Friday, June 1, 2012

15 Years

Dear Mark


I earned my 15 year service award from Adobe Systems today. I knew it was coming. Every 5 years Adobe grants us extra time to take a sabbatical. I've been thinking about sabbatical for some time. Even with it on my mind the day snuck up on me. I've been married to Lavinia for 16 years, together for 20 years. I had my 20 year high school reunion. I've know Jason, Rod and the gang for 24 years. Some how though, actual "doing" something for 15 years just sounds so massive. 

As you know, in 1997 I was working at the Seattle School District in the IT Dept. I was working Support and Training of in-house systems. It was a good job. Just one year out of college with a degree in History that I had no clue what I would do with, the job was good. I was finding a skill in support. After working at it for a bit of time I realized I needed to move beyond the School District. I still had no clue where, or doing what, but I knew I was never going to grow very fast professionally or financially at that job. 

I'd like to convince you that I selected where I was going to apply by researching the company, networking, getting in the door and all that cool career advancement advice you see touted. The truth is that I didn't look very far. Essentially the length of my arm as I picked up my water bottle on a bike ride. It was my 1996 Bike To Work Day water bottle. There were 3 big sponsors of the event, WRQ, Visio and Adobe. I told myself, "I want to work for a company that invests in employees and supports cycling locally. How cool would that be." How cool indeed. I basically made my decision and sat on their job/career sites and applied for anything that came open. Adobe I will say immodestly, won the lottery by being the first to have a job I could apply for. I tell this story every year at Bike To Work Day to remind my co-workers that we work for a great company. A company that is big and has politics but does still continue to invest and support us and our interests. Adobe has continued to support Bike To Work Day since then. By my calculations it's over 17 years of support and it makes us the longest running sponsor that I know. If I have my way we'll continue that every year I'm here. 

Being hired at Adobe was a little surreal for me. Coming from a work place that didn't provide a shower so I had to wash up in a sink after riding my bike, not to mention securing my bike in the furnace room everyday. To be hired by a company that had a secure bike cage, financial incentives to ride your bike every month, showers and locker rooms, bagels every friday, free soda, computers that worked… well I had finally hit the jackpot. That first day a few individuals and I were sitting in a room getting our new hire orientation. Little did we know that the lady providing it was one of the best people we'd ever want as our HR lead. Little did I know that a few of those individuals and I are celebrating 15 years together and that many of us are very close friends. Even those that  have moved on to other things outside of Adobe. You recall that I met Joey that day and still see him every week today. 

I recall being informed that I would be working on the Acrobat Technical Support team. I had barely heard of Acrobat, which was probably why I was chosen because no one had really heard of Acrobat. I was one of the first Adobe TS individuals not to support Pagemaker first, then move on to other products. Acrobat was little more than a percentage of the "Other" part of the Adobe revenue pie. I kept thinking "I'm on the wrong product." Now Acrobat is one of Adobe's best products and makes a lot of money. I've been working on teams that "Acrobat" in the title some where for 15 years now. I guess it all worked out for me. 

It hasn't been all awesome here at Adobe. I've had disgruntling times and frustrations that exist in all jobs. Adobe has laid off some very good people and friends. They've laid Lavinia off twice. I've had incentives provided that didn't pan out after a vesting period. Benefits have been shuffled and new policies questioned. Stock prices go up and down and never when you want either to occur. At the end of the day all that is just what big companies go through. I like to think I'm a better employee for learning to weather tough times and learning from, well lets just say experience. The pros far out weigh any of the cons by a wide margin. 

Over the years I've had a couple really good mangers that have steered me in the right direction. Adobe even helped pay for some of my MBA tuition as well. My Manager at the time certainly gave me the support and opportunity. Things like this are common at Adobe. Again, I feel so lucky, 

After 15 years I still like working for Adobe. I still think I work with the best people. I still believe my company cares and that we make a difference. Adobe makes amazing products that the world uses and talks about. I've grown a lot since being hired at the age of 25. I like to believe that Adobe and I have matured together. I like that after 15 years one of my biggest work provided problems is trying to think of what I'm going to do with a 6 week sabbatical. A good problem to have. 

To the guy that hired me, thank you
To the teams and co-workers that have supported me, thank you
To individuals who have reported to me and helped me become a better Manger, thank you
To my Adobe Seattle co-workers who've created a great place to work, thank you
To John & Chuck who founded this company and created our culture, thank you 

All right. I should probably get back to work now. (grin)

Cheers
Jeff