The Gift of Time and Skill

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Employees’ grassroots ideas becomes reality, and local nonprofits benefit

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The fact that Adobe encourages its employees to volunteer in their communities is nothing new. But here’s something that is new: a program that takes community involvement to the next level, backing employees with official Adobe support and immersing them in projects that put their professionals skills to work in support of important causes.

The Adobe Pro Bono Initiative, piloted in 2012, gives employees in North America the chance to partner with local nonprofit organizations to identify and complete important projects. Resource-strapped nonprofits don’t always have access to top-notch designers, videographers, and marketing professionals, but in 2013, Adobe employees donated more than $375,900 in those services through Pro Bono. Best of all, the idea grew from the ground up. “It was my third week on the job when this idea came to my attention,” says Julia Love, manager of corporate responsibility at Adobe. “An employee had surveyed one of the largest business units in the company and said, ‘Who’s interested in doing some pro bono work?’ The response was huge.” Love and her team sprang into action, assembling a steering committee of employees, executives, HR and legal specialists, and experts in nonprofit consulting. After a year of careful thought and design, the Pro Bono Initiative was born. Participating employees help nonprofit partners identify a need and plan a project. Next, they build out a team of more employees to execute the plan. It’s no small commitment; employees donate 5 – 10 hours each week. But it’s working—on both sides. Nonprofits are getting incredible access to professional services. High-performing employees are inspired to become even higher performing employees. And the sense of satisfaction takes root within the company culture, making everyone feel like their effort really matters. “What we heard from managers was that participating employees actually came back with higher productivity in their day jobs,” Love says. “Because when you engage someone’s passion, they put that energy into everything. And it’s infectious, so other people on their team benefit, too.” In 2014, the Pro Bono Initiative aims to complete 15 projects and expand to Adobe sites in India and Europe. Not bad for a wild idea that started as a simple “What if?”

Petra U. Sparking creativity in curious minds

When the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco needed some help designing a high-tech, interactive exhibit for kids under age 5, there was no better place to turn than Adobe’s Experience Design (XD) team. The museum was quickly matched with Petra U., a program manager who had shown tremendous promise in her role. Petra assembled a team of Adobe designers and developers who dreamed up a 16’ x 8’ LED screen that responds to children’s movements through padded pressure-sensitive flooring, motion-monitoring cameras, and sound—causing big, multicolored pixels to react when children jump, run, hop, or roll on the floor. For example, the screen might show multicolored balls on the bottom of the screen, appearing to sit on the ground. When the children jump, they can make the virtual balls “bounce.” Or they can catch one in the air and throw it to a friend. They can cause ripples in a virtual pond of color or interact with virtual creatures.
[responsive imageid='13730' size1='0' size2='960'] Before this, I’d never worked at a company where this kind of volunteering is encouraged. I think it’s important to give back to the community, and I really appreciate that Adobe actually wants employees to take time from their day to do this sort of thing.
This project was the first that Petra had managed from start to completion on her own. “I’d never had to deal with budgets before, and there were several other elements that were new to me and pushed me to learn more,” Petra says. “It absolutely contributed to my growth in my job.” But her involvement did more than give her skills to use on the job; it also helped to create more meaning in employment at Adobe.

Erik E. Opening eyes to careers in art

The Inneract Project in San Francisco aims to solve one of the city’s problems: a lack of art and design education for inner-city youth. With classes and mentoring, the nonprofit is succeeding. But when Erik E., an Adobe video production specialist, connected with the organization through the Adobe Pro Bono Initiative, he learned that the organization needed help overcoming another major problem. “Inneract exposes kids to a world they might not otherwise see,” Erik says. “But even though it’s a free program, they found some hesitation from parents. A lot of people haven’t been exposed to design careers, so when they think of their child going to art classes, they think their kid will grow up to be a starving, struggling artist.”
[responsive imageid='13727' size1='0' size2='960'] This is the first time that I’ve worked at a company where this kind of work has actually been encouraged. It gives me an opportunity to work with a nonprofit that I really believe in and also to work on my craft and take what I learn back to Adobe.
In fact, the opposite is true. Web design, product design, animation, video—companies of every kind hire scores of people with artistic skills. So Erik set to work creating a four-video series featuring interviews with innovators, creators, and designers who shared how they got to be where they are today. The videos include professionals like Robert Brunner, who designed the Beats by Dre Headphones, and Dwayne Edwards, the former design director at Nike. The videos are set to launch this year, and they’ll become a critical part of the organization’s marketing efforts to parents who might not understand the tremendous potential of a career in art and design. Another element of the project was to train Inneract to create its own highly polished videos, so the organization can carry on the work that Erik started.

