The most transformative CEOs of 2021

Most impressive CEOs collage including Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, Albert Bourla of Pfizer, Mary Barra of GM, Jensen Huang of NVIDIA
From left: Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe; Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer; Mary Barra, the CEO of GM; Jensen Huang, the CEO of Nvidia.

Leadership in 2021 is marked by transformation.

Of business models, of workforces, of organizations themselves. Insider’s inaugural list of the Most Transformative CEOs celebrates the four executives who are best meeting the needs of their many stakeholders. They do not merely protect the bottom line. They also devise strategies to respond to changing markets, tackle the climate crisis, and serve as stewards for the well-being of their employees – and the world.

Insider is proud to announce this first class:

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors

Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer

Jensen Huang, the CEO of Nvidia

Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe

Insider arrived at this list by way of both quantitative and qualitative analysis. We considered the 100 CEOs of the largest publicly traded US companies by market capitalization on the S&P 500 who have been in their positions since at least January 2019. We ruled out executives who are on their way to stepping down, including Ken Frazier, the CEO of Merck.

We evaluated companies and CEOs across measures of recent financial performance, ratings on employee review sites Comparably and Glassdoor, typical employee compensation and the CEO-to-median-pay ratio, and the 2021 Just Capital ranking of companies’ commitment to social responsibility.

To choose the CEOs we wanted to feature, we considered the above metrics, as well as a qualitative sense of leaders guiding their firms through a historically difficult year. We believe these CEOs exemplify the traits and achievements needed to survive and thrive in that challenging environment.

Keep scrolling to learn more about what makes each CEO on Insider’s list deserving of the title of Most Transformative CEO.

MARY BARRA, the CEO of General Motors

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Company
Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors.

Without doubt, the most successful CEO in GM’s recent four or five decades. Bob Lutz, a former GM vice chairman


ALBERT BOURLA, the CEO of Pfizer

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer
Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer.

What they’ve done on the vaccine is remarkable. How quickly they’ve developed it, and now getting it out, especially in the US, is incredible. Vamil Divan, a senior biopharmaceuticals research analyst at Mizuho


JENSEN HUANG, the CEO of Nvidia

Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia
Jensen Huang, the CEO of Nvidia.

One of these extremely rare individuals who has taken a zero-revenue company to $20 billion Rene Haas, Nvidia’s executive vice president



Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe
Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe.

His ability to connect dots across different parts of the business, across different market trends, and then very succinctly distill the key decisions that need to be made is something I marvel at. Amit Ahuja, Adobe’s VP of Experience Cloud


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Millions of Facebook users’ data was leaked

Hi and welcome to Insider Advertising for April 5. I’m senior advertising reporter Lauren Johnson, and here’s what’s going on:

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Facebook set to soar throughout 2021, says BofA.

533 million Facebook users’ phone numbers and personal data have been leaked online

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Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen
Adobe is one of dozens of companies that agreed to a new pledge to increase diversity in the C-suite. Pictured is Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen.

Why Adobe’s $540 million bet on advertising went awry, according to former employees, analysts and ad buyers

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Fernando Machado Burger King CMO conference

Burger King’s CMO, one of the best-known marketers, leaves for top role at Activision

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More stories we’re reading:

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What is a vector file? How to identify a vector file, and which apps you can use to view or edit them

Vector files usually come in just four different types.

  • A vector graphics file is an image that can be made infinitely large or small without losing quality.
  • Common vector file types include .AI (Adobe Illustrator), .EPS (Encapsulated Postscript), and .SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics).
  • You’ll need a compatible app to edit a vector file, but you can view them with most image programs or web browsers.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

In general, you see two types of images on your computer: Raster graphics and vector graphics. Rasters are most common, but vectors play a critical role in graphic design and website building.

But what is a vector? And how can you quickly identify a vector file?

Here’s what you should know.

What is a vector file?

Again, there are generally two types of images you’ll see online and in apps, rasters (also known as bitmaps) and vectors.

