March 02, 2010

Hijacking Brains: The Why-I-Work-At-Adobe Story

Back in 1999, before I came to Adobe and a couple of years before the iPod was introduced, I heard about how Adobe engineer Chris Prosser had, with a friend, built his own MP3 player for his car. As I recall, they’d put an old stripped-down Pentium box into his trunk, fed Ethernet cable up to the glove compartment, attached a simple LCD text display, and written a Java Telnet app to synchronize songs between his laptop & the car system. I thought to myself, “I don’t want to do any of that–but I want to hijack that guy’s brain. If I can make my (and customers’) problems his problems, those problems will get solved.”

I thought of this story when I saw ZhengPing Wang’s “Robot Toy with Flash Player,” a homebrew mobile contraption that lets him keep an eye on his young family. ZhengPing is the lead engineer on Adobe Configurator, and he’s always up for trying something new.
I’m told there’s a Japanese proverb, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” If I could code worth a damn, you’d never see me again as I’d never leave my basement. That is, I already have the ideas for what to do, but I need to collaborate with people who can actually turn those ideas into reality. I’m lucky to work somewhere that lets me go beyond daydreaming, at least sometimes.

Posted by John Nack at 9:20 AM on March 02, 2010

Comments

  • William Beem — 9:20 AM on March 02, 2010

    When I was a schoolboy, I wanted to be a photographer. Then something interesting appeared and took me off that path – the birth of the personal computer.
    I spent hours tinkering on my Apple ][+, building my own circuit cards, writing programs, and it lead to a career in the IT industry.
    Unfortunately, all of the innovation that so captured my excitement back then seems filtered out of the corporate existence that brought me here in the first place. I’m well paid, but I’d dearly love to quit and pursue photography or some combination of the two if I could recapture that old spark and have fun at work.
    Many times, it seems this profession has diluted all the creativity out of us. Your post gladly reminds me that there are some folks who don’t want to be tamed, even if only for a limited time.

  • Rob — 9:56 AM on March 02, 2010

    How delightfully bourgeois of you to wish to hijack the engineer’s brain. A Marxist would cite this as confirmation of the theory of exploitation of labor. My own brain was hijacked, flown to Cuba and hasn’t been heard from again; it was a trivial loss.

  • Renzo — 10:29 AM on March 02, 2010

    Most of what Y do lately is daydreaming… and the occasional nightmare… don’t mention this to my boss.

  • GH — 11:01 AM on March 02, 2010

    I’ve heard that HTML5 is pretty easy to learn.

  • Scott Valentine — 11:25 AM on March 02, 2010

    That’s the entrepreneurial spirit, John! Do you get frustrated that you don’t have the skills to actually execute some of your ideas? I gave up on most of that frustration some time ago when I realized I couldn’t keep up with it all, and teams weren’t really that bad.

  • Danté Bell — 12:10 PM on March 02, 2010

    Hey William, thanks for writing your comment for me! Honestly, except replace apple with amiga, and we have the same story! It’s weird, we used to have some super creative people in corporate IT, folks that did music, painting, sculpting, etc in their spare time but did super creative problem solving at work! Alas, those folks are all but gone from corporate IT. Now, it’s just “Justify your costs to the company when I can get offshore help at 10% of yours” from the higher ups. They don’t give a rat’s a$$ about problem solving, just quick/cheap fixes. Now, I just have to figure out how to get out of IT and get my photog business off the ground :)

  • Danté Bell — 12:13 PM on March 02, 2010

    Hey William, thanks for writing your comment for me! Honestly, except replace apple with amiga, and we have the same story! It’s weird, we used to have some super creative people in corporate IT, folks that did music, painting, sculpting, etc in their spare time but did super creative problem solving at work! Alas, those folks are all but gone from corporate IT. Now, it’s just “Justify your costs to the company when I can get offshore help at 10% of yours” from the higher ups. They don’t give a rat’s a$$ about problem solving, just quick/cheap fixes. Now, I just have to figure out how to get out of IT and get my photog business off the ground :)

  • Web Design Garland — 12:50 PM on March 02, 2010

    I think anybody out their in coding and developing would love a chance to work for adobe. It like the big blockbuster of movies to developers. Adobe is on the up and up. I would love to work for them if I had a chance.
    Samuel

  • Steve Laskevitch — 1:03 PM on March 02, 2010

    Oh weird. I was going to be a physicist and software engineer and got hijacked by photography. fiscally problematic for a while. Now I teach Photoshop and Lightroom to fellow photogs. oh, and code websites.

  • Royi — 3:12 AM on March 03, 2010

    Hey, I emailed you about something important, did you get it?
    Thanks.
    [Yes--did you not get my reply? --J.]

  • imajez — 9:06 AM on March 03, 2010

    I was going to be an Astronomer/Geophysicist and ended being a photographer going via martial arts, dancing and mountain bikes.

  • Herman — 5:25 PM on March 07, 2010

    Ha! I knew it. Adobe is actually part of a big hive mind. Though I didn’t figure you a queen, mr. Nack :P

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