Parley D. Helping people in hard times

Parley D., a senior account manager in Lehi, first heard about the Pro Bono Initiative through an email newsletter. It piqued his interest, and when he explored the program and learned about one of the nonprofits that needed help—a local chapter of a food bank and pantry—he was in. “This organization’s mission is big: to end poverty,” Parley says. “But what really grabbed me was when they explained how sometimes when kids are involved, not only are they not eating well but they often become aware of the fact that mom and dad don’t have money and don’t know where their next meal will come from.” The organization was carrying out its mission in practice every day, helping people get the food and shelter they need. But behind the scenes, the nonprofit was in need of some tools to help it operate more like a smoothly running company. In particular, it needed a marketing plan—something that defines how the organization works with the public and how it can continue funding its programs. That marketing plan is what Parley is helping to create.
[responsive imageid='13732' size1='0' size2='960'] It speaks volumes about the culture of Adobe and what we’re made of.
He says the project is giving him the chance to further develop skills he uses in his job every day: working with people, managing projects, and helping clients find value. And although he acknowledges that his work is only a small contribution to a massive effort, the existence of the Pro Bono Initiative bolsters his faith in the Adobe community. “Right from the top, leadership approves and sponsors and sustains this kind of effort, right down the people who raise their hand and say, ‘I’m in,’” Parley says. “That’s the kind of company I want to work for—the company that has an understanding that we’re all citizens of communities and we’re all in this together.”

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Learning to Fly

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Adobe equips today’s students with the tools they need for self-expression—and for job hunting in a competitive world

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Adobe’s belief in the power of education runs deep. But the company doesn’t just talk about it; Adobe backs up its commitment to students everywhere with dollars, time, and effort.

For example, the Adobe Youth Voices program has given nearly 100,000 students around the world an education in creative technology and an outlet for expression about their lives. The Adobe Foundation has a USD1M scholarship fund to help youth worldwide pursue creative careers. The education team donates millions of dollars of software to schools every year. And that’s just the beginning. “We want to make a difference in education,” says AnnMarie B., senior manager of student campaigns at Adobe. “We want students from all disciplines to understand that creativity will help further their careers, whether they’re designers or scientists. In this world, creativity is no longer an elective. It has to be part of your worldview if you want to be successful.” Here are four students who recently participated in Adobe campaigns designed to shine a light on student work. In the process, they made new connections, gained important exposure for their work, and—in some cases—even found the jobs they were looking for.

Amy L. Illustrator

One late night, 19-year-old Amy L. was surfing the web from her U.K. home when she came across a submission form on Adobe’s website. It was a call for illustrations—and Amy had a lot of illustrations. She had always doodled for fun and even made some good money selling her designs on Etsy. So she submitted an illustration and didn’t think anything more of it—until she got a response a few months later. Adobe was going to include her artwork in a special-edition Moleskine notebook featuring the work of exceptional student artists around the world. “It was a genuine shock,” Amy says. “I thought, ‘Wow, they actually read that? And liked it?’” The Adobe Moleskine project was a unique Adobe initiative to put students’ work in front of 150 top creative directors in the world. The journal is a typical Moleskine in some ways—full of blank pages for note-taking—but the blank pages are interspersed with each student’s artwork, name, school, and a link to their personal portfolio on Adobe’s Behance website.
[responsive imageid='13737' size1='0' size2='960'] This has given me a sense of pride and really picked me up. It was nice to get my work out there and realize that maybe I’m actually good at this.
Amy says she remembers the day her copy arrived in the mail. “I found the page where I was featured, and I had an overwhelming sense of self-confidence and belief in myself,” Amy says. “It was lovely.” Amy hopes to continue developing her skills using Illustrator and Photoshop and to parlay them into a career in design. Since being featured in the Moleskine, she says she has noticed an increase in followers on her blogs.

