My 25 Years and Counting at Adobe Terry White

How I got started at Adobe

My first day at Adobe was July 26, 1996, and it's a day that would change the rest of my life.

It's hard to believe that it has been 25 years since I started at Adobe. For a kid growing up on the East Side of Detroit and fascinated by technology and science fiction, getting to work for a California-based software giant was a fantasy.

Before Adobe

I graduated high school and tried college. Although I graduated from high school with a great GPA, I wasn't a great college student. I couldn't focus. I ran out of money for school and couldn't get a job. So I did the thing that I said I would never do, I joined the Army National Guard (6 years went by fast, Honorable discharge). It was a great experience that I needed.

I got back from my Army Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training, and I went to business school. I still needed to work since the Army was part-time, so I got a college co-op job as a second-shift computer operator on an IBM System 38. For many of you, this is ancient history and may even be before you were born. I had no formal training. The money was insane for someone my age, and as a result, I dropped out of college. Probably a mistake, but I made the best of it.

Sitting in my home office doing paperwork. Yes that's a MacPlus with a 9" black and white monitor. Some Freehand jobs would take all night to print on the 300dpi LaserWriter behind me.

When it came to technology, even back in the late '80s and early '90s, I was smart. I was a quick learner. I understood how computers worked before computers in the home were a thing.

I'm installing a RAM upgrade in a friend's Mac even though I had never done that before. How hard could it be?

I also had the mind of an entrepreneur. Even though I had a day job, I was eager to start and own my own business. The desktop publishing revolution began with the introduction of Aldus PageMaker and Apple's Laserwriter in 1986. Although I had no business training, no graphic design training, I saw the writing on the wall and started my own desktop publishing business. I quit my job. I took out a loan to buy the software and hardware, and I rented office space in downtown Detroit. I was in business for myself. I learned quickly, and I was successful enough to earn a living.

The market continued to evolve. More and more companies started to bring this type of work in-house. I decided it was time to change my focus from producing the layouts to training others on how to produce the layouts. With that, MacTraining and Design, Inc. was formed. Back then, my tools of choice were PageMaker, QuarkXPress, Freehand, Illustrator, and of course, Photoshop.

"You should apply for this new job at Adobe."

Adobe's Sandy Kaye giving a presentation for MacGroup-Detroit, the user's group I founded in 1986.

It was during this time that I met Aldus rep Sandy Kaye. It was also around the time that Adobe acquired Aldus. Sandy and I became friends, but I was a thorn in her side, always telling her how PageMaker needed improvement. One day she said, "we have a new position opening up for a 'Market Specialist,' and you should apply! It was a big decision for me. After all, I was self-employed and happy. I had already made the big leap of faith in the world of self-employment. However, I couldn't ignore the opportunity to work directly for Adobe, so I applied. The interviews took place in the Chicago regional office, and they hired me! My first day on the job was July 26, 1996, with an employee number in the 2200 range (Adobe has more than 24,000 employees today). I joined Sandy Kaye, Lori Kassuba, and Don Bowman, and together we were the Michigan team for Adobe. My job was to assist the sales reps by doing demos for their corporate customers during sales calls. I was good at my job!

When I started, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator were well established, but PageMaker wasn't doing so well. One of the first NEW products that I got to focus on was Adobe InDesign 1.0. It was fun battling QuarkXPress and WINNING back in those early days.

I love being on stage! I have zero stage fright as long as I know what I'm talking about. My sales reps pointed out that I had a gift for analyzing and pointing out customer's pain points and then solving them with Adobe magic. I felt like I could sell anything as long as I believed in it and used it myself. Presenting Adobe software is easy because, in most cases, our customers LOVE the products.

A stranger guilted into becoming a professional photographer.

