in his life. For example, he attributes part of his development as a baseball player to being able to play with talented friends while growing up. When injury signaled the end of his baseball career, it was a friend and roommate who provided a link to his first job at Dell EMC, where he would spend exactly 20 years before moving to Adobe. And it was a friend, the former head of Adobe Japan Eugene Saburi, who pointed him toward the possibility of joining Adobe.
“I think what motivates me, has always motivated me since even when I was a little boy, is being a part of something special. And I think I feel that way from the way I was brought up in my family. But even in sports or even today, working with Adobe Japan, I want to be a go-to person on a great team. I never wanted to be the best player on the worst team. I wanted to just be someone that was relied upon to help the team be the best … it’s something that obviously you can’t do … unless you’re surrounded by great people.”
As for the team at Adobe, McCready wants to focus on building leaders so that when he leaves, his successor will be Japanese and from inside the firm. Amid a “creative, energizing” culture, senior executives often engage members at all career levels in a push toward leadership development.
“When you have an organization where you have great talent, you develop that talent and as you create more and more career opportunities as a result of success and you promote from within, it’s an organization that people don’t want to leave,” he said.
McCready’s long days are split between resolving the needs of customers and meeting with or mentoring team members. Still, he enjoys dining out with his family, especially for sushi, and plays golf every Sunday with his two teenage sons. He himself has been playing golf since he was eight years old.
“You wouldn’t tell by the way I play. So that’s a source of frustration,” he said. The ‘r’ in “source” is quite faint, a reminder that the head of Adobe’s second biggest market always carries a piece of home with him.
Career spans sports and tech industries
James McCready became Adobe’s president of Japan in April 2018. In December 2018, Asia Pacific was added to his responsibilities. Before joining Adobe, McCready was vice president of Japan and Asia Pacific at Dell EMC, where he had served in various positions over 20 years. He studied business at Bentley University in Massachusetts, and played professional baseball for the New York Mets from 1991 to 1997 before entering the technology field. He lived in Japan for four years while working at EMC and has lived here since joining Adobe a year and a half ago. He is married and has two sons ages 17 and 15.
The Big Questions is a Monday interview series showcasing prominent figures who have a strong connection to Japan.