The distinction between them can seem complicated, but is actually quite simple. Raster graphics are made of a grid of pixels, each one of which is assigned a precise color. Vectors, on the other hand, are built from mathematically defined shapes like lines and curves.

This means that vector graphics can be infinitely resized without losing any sharpness or color quality, which is great for projects that need high quality images.

vector vs raster
Vectors and rasters might look the same when small, but rasters will lose quality when they’re scaled up.

But how can you quickly identify a vector file? Most vectors come in just a few different file types, making them easy to pick out.

Common types of vector files

In the same way that there are a variety of raster file types (.JPG, .PNG, etc.), there are a number of vector file formats, each used for a different application. Here are the most common vector files in use today:

How to open a vector file

What you need to open a vector graphics file depends on your goal. Here are your options:

  • If you want to view or print a vector graphics file, you can probably open it in most graphics programs, even if they’re designed mainly for raster images. Adobe Photoshop, for example, can open AI, EPS, PDF and SVG files, though the image is opened as a raster at a fixed resolution. You just can’t edit the vector and keep it as a vector.
  • You can also view and print (but not edit) most vector graphics files in a web browser – just drag and drop the file into your browser to see it.
  • If you want to edit a vector graphics file while maintaining its scalable, resolution-independent vector characteristics, you need to open it in a suitable vector graphics application, like Adobe Illustrator. If you don’t want to use Illustrator, you can also check out CorelDRAW (the second most popular application after Illustrator), or the free and open-source app Inkscape.

What is aspect ratio? Here’s why the measurement ratio of your screen or image mattersWhat is a cloud application? Here’s everything you need to know about the internet-based softwareA beginner’s guide to graphics cards and how they help power your computer’s imagesWhat is an SD card? Here’s what you need to know about the small memory cards for electronic devices

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Adobe’s chief product officer predicts the 8 biggest tech trends of 2021

Scott Belsky
Scott Belsky.

  • Scott Belsky is the chief product officer of Adobe and founder of Behance, Adobe’s social media platform. He’s an early investor and product advisor for top startups including Pinterest, Uber, Carta, and Airtable.
  • As 2020 comes to a close, Belsky predicts eight major trends to emerge in the tech industry in the near future.
  • He says talent will increasingly own their audiences through apps like YouTube, TikTok, and Patreon, and that systems and apps supporting creativity will be emphasized over productivity tools.
  • Belsky also says an era of “eduployment” will emerge, integrating the process of choosing a trade, getting an education, finding a job, or starting a company.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As we pull ourselves out of the ditch that was 2020, there are a few major themes of the future I’m particularly excited about. I’m sharing them as a way to connect more dots, meet more founders, and solicit input to further develop these ideas.

No surprise, some of the companies I mention within these trends I know personally, but I have challenged myself to share ideas still on the cusp of breakout rather than the obvious trends and winners. Here they are.

1. The notion of “decentralized” is spreading to unexpected places. 

Yes, Bitcoin and blockchain-powered solutions are all the rage these days, and one side-effect is ideas for how other aspects of work and life can be decentralized. For example, Ben Rubin’s /Talk is developing ways to decentralize how teams work (it turns out the very notion of “meetings” may be an archaic and wasteful vestige of centralized workplaces).

The team at Braintrust is using both the principles and technology of blockchain to build a user-controlled talent network. Rather than take any fees or percentage of the participating talent’s income, Braintrust gains value alongside other participants via tokens that become more valuable as the network grows.

The team at CashDrop has built a way for anyone (from a taco stand owner to an apparel designer) to build a storefront without relying on a traditional marketplace that charges commissions or fees. Taking a step back, the traditional model of central owners of community-powered utilities (marketplaces, app stores, etc.) taking a percent of everything (and central “bosses” for huge teams insisting on reviewing and approving everything) may finally be getting old.

2. Behold the era of “eduployment:” The process of identifying a trade, getting an education, and getting a job (or starting a company) will become fully integrated.