People also tend to ask: "How did you become a photographer?" and while I was interested in taking pictures since I was a kid, I didn't become serious about it until Adobe developed Photoshop Lightroom 1.0. Lightroom became another tool in my tool belt, and it was one that I could get into because I had an interest in photography. However, it was a Lightroom MacWorld theater presentation that ignited my passion for "professional" photography. I was presenting Lightroom, and we had contracted professional photos from a famous photographer. I was showing his motocross images in my demo. After I finished my demo, a guy in the front row came up and asked, "are those your photos?" and I said, "oh no, they were licensed from so and so." It was the look of disappointment on his face that changed my demos forever. It was like I had no credibility in his eyes. I was just a guy doing a demo and not a professional photographer. I vowed never to do another Lightroom demo where I wasn't using my own photos. See my photography portfolio here.

Adobe Evangelists: Jason Levine, Greg Rewis and myself on the 2010 Pharaoh's tour in Egypt with cameras in hand.

An amazing adventure to Iceland during one of my sabbaticals with my dear friend and mentor Scott Kelby.

I got promoted

At one point I managed all these fine sales engineers.

I quickly rose in the ranks of Adobe. A few years later, I was promoted to Technical Resources manager and given a team of sales engineers to manage. I didn't mind people management and mentoring as long as I continued working with the products and continued to do presentations.

The 2005 Americas Sales Management Team led by Sue Scheen

I got promoted again

My success continued, and I got promoted to Technical Sales Director with an international team. While I certainly appreciated the recognition and moved up the corporate ladder, this promotion took me away from one of the things I loved. As a director, my day-to-day activities were mainly filled with meetings, phone calls, and paperwork. I was no longer in front of customers. I missed presenting!

Sometimes it's an Odd Job...

We also had fun at our events! Russell Preston Brown as James Bond and Terry White as Oddjob

I started a blog, a podcast and a YouTube channel

Although I wasn't going to be in front of customers physically, I figured out ways to still present to our customers and my followers. I started recording tutorials. It was not a directive. It was something I did in my spare time because I wanted to. I love technology, so I blogged about gadgets, new Adobe releases, and whatever I wanted to say to the world.

Technology gave me a voice again. My blog got thousands of views back in the day. My "Creative Suite" video podcast won the 2006 People's Choice Award on iTunes. My YouTube channel videos got millions of views.

Honored to be listed in the About.. screens of the products I love.


One thing that was/is a constant at Adobe, and that was things would change. In those days, re-orgs were a regular thing. The company was growing and changing focus. A lot more energy was put into our LiveCycle and Acrobat corporate solutions. As a creative, most of what was going on in the company wasn't about me and my work. A time came where they no longer needed a Technical Sales Director focused on Creative Sales Engineers.

I moved over to the Evangelism team

The Worldwide Evangelist Team 2014 - Rufus Deuchler (manager), Paul Trani, Jason Levine, Michael Chaize, and yours truly.

The first half of my Adobe career was in the sales organization. Product evangelism was a worldwide role on the product side of the house and now is under the Community Team.

A team building (cooking) event with the Community Team lead by Mike Chambers

Not only would I get back to presenting in front of customers, but I was going to be doing it all over the world. I could get back to what I was most passionate about and see the world simultaneously. It was another dream come true. The evangelism team got to circle the globe on our world tours. I had two passports at one time to make getting visas easier. I was on the road that much. I loved it!

Presenting Photoshop in Milan Italy

I got to travel to unique places, meet people and do things that I probably would have never been able to do if not for Adobe.

Introducing Adobe Creative Suite 5

The Creative Suite to Creative Cloud transition

In 2013 Adobe went through a significant transition. We were moving away from 18-24 month product cycles to a subscription-based model. It was the biggest gamble in the company's history. This transition would also change my job. The world tours we did were timed around big Creative Suite releases. Now that the applications would be updated more frequently, there was no longer a need to do these big tours. It was something that I'll admit was hard to adjust to at first. I was used to the big releases and also the world travel and presenting those big releases.

I was Inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame

One of the highlights of my career was being inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame in 2016.

It's too cold in Michigan.

I moved to Atlanta. If I never see snow again, I'll never miss it. Since my job doesn't require me to live in a particular location, I left Michigan after my divorce. My kids were grown, and there was just no reason to live in Michigan anymore.

They did love the snow when they were kids. It was fun, but I'm over it!

