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Although Allison Blais had always been a good student, going to law school gave her an entirely new perspective on education. “It was this transformative experience for me,” she says. “Something clicked, and I started to love learning.”
Blais has continued to seek out learning opportunities ever since. Fortunately, she has found the perfect home for her intellectual curiosity at Adobe, a software company that encourages ongoing development at all career stages. As director and associate general counsel of corporate securities and mergers and acquisitions (M&A), Blais brings her unique experience and thirst for knowledge to bear in the company’s dynamic legal organization. Furthermore, she seeks to spark the same enthusiasm in junior colleagues that her own mentors have nurtured in her throughout her professional journey.
After discovering her deep interest in learning as a first-year law student at Quinnipiac University School of Law, Blais decided to pursue a joint MBA and JD. “I realized that I had these gaps because I knew nothing about business. I wanted to have a baseline and to get my brain working that way,” she explains.
Blais spent her first few years out of law school in business litigation before accepting a regulatory analyst role at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in 2010. At FINRA, she honed in on the intersection of business and law as an area of focus and gained valuable leadership experience by participating in targeted programs, including one at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “It was this intensive, in-the-classroom program with tests and reading and homework,” she says. “It reminded me how much I enjoy the traditional learning environment.”
The Wharton program also introduced Blais to numerous business owners, one of whom offered her a chief risk officer role out west. “I had been on the regulatory side for five years, and I was ready to help build something,” she says. “So I took the risk and moved to Utah.”
A year and a half later, Blais applied for a competitive M&A role at Adobe. “I decided to own my position as the nontraditional candidate, and I ended up getting the job,” she says. She then immediately went into what she described as “sponge mode” to get up to speed on her new M&A and corporate securities duties. “I was hungry to learn,” she says. “And the encouragement that I received to take the time to learn was absolutely invaluable.”
With Adobe’s endorsement, Blais committed to learning by doing and to digging deep into unfamiliar topics. “I kept a running list by my computer––and I still do this today––of things that I wanted to learn about,” she says. In addition to reading as much as she could, she never hesitated to reach out to a team member or outside counsel for guidance.
Today, Blais and her team oversee all of Adobe’s securities filings, draft the company’s proxy statement each year, and provide support to both the executive compensation committee and the board. “The securities calendar controls a lot of what we do,” Blais explains. “It’s pretty predictable, until an M&A deal gets thrown in on top. And then it’s about juggling and making it work.”
As a lifelong learner, Blais enjoys her role’s combination of predictable and unpredictable elements. Even the more predictable aspects, such as regularly communicating with shareholders, can evolve in parallel to changing priorities and industry developments.
Blais is currently taking her learning to the next level by obtaining a master’s degree from the Harvard University Extension School. Since Adobe provides reimbursement for education and professional development costs, Blais feels completely supported in advancing her knowledge of finance through the program. “This is an area where I want to go deeper. I am going to be a better negotiator and a better advisor if I understand the full picture,” she says.
As an extension of that attitude, Blais does her part to foster growth in members of her own team and colleagues across the company, including through a mentoring program organized by the Adobe and Women group. “I learned the importance of having mentors very early on in my life,” she says. “Many people think of mentorship as this formal junior-senior relationship, but peer relationships and junior relationships have so much value in them too.”
Blais plans to keep offering her services as a formal and informal mentor moving forward, just as she plans to keep engaging with peer and junior colleagues to generate fresh ideas. “I want to bring that creativity to projects and figure out how we can continue to move the needle,” she says, whether that means streamlining routine processes or modernizing Adobe’s proxy statement to reflect shareholder needs.
Of course, Blais will always carve out time to check learning objectives off her personal list––efforts that will benefit Adobe as much as herself. “I never want to stop learning,” she says. “I don’t want to know just enough to be dangerous. I want to know enough to add value.”
Perkins Coie, LLP:
“Allison Blais is a pragmatic, action-oriented legal advisor and thoughtful mentor to her team. She is an excellent partner—valuing legal advice yet always striving for solutions—and expects the same of her outside advisors.”
–Andrew Moore, Partner