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.
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.