Live Streaming

Two million miles of flying later...

We moved away from big in-person events to live streaming. It was the right decision, and I like to compare it to the difference between Creative Suite and Creative Cloud. With Creative Suite, the cost was simply out of the range of many people around the world. Photoshop was $799-$999 to buy. With Creative Cloud, people could start using Photoshop for $10-$20 a month. Several people commented in person and on the forums that they would now be able to use these tools for the first time.

Big in-person events were the same. It meant taking time off work and potentially traveling to where the event would be. For many, even though these events were free, they couldn't afford to attend. With live streaming, you can tune in from anywhere in the world. I could reach more people than I ever could in person. Even if you couldn't watch it live, you can watch the replay on your own time. Because it's live streaming, you can also ask questions while it's live. My job went from traveling all the time to streaming regularly. While I miss the lovely places and energy from a live audience, I don't miss the negative aspects of travel, such as long flights, delays, hotel beds, and being away from my daughters.

Learn more about my live streaming setup here.

I really enjoy doing my weekly Photography Masterclass. Join me LIVE every Friday morning and catch up with the past episodes here.

Keynote Speaking

My first MAX Keynote demo - Introducing Photoshop CC to the world at Adobe MAX 2013 - photo by Rufus Deuchler

Live streaming didn't mean the complete end of in-person events. Adobe does an annual event called Adobe MAX. This event allows me to present in front of live audiences. I have been fortunate enough to be asked to be a part of the big keynote.

I live for life on the big stage.

The Adobe MAX keynote is a big deal! Not only am I presenting in front of 14,000 people in person (the largest live audience I've ever been in front of), it's live-streamed all over the world.

Showing the new features of Photoshop has been an honor and privilege, and while the demos are usually only 5-7 minutes, they take months of rehearsals that begin around March for the fall event. Adobe takes the keynote very seriously. No one is up there winging it.

The Adobe MAX Keynote is definitely one of the things I look forward to the most. However, my keynote presentation work did expand beyond Adobe MAX. I also enjoyed coordinating and being the main Adobe Keynote speaker at the last two in-person Photoshop Worlds.

Delivering the Adobe Keynote address and demos at Photoshop World

A message to the young people reading this

If you're young and you took the time to read this, I applaud you. I hope that my story inspires you and that I'm living proof that you can make it too. Not once did I think, "I'm not supposed to be here." Not once did I listen to the negativity of those who thought I shouldn't be able to do this because I'm Black. While I didn't finish college, I will always think about how much further I would have gotten faster had I had a degree. I got a lucky break early on. You can't count on that, so don't give up if you've got a shot at finishing school. Learn all that you can while you're young. Learn how to manage your money and invest as soon as you can. Work hard, and yes, play hard, but put the work in. That's the thing that so few people are willing to do to be successful today.

Thank You

It's an honor to continue to represent the company that John Warnock and Chuck Geschke (R.I.P.) founded. Forever grateful!
Thanks former Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen (right) and current Adobe CEO Shantanu (left)
Thanks Rufus Deuchler, Mike Chambers and Mala Sharma for allowing me to grow in your organization and for your dedication to educating the community.

I have had a fantastic career at Adobe and look forward to the years to come. It's an amazing company. Before Adobe, I would rarely stay at a company for more than two years because I would get bored. I haven't been bored one minute here at Adobe. I have more people to thank than I have room for here. I would be remiss If I didn't thank my teammates and managers that I've had over the years. I also want to thank all the people that have followed me on social media, watched a video I've done, and come up to me in person and told me how I've positively affected their lives and careers. One of the biggest thrills I've had is when a teacher tells me that they show my videos to their classes and use them in their curriculum.

Most of all, thank you, Adobe, for taking a chance on this kid from Detroit. Also, thanks for continuing to be on the right side of social issues that affect underserved communities of color.

Thank you to all my Fans, Friends, Colleagues, Family, and Loved Ones

Here's a visual look back of some of my favorite moments in the past 25 years:

Catch the replay of my 25th Anniversary interview

A touching tribute from my colleagues and friends

Created By
Terry White