With Adobe

Nelson Chu demo'ing MoXi at SIGGRAPH 2005
Nelson Chu demo'ing at SIGGRAPH 2005, surrounded by fellow researchers from around the world. 

Soon after our SIGGRAPH 2005 paper was announced, I got an email from Jerry Harris, Sr. Computer Scientist at Adobe, expressing interest in our MoXi tech and suggesting a meetup during SIGGRAPH. So we met at SIGGRAPH, along with then Adobe VP Dave Story and a few more Photoshop team members Jeff Chien and Sarah Kong. They seemed to like MoXi after seeing it first hand, and at the end of the meeting said to me 'Come join us at Adobe!'

Jerry told me it'd take at least one year to get me a VISA or something before Adobe can hire me. My HKUST supervisor suggested that I should get a PhD from the school and that given what I already had with MoXi I can get the title in two years. Given the at-least-one-year gap from being hired by Adobe, I decided to enroll to PhD. In the meantime, Jerry kept working towards getting Adobe license MoXi.

In Spring 2006 Adobe offered me an Internship position saying that's the fastest way to get me to the US working for them using the J1 VISA. Humbly I accepted the offer. 
Adobe Office, Arden Hills

So in July 2006 I found myself in Minnesota, USA. The work I did was to port MoXi to Adobe's own platform - so it's less like being trained under a mentor (my official mentor was not even in the Minnesota office). I was given a pile of documentation for the Adobe's platform and I was pretty much on my own as far as the porting goes. While I was working for Adobe in the US, our MoXi licensing contract finally got signed. 
 
Nelson Chu in his Adobe office, Arden Hills, Minnesota

I stayed in Minnesota for three months - with the first month just waiting - two weeks for the social security card, and then another two for Adobe to set up my account (didn't expect it took so long, for well, just an computer account) - that gave me the opportunity to explore the Twin Cities for the whole July. Folks at the Minnesota office were very nice. I was included in the Photoshop team's internal mailing list giving me a glimpse of what it's like in the PS engineering team. During my stay, I had a chance to visit University of Minnesota and gave a talk there, where I met some nice researchers too.

Before I headed back to Hong Kong, I went to Adobe's Headquarters in San Jose for meetup and presentations. I was flattered when an Adobe employee came up to me and eagerly said "I know nowadays computer can do a lot of things, but your MoXi still amazes me!" It was great to meet with people like John Nack, then Sr. Photoshop Product Manager, who kindly arranged a meeting with Wacom US folks for us too.
Adobe Headquarters, San Jose

Internal presentation by Nelson Chu at Adobe Headquarters

Nelson Chu presenting MoXi at Adobe's Headquarters San Jose
Nelson Chu presenting publicly at Adobe Headquarters

Photoshop team lunch, San Jose
Photoshop team lunch, San Jose

Jerry said he saw too many cases where Adobe bought some tech and if the original author wasn't hired the tech would just sit there. He's been trying to get me a position at Adobe. After I was done with my PhD in 2007, I met with Adobe folks again at SIGGRAPH 2007 and I kept hearing things like 'we love your work!' from them. It seemed we're still on-track for me to become a full-time Adobe employee as on-site interview were being arranged back-to-back with my SIGGRAPH visit to the US. But then all of a sudden, Jerry told me that Adobe could not hire me 'at the moment' without mentioning a reason.

When one door closed, others opened. I later joined Microsoft in 2008.

In 2010, as Microsoft employees, Bill Baxter and I demo'ed Project Gustav (which later became Fresh Paint) at SIGGRAPH 2010. Several Adobe folks came to check out our demo. I noticed their solemn faces. At that time Adobe just released 'Mixer Brush', which seems to suffer from the over-blurring we described in our 2010 paper then recently published. One of the Adobe managers asked for a copy of Project Gustav but since we were working for different companies now we could only decline it. The idea of Adobe hiring me was tossed around again, but I mentioned that I should stay with MS for at least one more year so that we could see Project Gustav finally released as a product and I did.

Project Gustav at SIGGRAPH 2010

After I resigned from MS in 2011, an old pal from Adobe encouraged me to 'drive my own speedboat' instead of 'joining an aircraft carrier'. And, that's what I'm doing now.

I still remember when I was visiting the Adobe Headquarters, I asked Jeff Chien if I should join Adobe or not. As a more experienced guy, he said to me 'you'll succeed wherever you go'. I'm not sure if I'm considered successful or not, but what I'm sure is that I didn't give up on getting my dream come true. Thank you Jeff. Thank you Jerry. 

Comments