Lex van den Berghe, senior product manager for Digital Imaging solutions at Adobe, shares his unconventional career story. From fending for himself in the bush of Kenya during Survivor, writing in his local newspaper, being a motivational speaker and starting a new National Geographic reality television series, Lex has had a diverse career, to say the least.
Lex is what we call an Adobe “boomerang.” He first joined the company in 1992, initially working closely with the Photoshop team. After eight years, Lex decided to explore the world—one decade and many experiences later, Lex found his way back to Adobe and has many a story to tell!
Adobe Life: What drew you to Adobe in 1992? What has changed since you returned in 2012, and what has stayed the same?
Lex: I had several friends who already worked at Adobe…they spoke highly of the company and loved it. I had just had my first child at the time, so I was looking for a ‘big-boy job’…I wanted to start a career that had growth opportunity and I wanted to join a company that I’d be happy at for the long-term.
A lot has changed in the past dozen years, but I’m glad to say that a lot has stayed the same. Adobe definitely feels like a bigger company…I don’t remember what the total employee count was back in 1999, but I know it wasn’t close to where it is now. I’m really glad to say that the culture here still feels uniquely Adobe, and the core values of our founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke are still evident in everything we do. I’m lucky enough to work closely with the teams who are working on the next generation of Adobe creative solutions, and it’s great to see that we’re still developing and inventing new technologies that will blow minds. It’s also rad to run into many folks I worked with back in the ‘old days’ who’ve been here for 15/20 years, or boomeranged back like me.
Adobe Life: What are your hobbies/interests? How are these separate and/or incorporated into your work at Adobe?
Lex: I’m a musician and play in a few different bands. I love to travel and hope to see as much of the world as possible, especially the hard-to-reach and lesser-known nooks and crannies. I serve on the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz SPCA. I also love to bike, surf, fish, tinker in my garden, eat good food and drink beer. And I cross stitch.
I’ve always tried to keep work and personal/family life distinct, but that said, I think we all bring the same creativity, curiosity and electricity that drives our after-hours play, into the office. And that’s one of the things that makes Adobe so special…everyone here is interesting, wild, brilliant and terminally curious.
Adobe Life: Describe your career path. What are some surprises, challenges, or lessons learned that you’d like to share about your career?
Lex: I’ve never really been big on career paths…that would imply that I’ve always had a plan in mind with a clear direction. I’d describe my career as more of a river than a path…I’ve just gone with the flow and it has carried me to all sorts of wild and unexpected places.
Adobe Life: How do you strike a perfect work-life balance?
Lex: At the risk of stunting my own career, I guess I work to live, I don’t live for work. Life is over in a sneeze and there’s just so much I want to see, do and experience. If I could figure out how to add hours in a day or eliminate the need for sleep, I’d be stoked. My wife and kids have always kept me pretty grounded too…they remind me of what’s most important.
Adobe Life: Tell us more about your new TV show, “Family Beef”—what inspired you to take on the challenge of pitching a reality show?
Lex: I guess I was really inspired to create and pitch this show by the larger-than-life characters of Family Beef, the Buchanan family (who are like family to me). They have so much heart and they’re so hilarious…they’re bound to make great TV and be loved by many people. Their story is also so compelling…three generations, all pulling together and working so hard to make a family farm work. In this age of factory-farms, they’re true underdogs and as I see it, they’re living the real American dream. We’re also constantly bombarded by reality TV shows that celebrate the awful qualities in people…greed, infidelity, crass outrageousness, and I wanted to make a show that people could feel good, rather than guilty, about watching. (Though I certainly enjoy a guilty pleasure now and then.)
Adobe Life: If you could give one piece of advice to those who are looking to change up their career or find new opportunities, what would that be?
Lex: Follow your heart and be fearless. (In a hundred years we’ll all be dead…what’s the worst that could happen?) And try to have fun in everything you do.
Connect with Lex on Twitter (@LexvandenBerghe)