Take Nana for instance, a company that will train you in appliance repair (think unique brands of dishwashers, etc), and then set you up in a marketplace to start getting jobs in your local area fueled by leads from the manufacturers of these appliances. Or take Main Street, who will train you as a painter, outfit you with everything you need, and set you up to be a successful business out of the gate within 30 days  –  essentially turning you into a franchise.


Rather than enduring an expensive education only to assume the complete risk of your career, this new eduployment model, as I’ve come to call it, gives everyone skin in the game. The vertical integration of education and employment is upon us, and I think this trend will help address (at-scale) major systematic issues in our economy at scale while also minting a ton of new small businesses.

Read more: No more student debt: 64 apps and startups aiming to replace the university experience

3. A few seemingly quirky social apps will tune into the under 16 demographic’s distinct approach to creation as a form of self-expression and tolerance for transparency by default.

I’m seeing more entrepreneurs starting social apps now than in years past, and they’re no longer building off of Facebook’s graph or emulating existing products with slight iterations. Nope, these are (finally) wildly new and original ideas. One of my favorites, under the radar but experiencing rapid growth, is ItsMe. Now approximately #24 in App Store under social networking, ItsMe connects you with others based on your mood, it make you create your own appearance, and allows you to communicate with text, voice, audio, or drawing among other forms. And there are a few other new social models brewing that I am quite excited about.

What do these next gen social platforms share? They combine ephemeral sharing with lasting reputation building, they lean towards default transparency and with a more liberal interpretation of “privacy,” and they have fewer creative constraints and are geared to reward those with the most creative self-expression.

In the category of social, I am also quite excited about the rebirth of Gowalla as a wild social game still a bit under wraps that will take place in the real world, and Public, a social network for public market investing. Suffice to say, the future of social is exciting and, contrary to popular belief, will not be constrained to today’s dominant social networks.

4. Talent will increasingly own their audience, with the rise of “channels of one” and community-as-a-service.

Gone are the days when super talented people needed to sign a contract with a TV network to break through. But the ad-supported and algorithmically-driven alternatives, like YouTube and TikTok, still have the upper hand with talent. The pursuit to “own your own audience” will be a macro trend over the coming years.

Equivalents to Substack (where you build and monetize your own email list) will emerge in video, communities, and other ways to build, manage, and monetize your audience. Some early breakouts like OnlyFans and Patreon give us a sense of what is possible.

I am especially enthusiastic about products like Circle and Geneva that power fully-fledged community functionality for brands and individuals. If you’re a content creator of any kind, you can now spin up a community to gather your audience and spawn all sorts of offshoot services to delight (and monetize) your base.

In such a world, the Instagram and YouTube type products simply serve as top-of-funnel marketing initiatives. The goal becomes simple converting everyone you reach on other platforms to your own privately owned and managed channel. We will see a massive acceleration of this trend in the years ahead.

Read more: The loneliness economy: Companies and entrepreneurs see a spike in interest for rent-a-friend services, chatbots, and online communities that target feelings of isolation

5. More and more niche functions of enterprise will become multi-player, powered by a next generation of highly specialized, AI-bolstered, enterprise companies with consumerized product experiences.

From procurement and security to financial planning and design, functions of a company that were once siloed to particular teams are being transformed by SaaS tools that are collaborative-by default, easier to use, and inclusive of stakeholders across the company. Those of you who co-invest with me know my obsession with this space.

From companies like Globality for procurement, Sora for HR interactions, Meter for WiFi and IT, Welcome for hiring, closing, and onboarding new employees, there are many approaches and the list goes on. These types of products will fundamentally change how big companies operate across functions while transforming the quality of life for employees.

To help fuel this transformation, WorkOS is building enterprise-readiness as a service, enabling new companies to start selling to enterprise customers with just a few lines of code, with the value proposition “Single Sign-On (SSO) to your app in minutes.” And Scarf is building tools for open source developers to service and monetize enterprise customers. So, lots of energy in this space up and down the stack. One side consequence of all this: increasingly crowded and outdated customer acquisition channels for enterprise SaaS. This is also a problem/opportunity to solve.

