Oracle’s Modern Marketing Interview with Sara Shuman, Published on June 8, 2018
Recently, we sat down with the charming Sara Shuman, the interactive creative director at Oracle, to talk about how she has learned to ride the ebbs and flows of the technological sea. From analog computing to voice-driven experiences, Shuman has seen it all and strives to constantly learn more about what’s next and how we can best use cutting-edge technology to create more connected user experiences.
Specifically, Shuman is responsible for orchestrating all of Oracle’s digital touchpoints from marketing properties. That means that she touches every aspect of Oracle.com from the visual aspects and functionality to branding, campaigns, and social. Not to mention all native mobile apps! “It’s quite a large job, and I enjoy every minute of it,” says Shuman after running through her laundry list of concerns including, demand generation, usability, click-throughs, imagery, typeface, and general aesthetics.
“If you don’t like change, you’re in the wrong business.”
Shuman joined Oracle in 2010 with the Sun Microsystems Acquisition. Leveraging her classical graphic design background with tactful coding and digital acumen, Shuman positions herself and her work at the hinge of change.
Her goal is to ensure customers and prospects can access Oracle information on every avenue they travel. They should have ready access to information when they need it and how they need it. She recalls the early stages of mobile marketing: Many did not think that people would be searching for Oracle products on their phones and wrote the channel off as something only for retail, but Shuman anticipated the larger shift.
Now, people search for Oracle.com on mobile devices at a massive rate, so when executives called for a mobile responsive site, Shuman could say that it had already been done. How often do you get to say that?
This anecdote represents a theme in Shuman’s career, “I tell my design team and everybody, if you don’t like change, you’re in the wrong business.” But, Shuman doesn’t pursue newness just for the hell of it, she is discerning in her search for the next thing that will improve customer experience—what will connect audiences to what they want as seamlessly as possible?
At the moment, Shuman is excited about touch and speech responsive interfaces (although she also thinks we could improve cleaning products for touchscreens—agreed). These methods add a more human element to the equation, which attracts consumers. Touch is now one of the most prevalent modes of interaction with a device, while speech is quickly gaining momentum with the likes of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Even gesture is becoming a mode of technological interaction, for example, turning the music up in your BMW with a twirl of your finger (still not quite as simple as turning a dial though). Staying on top of these trends is imperative to building future success.
Shuman is a life-long learner, when she hears about something that she piques her interest, she researches it, takes a course on Lynda.com, and finds ways that it can be applied to Oracle. Her propensity to embrace change has led her to the head of a team of creative, talented, and driven problem-solvers determining the look, feel, and functionality of Oracle’s digital touchpoints.
“A good user experience is something that is delightful
and easy to use.”
The creative director title might make you think that Shuman deals mainly in the realm of aesthetics, but she strongly believes that creating a strong base of functionality, content, and strategy upon which a compelling user interface can sit is the key to adoption and success. Her “less is more” approach to design lets her keep clear sight of her goals like: simplifying the interface, making it cohesive, clear, searchable, and cross-channel.
“A good user experience is something that is delightful and easy to use,” says Shuman, “we want to have a two-sided conversation” that allows the user to dictate what they need and our site is able to guide them there and answer their questions with ease.
From redesigning Oracle.com and ushering in mobile-responsive interfaces to ensuring uniform webpage functionality in many languages around the world, Shuman and her team have a massive undertaking—what keeps her (them) going? Success, of course. Shuman describes her team as highly-optimized and passionate about solving problems and building evermore fluid and desirable user experiences at break-neck pace. “We relish in our successes,” she says, whether it is reviewing metrics or receiving direct praise from clients, her team thrives on guiding the trajectory of Oracle’s brand and experience.
In the print age, success was difficult to measure, perhaps a client might tell you a brochure you put together looked nice, perhaps not. Now, we are able to measure nearly every metric imaginable with digital marketing analytics tools. With each project, Shuman can set specific, measurable goals, then down the line she can determine precisely how well she has delivered on those goals and make adjustments accordingly. This allows her team to view their successes in a concrete manner and easily determine where they can make improvements.
“I have to forget all the no’s I heard yesterday
and just ask again.”
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges Shuman has to combat on a daily basis is convincing those above and around her that a making a change or investment will be beneficial to the overall organization. “I need this level of amnesia every day, so I have to forget all the no’s I heard yesterday and just ask again,” says Shuman with a laugh.
Her level of determination is not only inspiring, but relatable to anyone trying to steer progress and be an arbiter of change. And, she is not the only Oracle woman laughing in the face of no. Oracle’s CEO Safra Catz spoke about perseverance at the last employee summit, saying, “When you hear a lot of no’s, that means you’re going in the right direction. Don’t stop.” Shuman attended this summit and said she was empowered by Catz speaking so candidly about overcoming obstacles and felt vindicated that she must be heading in the right direction.
“Good branding is like music… you might love a song, but if you listen to it too much it becomes boring.”
The environment at Oracle lets Shuman and her team function much more like an agency. She enjoys the freedom and mobility to follow her passions and pursue industry shifts in way that she might not be able to at another company. Shumans says, “Good branding is like music.” By this, she means that you might love a song, but if you listen to it too much it becomes boring. “What Oracle is able to do with our brand, much like a good musician, is that we are able to change and adapt to keep up with tastes while maintaining our unique hallmarks.”
Over the years, Shuman has been able to compose more intricate melodies for the Oracle brand. Expanding the color palette or adding new modes of engagement, all layer more nuanced harmonies over Oracle’s baseline building up to a delightful and thoughtful customer experience.