The best of the best

Every year, Adobe gives a generous award to employees who embody the values that the company’s founders hold dear.

When John Warnock and Chuck Geschke founded Adobe in 1982, they wanted to build a company that set the standard for technological advancement. But they also wanted to create a work environment where employees embodied the qualities that are today the company’s core values: exception, genuine, innovative, and involved.

In that spirit, Adobe created the Founders’ Award, a peer-nominated award given to a handful of employees every year. In 2014, 11 employees each received a $5,000 travel voucher, a plaque, and a place on the Founders’ Wall in San Jose. We spoke with some of the winners to find out how they used their award and what it means to them.

Nicolle R., San Francisco

Production Designer

How has receiving the Founders’ Award impacted you?

You really feel valued because everyone you work with closely has nominated you. What an amazing honor and a fast pass to shake hands with so many wonderful people! Also, it’s like you have this invisible gold medal pinned to your chest. When someone hears you are a Founders’ Award winner, they instantly respect you and want to hear what you have to say.

How did you use your travel voucher?

I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka in Japan, and Honolulu with my best friend of 15 years, Steve. Steve is the only person I could spend 12 days with and still remain friends after! We are both die-hard Japanese foodies and have always been curious about Japanese culture. We ate all the best things and saw as much as we could each day. My Fitbit tracked us walking around 10 miles per day.


What observations did you take away?

Japan is a beautiful country, very respectful to the people and the land. As a designer, I was in a place I’ve only dreamed of. Everything is decorated, manicured, styled, imprinted, painted, and there are so many colors, sounds, and textures. In Tokyo, I felt as if the inside of my mind had been released and everywhere I looked I was overjoyed. The most valuable experience to me was when my friend and I separated at one of the shrines and I walked through the endless torii (traditional Japanese gates commonly found at the entrances to shrines), at night, alone, and felt no fear. Being a woman, I have never felt this fearless in America. I felt safe no matter where we went in Japan. It was quite liberating.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

I will have to say my favorite day was in Nara. We got to see the wild and pushy deer begging for cookies. Then a bit further we came upon the largest wooden structure in the world, the amazing Tōdai-ji temple. Once inside, we were in the presence of the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha. The day was so amazing and I was filled with respect and awe.

Tiia M., Ottawa

Senior Manager, IT Business Operations

How has receiving the Founders’ Award impacted you?

The opportunity to have dinner with our founders and executive staff was inspirational. As I listened to Chuck and John tell stories and saw, from across a table, how proud they are of Adobe, it gave me a different perspective on the company I work for. I have always been proud to work for Adobe but, as a Founders’ Award winner, I now feel a sense of responsibility to carry on their legacy. That pride and responsibility have made me a better leader.

Where did you go with your travel voucher?

We surprised our kids with a trip to Disney World. On the morning that we left, we had them play hangman to figure out where we were going. When they solved the puzzle, they freaked out. We packed our bags and hopped on a plane.

How did you decide on a Disney vacation?

This was an opportunity for me to spend quality time with my family. My husband and I decided to take our two boys on a trip that was all about them. The generous travel voucher allowed us to plan an amazing Disney Resort vacation. We had so much fun and came home with great memories.

Any interesting stories or valuable lessons that came out of your trip?

I found the engineering and architecture of all of the theme parks so interesting. As an example, at Animal Kingdom they built so many different ecosystems to capture Africa in a 30-minute tour. They also tear down less popular attractions and build new ones to keep the parks exciting. If we continue to work the same way—stop working on the things that aren’t growing Adobe and invest in things that do—Adobe will remain on top.

Sanjeev B., Bangalore

Lead Senior Computer Scientist

How has receiving the Founders’ Award impacted you?

A lot of Adobe employees now seem to recognize my face, so sometimes it’s a little embarrassing for me. Otherwise, I feel honored and it’s a great responsibility for me.

Where did you go with your travel voucher?

I went to Australia for 10 days.

Why did you choose Australia?

I have travelled to Europe and the U.S. a lot, but I have never been to this part of the planet. We had an amazing time in Australia. For every single day that we were there, we got up around 6 a.m. to visit places throughout the day and only came back in the evening. We went to Sydney, Jenolane Caves, Blue Mountains, the reptile park, Taronga Zoo, Skillion, and Koala Park. I took my wife and my 7-year-old son, who had an awesome time.


Any interesting stories or valuable lessons that came out of your trip?

What impressed me the most about Australia is how much time they spent playing sports, like surfing, swimming, and jogging. They also seem to enjoy their food with family and friends quite often. I respect the fact that they have actually made provisions to save the aboriginal people’s artifacts, which shows that they are pretty serious about their past history.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

I loved almost all the spots we visited. If I had to choose, it would be the Jenolane Caves. It’s 340 million years old and has one of the best cave formations in the world. During the guided tour, I learned a lot about how it was found and how they are trying to preserve it. The stalactite and stalagmite formations are really breathtaking.

Noha E., New York

Senior Solution Consultant

How has receiving the Founders’ Award impacted you?

Receiving the Founders’ Award reignited my passion, made me more confident and allowed me to pursue new challenges. After 19 years in pre-sales, I am excited to move to a post-sales role on the new Digital Media Customer Success Manager team. The award also helped me bring higher visibility inside and outside Adobe to Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors.

Getting recognized at the Worldwide Sales Conference in front of 3,000 employees confirmed my beliefs that dreams do come true and hard work does pay off. It set me on a mission to take pictures with previous years’ winners and put together a collage to honor them and to show my appreciation for the privilege of joining their ranks.

I also had the chance to get connected with Donna Morris, Adobe’s senior vice president of People and Places. If I didn’t receive the Founders’ Award, I might not have had the opportunity to meet her.


Where are you planning to go with your travel voucher?


What made you choose Ireland?

For my 15-year sabbatical, my son and I went on a European tour where we visited 13 countries. We had a blast, met amazing people, and enjoyed the charm of the old towns and cities. So to see more of Europe, I set my heart on Ireland.

What are you looking forward to the most about this trip?

Building new memories with my son, exploring a new country, and enjoying the beauty of this world.

Dominic C., San Francisco

Senior Business Analyst

How has receiving the Founders’ Award impacted you?

Receiving the Founders’ Award has allowed me to network with a far wider audience then was previously possible. This expanded network has led to a greater understanding of the projects being worked on across the organization and allowed for closer collaboration between teams.

Where did you go with your travel voucher?

My girlfriend and I took a trip to Japan for a week, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, and Okinawa.  We will use the remainder of the award to travel back to London to visit friends and family. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity by Adobe to relocate from London to San Francisco last year.


Why did you choose Japan?

We have always wanted to visit and we have a great interest in Japanese culture and customs. It was interesting to see the parallel between old traditions, such as the Ryokan houses, and the popularity of modern technology districts, such as Akihabara in Tokyo.

Any interesting stories that came out of your trip? 

We underestimated how long it would take to reach the summit of Mount Inari in Kyoto. We set off in the late afternoon and, after taking several wrong turns, reached the top in pitch black. The view of the lights of Kyoto was more than worth the trouble of navigating the Japanese signs in the dark.

What was your favorite part of the trip? 

The food in Japan is fantastic, from the okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) to the takoyaki (octupus on a stick).