The drive from Boise, Idaho to Orem, Utah offered many breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains, particularly as I approached Salt Lake City. When I arrived in Orem, my hotel was situated at the edge of Utah Lake (connected via the Jordan River to the Great Salt Lake, north of Utah Lake) with the Wasatch Mountains as a backdrop. I stood in the parking lot, gazing intently at the scene before me, and understanding why the Mormons settled here -- isolation from the outside world and a place of natural beauty. As I drove around Orem I noticed two things immediately: 1) few liquor stores, but those that existed were state owned, and 2) it seemed that every few blocks was a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). As reported by some people who reside there, if you live outside of "the community," you can feel isolated socially.
My first night in Orem I had dinner with Yujia Zhao and Chad Camara, two students from IU's HCI/d program who now share their lives together; both work for Adobe (along with Matt Snyder, who was first to be hired). It was so good to share a meal with them and catch up on their lives. They spoke of the challenges and opportunities working at Adobe. When we think of Adobe, we typically think of products like CS5--Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, Flash, and Illustrator--to name a few. But what goes on in Orem, Utah is Adobe's work in web analytics:
Omniture® web analytics is now Adobe web analytics, powered by Omniture®. As online channels evolve beyond traditional web-based interactions to include mobile, video, and social networking, so does the need for web analytics to bring together customer interactions across all online channels in one place. The Adobe online analytics and online optimization products provide extensible applications that connect easily with partner applications for a consolidated view of customer interactions.Yujia's home-made Chinese dinner was delicious and we had a lot of laughs and discussion about graduate school, what they learned that made a difference for them (e.g., teams, working with others, patience), my book on design pedagogy, and the new course I was designing, Rapid Interaction Design Practice. The next day I was to visit Adobe and lead an hour-long seminar (similar to the one I did at Adobe in Seattle), so we talked about what I might expect. It was great to see these young professionals talking like pros about their work; it had only been a little over two years prior that they were confused master's students with sophomoric views of design. Now they were the design leads on their teams!
The next day I arrived at the Adobe offices and was struck by their "industrial coolness." What a great environment in which to work. Moreover, the offices were located at the base of the mountains; talk about inspirational views! Matt Snyder hosted my visit and showed me around the offices. After my tour we went into a conference room to set up for my seminar. Unfortunately, the company was preparing for the big annual Adobe conference at the end of the week so the attendance was limited. Nevertheless, the discussion was lively, and according to Matt's manager, Archana Thiagarajan--a very bright and insightful director, quite useful as well. We discussed "playing the whole game" of design at Adobe and different groups approached their tasks in different ways. It became clear that creating a unified and regimented design procedure for Adobe would be a mistake and that procedural variation should be allowed depending on circumstance and team experience.
After my talk, a few of us had lunch at Adobe, a healthy and tasteful spread; Archana and I chatted about design, and she said that hiring Matt was a superb move on their part, followed by Yujia and then Chad (coming from Disney Animation where he was an intern). The three of them had distinguished themselves in their short time at Adobe (less than a year). Archana presented me with an Adobe red Polartec fleece blanket, thanking me for my seminar presentation, and then I returned to my hotel room to relax before dinner. But before I left, Matt and I passed a conference room that included Chad at the head of the table, a number of developer-engineers, and Yujia sitting among them; Yujia was leading the team in a strategy session and it was clear to me that she was "in charge" of that meeting. I was so proud of her; our graduates are clearly making an impact on Adobe's products!
That evening, Matt, Chad, Yujia, and I went to a gourmet pizza restaurant, Pizzeria 712. We each had individual pizzas. Mine consisted of house-made sausage, fennel, roasted pepper, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. Yum! (It was almost as good as the pizza in Boise.) The four of us enjoyed ourselves thoroughly that evening, and as I drove back to my hotel, I left the three of them chatting away in front of the restaurant. I'm certain that they were talking about design -- passionately!
The next morning I continued eastward to Laramie, Wyoming.