The Adobe Founders’ Award each year recognizes 10 innovators from around the globe who have the greatest impact on our business. This year, Jackie Lincoln-Owyang received this distinguished honor for her work as Quality Engineering Manager for Photoshop. I wanted to shed some light on Jackie’s tireless efforts on the Photoshop team, and how inspiration from customers like you fuels her passion. Her story reveals how her earliest experiences as an artist shaped her role on the team, and I’m thrilled to share our conversation with you here.
How did you get interested in photography and photo projects?
Jackie: My grandfather was my biggest inspiration. He used photography to document the family and taught me how to tell a story with images. Growing up, I also worked with my father in the darkroom. I was fortunate to be exposed to the first iterations of digital cameras in my ad agency and pre-press days. Almost by osmosis, I grew up surrounded by images, the creation of them, and the sharing of them my entire life.
Is there any one moment or one photograph that you remember driving your interest in photography? Jackie: Quite the opposite, in fact: I consider photography and images to be a part of my DNA, a part of my everyday life. Similar to grabbing essentials like your keys and wallet before leaving the house, I always have a camera with me. I am deeply influenced by great talents who have the power to evoke emotions and the keen telling of stories through images: Ansel Adams, Stieglitz, Ruth Bernard, Liebovitz, Mapplethorpe, Cartier-Bresson, to name just a few. With a fine arts background, I am always on the path of creative discovery and was recently blown away by the Garry Winogrand exhibit at the SF MOMA. I also am fortunate to work with incredible talent (and brainpower!) every day, such as Kelly Castro and Eric Chan.
How does your interest in imaging projects translate to your work at Adobe?
Jackie: Whether it’s telling my own story or helping Photoshop customers to tell their own, the goal is always to be able to create world-class tools that allow anyone to best tell their story and do their best work. With a powerful stable of tools between Photoshop, Lightroom and Camera Raw, creative expression abounds. I am fascinated with the astonishing work artists make with our tools, such as Erik Johansson’s. (In fact, the Photoshop team just signed a bottle of Tequila to send to Erik as a thank you to him for inspiring us!)
How does it feel to receive the Adobe Founders’ Award?
Jackie: I feel humbled, honored, thrilled and entirely overwhelmed, all at the same time. When I found out that I was a recipient, I thought about all of the exceptional people with whom I am surrounded everyday – on the Photoshop team and beyond – and how they’re equally as deserving.
The key to Adobe’s success is its people. I have been on the team for 19 years and a majority of my teammates have been on Photoshop during their entire Adobe careers. We are a tight-knit team, a family. It is a true honor to work on a product I fell deeply in love with back in my four-color prepress days. It is inspiration like this that makes me get up in the morning and do what I do: create a product that touches just about everything. It inspires, sparks creativity, captures emotion and communicates. In addition to having been able to sit next to John and Chuck at the Founder’s Award Dinner, one of the key accolades came from Winston Hendrickson, Adobe Vice President of Products, at a lunch event the team held for me: “Jackie, it is you who inspires us to do our best work. You raise the bar. You ensure we do right by the customer. You won’t sit still until the right thing is done. You make us a better organization.”
What kind of creative things do you work on or enjoy most when you’re not in the office?
Jackie: Whatever I am focused on at the moment, it has to be approached creatively. I am a serious home cook and will go to great lengths to procure exceptional ingredients and share meals with family and friends. Of course, food is photographed, but the experience of a well-designed table, and all the details inspires me. My family and I love to travel, and are also national park junkies. We’ve made trips to Costa Rica and Hawaii, focusing on exploration and discovery. Trip albums abound and, in particular, I enjoy the creative process of posting daily trip journal entries and images to capture the essence of our experiences.
What direction do you see Photoshop going in the future and what does that mean for customers?
Jackie: No matter where Photoshop resides (desktop, tablet, mobile, cloud) it has to offer value to our customers. Our team’s passion is keeping Photoshop world-class and relevant. We work to see the “magic” of Photoshop thrive beyond its 23 years. At the end of the day, I am here to make sure Photoshop continues to be best in class, high quality, and make an indelible mark on the world. As a stretch, Maria Yap, Senior Director of Product Management, has set a goal to snare an Oscar. And another of her stretch goals is to get into the Smithsonian! (She sets the bar high indeed!)