What does a design team ops group program manager do?

Cassarie Soungpanya talks about appreciating unpredictability, her love of spreadsheets, and the importance of speaking up

A digital illustration of an Asian woman with long dark hair and wearing a white blouse. She's centered on a grey and white (spreadsheet-like) background, with randomly placed, grey-and-black stylized profiles of people, alongside speech bubbles in shades of green, peach, and blue.

Illustration by Gracia Lam

We design and refine the Adobe tools and experiences that millions of creative people use every day. In this series, we introduce the bright and brilliant people behind the products: Meet the members of Adobe Design.

What do you do at Adobe?

I'm a group program manager—a program manager who also manages people—supporting Adobe Design business processes and programs related to budget, recruiting, and onboarding. What I really love about this role and operations, is the necessity to build strong partnerships and connections with design leaders and design teams. A large part of my job is to meet with all of design’s senior leaders to understand their business priorities, so that when needs arise and requests come through, we know how to best support them. For recruiting, we’re the connector between design’s hiring managers and Adobe’s talent teams. Ensuring everyone is aligned on recruitment strategies, and the specific needs of our design team disciplines, helps influence a candidate’s end-to-end hiring experience. As people are hired, we’re involved with onboarding to ensure everything’s in place for them—gifts, training, and all the things that contribute to the culture and making someone feel welcome—so they feel supported and appreciated from their first day.

What's your team working on?

We often juggle many different projects and programs. Recent key areas include partnering closely with our Talent team to host AD Talks, a networking event for Adobe Design, focused on why generative AI needs design leadership. It was the first in-person community event we’ve hosted, since before the pandemic, but we’re considering making it a series to increase involvement with local design communities near our offices. We’re also working with our University Talent team to map out a strategy for the education programs and offerings we’ll have next year. We’ve piloted career fairs, but we’re also considering panel events, like AD Talks, to engage and educate students, so they know what careers are available at Adobe and in the design industry.

We’re also involved with researching and implementing the tools Adobe Design uses—making sure the right processes are in place to roll them out and to help people incorporate them into their workflow. Most recently, we’re partnering with our Product Equity and Accessibility teams to implement a new tool to streamline and automate accessibility checkpoints for our designers.

What essential tool, product, platform helps you do your best work?

Microsoft Excel, hands down. I know not everyone is a fan, but I love spreadsheets, and Excel is essential for staying organized and managing the budget of an almost 700-person organization. Similarly, I also rely on Airtable. It’s not only a popular database, but a powerful one. It’s great for collaboration and has a lot of integrations that help to make repetitive work less manual. And of course, Slack. Because our teams are distributed globally, it makes conversations easier and I use a lot of its functions (note-taking, bookmarking, reminders).

What skill do you consider a superpower?

Finding connection points with other people, while also getting things done in a way that feels balanced and true to myself. I also pride myself on being able to break down large problems and provide creative solutions. At any given time, our team can be involved with any one of the people in Adobe Design, so being able to start conversations and insert yourself in processes when people need help, is almost a job requirement. At the very least it’s a valuable skillset. We also need to be flexible, adaptable, and know how to help in a way that will resonate with people.

What’s on your heads-down, time-to-focus playlist?

My musical tastes are all over the map, so I listen to a lot of different music—Country, Spanish, K-pop. But, since lyrics can make it hard to concentrate when I really need to focus, at those times I go with high-energy instrumentals—Classical Covers of Modern Pop and Hip Hop. My favorite Spotify playlist is Classical Bangers.

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?

It’s a bit cliché, but it’s always stuck with me: Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. If you want to do something new, need to better understand something that’s happening, or figure out how to make progress in your career, you can’t be afraid to speak up. There are always people to support you but everyone has to learn to advocate for themselves. It’s not only advice I remind myself of often, but I always share it with students or anyone I mentor. When the worst that could happen is hearing “no,” it never makes sense to not to say something.

What excites you most about the work you’re doing?

Undoubtedly, the people and the breadth of work. I work with people across teams, disciplines, and levels every day, so each day is just a little bit different than the day before it. I usually start my days with a plan but because the work we do on this team is so broad, I never really know how it’s going to end up. That’s what I love most about it... that it’s not entirely predictable. I often have to figure out how to do new things, and it puts me in contact with so many different people and personalities.

What’s a dream project you’re currently involved with, or want to take on?

I’m a natural born planner and studied business administration in college, so I’ve always wanted to start something from scratch. I’d love to do some type of food pop-up event, inspired by night markets of Asia, with my family, where we can curate the experience from start to finish. I'm Lao and Iu Mien, and although the food is similar to Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese, people aren’t as familiar with it, so to be able to share our culture would also be really rewarding. In the past, I’ve been involved with a couple of local Lao and Iu Mien community events, so I can an envision some sort of partnership that would help share our language and culture.

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