6. Creativity tools will be deployed across the enterprise, much like productivity tools were deployed in previous decades.

Until the age of AI, being more productive was the best way to stand out at work. But now, as bots and algorithms supplant mundane and repetitive labor in the workplace, the benefits of human labor will shift to the skills and capabilities that are uniquely human. Chief among them: creativity.

Think compelling ways to visualize data, better ways to share a narrative with your coworkers, attractive graphics to spice up every presentation, and powerful prototypes that are worth a hundred meetings. These capabilities will drive outperformance at work (and in school, and on social) in the coming decades, and everyone must be outfitted to make it happen.

Obviously, this is a major focus in my day job as chief product officer for my creative teams at Adobe. We see this massive broadening of the market divided into two types of personas: content-first creators and collaboration-first creators. The former wants to be start with something  –  an image, a video or a graphic  –  and remix or deconstruct. The latter starts by bringing together a group of people and leveraging a shared assets (we’ve been gradually turning Creative Cloud into a “creative system” of sorts for this very purpose). Of course, this need requires new types of tools on modern platforms like the web. Adobe, along with a whole ecosystem of new apps, are working to make this happen.

Read more: Sleep-tracking ring Oura is beloved by some of the biggest names in tech. We asked 7 investors and execs how it’s helped them revamp their routines to sleep better and live healthier.

7. New and disruptive interfaces will emerge that aggregate and connect the underlying services we use to live and work.

This is certainly not a new trend, and I’ve been writing about the “interface layers” and the “battle to be the default” since 2014. But the explosion of SaaS offerings for everyday work (enterprise trend noted above) and life is setting the stage for a new problem and opportunity: How do we stitch it all together?

Consider the digital spaces in which we spend our days  –  the “home” page of our favorite apps, the finder on our desktops, the home screens of our phones. We’re creating different kinds of documents, files, folders, and teams all over the place. We have specialized apps for everything and must manage permissions in so many places. All of these various cloud documents and services have different schemas and don’t interact with one another  –  it’s a mess.

Some companies are rising to the occasion, including Command E (an easy keyboard shortcut to open any document, contact, file or record from the cloud) and another early stage stealth company I am excited about. No doubt, all of these underlying services and resources WILL be stitched together, and whoever does the stitching will control the interface where we actually live, work, and make decisions.

8. Another round of the Roaring ’20s is ahead of us, where the pent-up desires from the pandemic will be unleashed in the form of fashion, travel, and culture-bending creative self-expression.

My family and I endured a good chunk of the pandemic with our neighbor and dear friend Jenn Hyman, cofounder and CEO of RentTheRunway, and her family. Needless to say, the stay-at-home world made for a very difficult year for Jenn’s team. But now, with a light at the end of the tunnel, Jenn has a new energy. She believes that post-pandemic fashion will have more fun and edge than ever before.

I agree, and imagine our vaccinated selves fervently jumping back into the world through travel, fashion, parties, concerts, and meeting new people. (After all, the last century’s Roaring ’20s also followed a pandemic, the 1918 Spanish Flu.) Our desire to fill the cultural void that has accumulated in us will result in a form of overcompensation that will make for an epic decade ahead (yes, I’m a relentless optimist).

Like all of you, I am eager to move past the challenges of 2020. I’m hopeful that we emerge more productive from the “great refactoring” we all endured, and that we can all reclaim the ~30% of cognitive load that has been consumed by politics, gaslighting, and a seemingly never-ending stream of things to worry about. With our newfound peace and capacity, may we all dream and build in equal parts!

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Scott Belsky is the founder of Behance, which was acquired by Adobe, where he now serves as Chief Product Officer and EVP for Creative Cloud. He is an early investor and product advisor for some of this decades top startups, including Pinterest, Uber, Carta, Flexport, Airtable, and sweetgreen among others. Get his latest book  “The Messy Middle” or sign up for his newsletter. Follow him Twitter.

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