Michael C. Industrial designer

After two tours as a Marine in Iraq, Michael C. left the military in 2007. He knew he wanted something different.
[responsive imageid='13739' size1='0' size2='960'] I wanted to change my life pursuit from something structured with a ceiling to something a little more open-ended. I wanted to pursue creativity rather than destruction.
Still, he had gained a lot of technical knowledge and skill as a jet engine mechanic. And he had always been fascinated with vehicles. So he decided to pursue industrial design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He mastered Illustrator and Photoshop and took internships with major automotive manufacturers. He knew he had found his passion in designing the vehicles of the future. On the advice of a professor, Michael submitted work to Adobe’s #madethis campaign, in which Adobe produces videos that showcase the things students create with Adobe Creative Cloud software. He submitted a four-page PDF that told an all-visual story of his life and career. Adobe was sold. Since his video went live, Michael says he has made more connections in the design world—especially through his Behance online portfolio—and gotten a job with Ford. “On Behance, we all inspire each other,” Michael says. “I’ve found work for other friends on Behance when I can’t take on new work. The fact that I’m able to help others through that is more powerful to me than recognition.”

Nika T. Fashion designer

Before Nika T. attended Academy of Arts University, she studied computer programming. But after starting her studies in fashion design, she decided to travel internationally to learn the craft with different designers. She studied with fashion designers such as Anthony Vaccarello, Mathew Ames, and Lea Peckre, and .she also studied with local designers who gave her the foundation to appreciate traditional art and techniques. Nika learned macramé from a family member, and Academy of Art instructors taught her how to translate this traditional textile-making technique into fashion pieces that would resonate with an international audience. She even presented her full Spring/Summer 2014 collection, based on macramé, at New York Fashion Week (NYFW). 
[responsive imageid='13740' size1='0' size2='960'] I’m working with both hand illustrations and graphics for my next collections. Most of my work has a textile emphasis and I work with Photoshop and Illustrator on a continued basis. Adobe tools are essential.
At NYFW, Nika got the chance to record the experience in a video with Adobe’s #madethis campaign. It might sound surprising that she does much of her work in Illustrator and Photoshop before she ever cuts the first piece of fabric, but Adobe Creative Cloud enables her to better plan out her line and put a contemporary spin on her creations.  The chance to be featured in a high-profile Adobe campaign has helped Nika’s job hunt as she prepares to enter the workforce as a graduate of Academy of Arts University “I think it’s really important to have a video presence. If I’m trying to get hired in New York, a company can go to my site and see my videos and see how I work,” she says. “The video was also helpful because it showed the process behind the collection.”

Jesse W. Music composer

Ever since Jesse W. was a kid, he has been captivated by music. He was particularly drawn to the way music could be paired with a visual to create an effect more powerful than either element could by itself. So it’s no surprise that he ended up a music composer. “It’s been my passion since I was a kid—to create music for film.” Today, from his base in Sydney, Jesse records multiple instruments and composes across genres for commercials, films, promotional videos, and music videos. He uses Adobe Audition to make his audio screen-ready, and he showcases his work on a website created with Adobe Muse. As part of the #madethis campaign, Jesse shared how he uses Adobe Creative Cloud to do his work.
[responsive imageid='13741' size1='0' size2='960'] Creative Cloud allows me to not only have a range of creative applications on my desktop for my artistic endeavors, but if I’m working in a café I can download any application I want and start working there, and then bring it back to my desktop and it’s automatically synced through the cloud.
The video that Adobe made has given Jesse some great exposure. He incorporated it into his resume and got a job monitoring audio for big corporate functions. And because it’s part-time work, he can still devote much of his time to growing his freelance business and booking more composition gigs after graduation from the Australian Institute of Music. He says he hopes his work will inspire creativity in others, too. “Every human being has a universe of creative possibilities waiting to be explored.”

