On leaving California, Adobe and What’s Next

3 years, 2 months and 7 days ago, we touched down in the San Francisco bay area, having decided to move out from the Boston area. My son was almost 18 months old when we arrived here. Before we decided to move, I was traveling from Boston to the bay area more than I wanted, but less than I needed to. It simply wasn’t what I wanted or needed. I really liked working at Adobe though and didn’t want to leave to find something new in the boston area.

Now, fast forward to today. Being in the bay area has been great. We love the weather, and when working in high tech, there simply is nothing like being in the epicenter of it all. We’ve made some amazing friends. But the draw of our roots, and being closer to immediate family made my wife and I realize that we just weren’t at home in Silicon Valley. Shortly after I returned to Adobe, (after a year at Palm – which was a great learning experience. I never would have learned what I now know about mobile any other way), my wife and I had a good set of conversations about where we wanted to be as a family. We decided at that point that it was time to start working to head back east, to the Boston area. Now I had no idea how long this would take. The economy was still in dire straits. People were losing jobs, not finding new ones.

I also knew that while I was really enjoying my time back at Adobe and being part of the Creative Suite team, that this unfortunately meant I would leave Adobe once again. Even if Adobe was willing to consider having me work from Boston, that wasn’t going to be the right thing. If Adobe would consider it, I didn’t think it was the best for the product team I was on, and nor for me and my family. That would simply get us back to where we were three years ago.

So here we were in late September 2009. I had a major milestone coming up, the Adobe MAX designer and developer conference, and I needed to stay focused on that. But the week after MAX, Adobe was on shutdown and I started to poke around a bit. One my earliest phone calls was with a former colleague who noted that in his experience, most people are either east coast or west coast, and that’s hard to change. I think that’s true. Of course having gone to school in the midwest, I think there are probably a few more geographic regions that define people, but the core concept is sound. Some people can make the change to just about anywhere, but for many folks, historical roots define who a person is. For my wife and I, we are east coasters, plain and simple. More on that later though.

During that same week, in mid October, after just a few phone calls to reconnect with former colleagues and connections in the Boston area, I talked with Phil Costa who I worked side by side with for years, at Allaire, Macromedia and Adobe. I have enormous respect for Phil. He was now at a company called Bullhorn, that makes hosted software for the recruiting and staffing industry. Simply put, if the company was keeping Phil intrigued, then I knew it must be interesting. That initial call then turned into an opportunity to join the Bullhorn team in a product marketing capacity and I readily accepted.

There were a number of things that I immediately found compelling about Bullhorn. First they are a SaaS company. Having worked on desktop or server software for a long time, moving to an environment that allowed ongoing iteration and improvement really seemed exciting. Now of course that also brings a whole slew of new challenges. Adam Berrey, who I worked with at Allaire and Macromedia, recently had a great post on this. Secondly, Bullhorn is creating software for an industry that really cares about the benefits that the software delivers first and foremost. Technology and the associated battles about which technology is best, Mac vs Windows, HTML 5 vs. Flash, iPhone vs. Android vs. RIM vs. etc, at times while a lot of fun, and always interesting can also be frustrating. So much of the battle these days in the developer segment seems to based on providing ammo or fodder for whichever camp a developer identifies with. At times, to me, that seems like it was getting away from the true benefit of technology, making it easier or faster to do something that would be very hard to do without great software.

As I met the Bullhorn team I was impressed by where the company was headed and their emphasis on and approach toward maintaining a great culture. I know that working there will be a lot of fun, especially in an environment that was much smaller than anything I’d been involved with in more than 10 years. I know I’ll learn a ton, help the company grow and have a lot of fun doing it.

Our lives right now are mired in a sea of moving details, but its also a very exciting time. While I have many mixed feelings about leaving Adobe again, and will miss all the great people that I’ve now had two chances to work with, I’m excited for all the cool stuff that the company is working on. There will be some great stuff coming out for designers and developers down the road. That’s for sure.

I’m also very excited about joining Bullhorn. And I’m very excited to touch down in Boston, be close to immediate family and reconnect with old friends, many of whom we’ve know for 20 years now or more. Plus I’ll have to put on some heavy sweaters. Perhaps I’ll need to put all them of on at once. Living in California makes you soft when it comes to dealing with weather. I will miss the mild climate here that’s for sure.

So that’s the big news. As I’ve shared this with people many people have asked me to send along updated contact information. That seems a bit of an odd request to me, as the primary way I stay connected is online. Yeah, some folks still send holiday cards, but thats about the only thing anyone needs a physical address for. Things like email address aren’t changing of course, and I’ll keep my cell phone the same for the foreseeable future. So if you and I are LinkedIn or connected via Facebook, you already have my email address. If we’re not connected there, but you want to be, feel free to send me an invite for whichever network you think makes sense. Note that I tend to use LinkedIn for professional stuff, and Facebook for friends and family. (If you are interested you can read more about how I use social networks.) Plus you can always follow me on Twitter too.

Yup. Big changes. I’ve loved living in California. As the Baz Luhrmann song goes “live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” I don’t think living here makes people soft, (except when it comes to weather), but the sentiment in the song is right on. Living in different places helps you grow and rounds out who you are. It helps you understand more and experience different cultures. Living in a different place, in my opinion, is always a good thing. Living in a different place helps you know more about you and your relationships with others. And it always helps you head towards home.

One more thing. Adobe is looking for someone to replace me. Bullhorn has a number of open positions too. So if you are looking or know great people looking for a new job please let me know.

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4 thoughts on “On leaving California, Adobe and What’s Next

  1. Hey man – so sorry to see you go. But as I read your post, I realized how similar our experiences have been. I too headed out west to work at Adobe, and enjoyed every minute of it. But from a family perspective, we’re east coasters, and 3 years to the day, we were moving back to NY.

    I’m thrilled to hear of your new position at Bullhorn, and I wish you the best of luck moving forward.

  2. I’ve been there my friend:
    http://tinyurl.com/7kyu7f

    I left it all to be close to family. Has it been easy? No. Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? Yes.

    While this year has been tough from a financial perspective and I’m now traveling more than I was then, the boys have had the time of their life. Like right now, the house is full of lil children running around having fun: neighbors, cousins. Plus, there’s aunts, uncles, grandparents as well.

    I know you’ve made the right choice. Choosing family first is never wrong. Good on you, Mr. Wall. I knew I liked you for a reason. πŸ™‚

    P.S. Looking back though, I should’ve taken you up on that job offer you made once. I think great things would have come of it. Oh well. πŸ™‚

  3. Pingback: Top technologies of the decade « jonwall.org

  4. Pingback: 21,000 miles later – Where I’m headed | jonwall.org

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