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Reduce, Reuse, Reinvent

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Adobe employees are leading the way in transforming old practices into forward-thinking, sustainable practices

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Adobe has a long history of sustainability. More than 70% of the company’s workspaces are LEED-certified, and Newsweek magazine has ranked Adobe as the greenest IT company in the world. But while the company’s green efforts have always been supported at the very top, thousands of employees also take it upon themselves to make Adobe a sustainability leader—because they want their company to reflect their own values.

Adobe employees were instrumental in getting plastic water bottles out of North American operations. They instituted a campaign to reduce food waste and start composting. They pushed to get electric vehicle charging stations installed and adopted an innovative "Skip a Trip" employee travel reduction campaign. Those actions have given Adobe a well-deserved reputation as a company that cares about meeting its social and environmental responsibilities. And plenty of credit goes to the group of committed employees who continue to push the cause every day, forever dreaming up new ways to improve and inspire their coworkers to do the same.

Nagesh B. Developer

Where: Bangalore What: Launched “Be the change” campaign One of the reasons Nagesh B. was drawn to Adobe was the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). “I was always passionate about social initiatives in college because I strongly believe that people need to give back. And as a company, we can give back a lot,” Nagesh says. “So within six months of joining Adobe, when I had the opportunity to become the Green Champion of the Bangalore campus, I grabbed it.” At Adobe sites around the world, Green Champions are individuals who commit to furthering sustainability initiatives in the company and among employees locally. They often work hand in hand with Green Teams, which are groups of volunteers who have the same interests. Nagesh and the Bangalore Green Team got together to decide how they could best engage coworkers to become more aware of sustainability issues. They quickly reached a smart conclusion: You can’t motivate people to change unless you can demonstrate what’s wrong with the current situation. So Nagesh and the team launched a campaign called “Be the change” and bsaed it on cold, hard facts. For example, they had noticed that employees were wasting an enormous amount of food each day in the cafeteria. Naturally, most employees might realize how much of their own food they toss at the end of lunch, but they didn’t pay attention to how those scraps added up to at the end of the day. Nagesh and his colleagues, however, realized the magnitude of the problem and found a clever way to communicate it.
[responsive imageid='13745' size1='0' size2='960' caption = 'Nagesh (second from left) and his Bangalore Green Team.'] I want people to start taking conscious efforts to reduce food waste, use the stairs, conserve electricity, and carpool. These might be small goals, but they add up to a lot over time.
“After people eat, they throw leftovers in a bin, so we started putting up signs that say how much food was wasted the previous day,” Nagesh says. “Having those signs posted right in the cafeteria makes people think twice. And since we started the campaign a year ago, food waste has dropped from an average of 54 kilos a day to 23 kilos a day.” It seems the numbers worked. So Nagesh and the Green Team took the same approach to other parts of the company: how much electricity people waste by taking the elevator to go up or down a single floor; how much it costs to keep computers running at night when they could be powered down; how many paper cups the campus goes through each month. “In India, a lot of our traditions are related to worshipping nature,” Nagesh says. “But people subconsciously ignore that idea in day-to-day life, not realizing what they’re doing. When we communicate the numbers, it’s easier to understand.” The team also created a signup sheet seeking employees who would pledge to “be the change.” After a single email request sent to the campus, more than 100 people signed. The next step is to get more coworkers committed—and then to galvanize their interest and turn it into action.

Karen S. Regional sales manager

Where: San Jose What: Pledged to skip a trip Anybody in sales will tell you: It’s a relationship business. They’ll also tell you that relationships are best cultivated face to face, and that’s why sales people spend so much time on the road. For Karen S., a regional sales manager at Adobe, those are words to live by. She manages sales for education clients in all of Western Canada and 13 U.S. states. Covering such a huge region puts her on the road nearly 50 percent of the time, except she’s not on the road—she’s in the air, and has been for 17 years. “I’ve always been a road warrior, and I don’t mind it,” Karen says. “Besides, Adobe is just a wonderful place to work.” The problem, though, is that the company’s air travel emissions each year are equivalent to putting another 3,000 cars on the roads. In fact, they account for nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions that Adobe puts into the environment. So the company launched a “Skip a Trip” campaign to encourage employees to sit out at least one air trip each year.
[responsive imageid='13746' size1='0' size2='960'] If I do travel, my team works to ensure the travel is impactful by scheduling multiple meetings with important target accounts. Adobe is generous in letting us travel when we need to, but we all have to be responsible with that empowerment.
“This campaign really spoke to me because it’s what I do on a weekly basis,” Karen says. “It came up right when I had been invited by a high-profile, must-win customer to a meeting that would require me to fly down to Los Angeles for the day, meet for an hour, and fly home. I always say yes when I’m invited by a C-level executive, but I thought, ‘Will it really make a difference to them this time?’” Karen had already planned to visit the customer two weeks later, and she also had Adobe Connect videoconferencing technology at her disposal. So she skipped the trip and handled it remotely instead. Although the initiative asks employees to skip a single trip each year, it has helped employees become more judicious in deciding which trips are worthwhile—invariably leading to more skipped trips.

Jeffrey Y. Solution architect

Where: McLean, Virginia What: Hosted roundtables to inspire coworkers When Jeffrey Y. had the chance to join Adobe in 2010, he didn’t hesitate. “I came from a multimedia and video world where Adobe is king, so this was my dream company,” Jeffrey says. “Out of school, I worked mainly in government, performing video production and interactive multimedia stuff, so when Adobe was looking to fill positions in the government space, I was completely ecstatic to work here.” Job satisfaction goes a long way toward life satisfaction, but Jeffrey didn’t realize that things were about to get even better. At home, he and his family are passionate about eating locally and promoting sustainability. They garden fruits and vegetables as much as possible and hope to own a small farm to supply their own eggs and dairy someday. So when Jeffrey was offered the position of Green Champion for Adobe’s McLean, Virginia, campus, he was excited that Adobe wasn’t just giving him a cool job—it was also helping him spread his passion throughout the organization.
[responsive imageid='13748' size1='0' size2='960'] I love that aspect of Adobe. Whatever your passion is, they’ll stand beside you and help you promote the cause.
Jeffrey took the Green Champion role just before Be Green Month and quickly organized a roundtable discussion—a popular format on the McLean campus—and identified speakers. He spoke about his family’s green efforts. A coworker gave a presentation detailing how Adobe technology is helping customers reduce their own carbon footprint. Another coworker even brought in his son to present science fair project findings on incandescent light bulbs. As soon as that event ended, Jeffrey was busy determining the next steps to make the most of his new leadership position. He’s glad that he’ll not only get to leave a mark on the company, but that he’ll also get to develop his own skills at the same time. “To have a leadership role that’s not necessarily a formal, managerial role is excellent for me,” Jeffrey says. “It translates to the business—you work with people and lead a cause—but it’s a great way for me to grow here.”

Stella L. Financial accountant

Where: Dublin What: Started the campus’s first green efforts On Adobe’s Dublin campus, Be Green Month 2014 was extra-inspiring. The organization hadn’t yet formed a Green Team and was fairly new to the idea of sustainability as an employee-driven initiative. At the same time, Stella L., an Adobe accountant, was becoming interested in activities like gardening and composting in her personal life. She wondered whether others on campus might want to learn about the same things. “We’d never done a lot of this before in the Dublin office, so we didn’t know what people would be interested in,” Stella says. “We thought it would be good to start with some talks to raise awareness about certain topics, so we organized three talks for all employees.” At the first talk, a third-party organization discussed the environmental and financial costs of food waste, along with tips on how to reduce it. The second talk was about protecting natural resources by properly recycling devices. The third talk, given by a coworker, presented the benefits of cycling to work instead of driving or taking public transportation.
[responsive imageid='13747' size1='0' size2='960'] The people who were there were really interested and asking lots questions. They seemed to learn a lot from the talks.
Since that first successful step into organizing, the Green Team is now creating a plan for the future and even engaging employees to get their input on what the site’s sustainability initiatives should look like. “We get a lot of support from Adobe—we even get a budget from headquarters, which we can use to organize events,” Stella says. “Adobe doesn’t just suggest we do something; they actually give us the means to do something, And that’s rare.”