Why You Can Still Grow While Staying at the Same Company for 20 Years
Does it seem like your friends hop from job to job like it’s no big thing, taking on exciting new projects or earning a raise each time? Do you feel pressured to work at a different place because you don’t feel like you can grow if you stay in the same spot? Though it’s true that trying on different roles or working for different organizations can bring benefits or present exciting challenges, staying in the same place can also help you define a successful career. We recently checked in with Julieanne Kost, principal digital imaging evangelist at Adobe, to reflect on her incredible two decades with the notable company.
Brit + Co: You earned a degree in psychology before going back to school to get a degree in photography. How did you make your way to working in technology?
Julieanne Kost: When I went back to school to get a degree in photography (while working as an image librarian at a medical imaging company), I would capture individual frames from Betacam tapes and would remove patient names, color correct, and output to film for sales and marketing using Photoshop v2. Because I had access to Photoshop after-hours, I used it to create-multi image composites based on my dreams and other personal projects. When I learned there was a job opening in technical support at Adobe, I felt it was the perfect opportunity — I could “get my foot in the door” in a creative, fast-paced tech company, learn everything that I could about Photoshop, and use my degree in psychology to help our customers.
I soon learned that the most rewarding part of my job Adobe was (and still is) helping other people reach their full potential by demystifying technology and making it more accessible to everyone.
B+C: Connecting the dots in hindsight now, are you surprised that you’ve spent so much of your career in tech?
JK: Yes, I definitely would have been surprised if you had told me 20 years ago that I would have a career in tech; I thought I wanted to be a sports therapist! Looking back, though, tech was an ideal path for me to take. I grew up in a household that was both creative and technical: My mother was a painter and printmaker; my father was an engineer whose hobby was photography. It was a fantastic combination of left- and right-brain pursuits. I watched my mom draw and paint and then turn those images into beautiful, pin-registered, silkscreened works of art. At the same time, my father explored the landscape with his black-and-white photographs and converted the laundry room into a darkroom so he could master developing and printing.
The most valuable lesson that I learned from my parents was that while their approaches and the techniques they used to express to themselves visually were different, they both had to master their respective tools from creative and technical standpoints to produce the images they wanted. My career at Adobe has been the ideal combination of the art, science, and technology of photography.
B+C: These days, it seems like many people hop from role to role or company to company. You’ve been with Adobe for 20+ years; has it been hard to grow or reinvent yourself while at the same company for over two decades?
JK: Not at all! Adobe fosters a very creative and supportive work environment where employees are encouraged to innovate, take risks and push boundaries, and grow as individuals. I’ve had several different positions within the company (from technical support to production artist, designer, and now evangelist) and have always felt motivated and excited to collaborate with such a diverse group of super-smart people.
B+C: You’re an accomplished photographer and a talented creative; how do you apply your skills and passions at work each day?
JK: My position as an evangelist allows me to fuse my personal skills as an image-maker/photographer with my job requirements to create meaningful and inspirational Photoshop and Lightroom instruction. For example, as I create training content to explain new features or techniques to our customers, I’m simultaneously trying to push the limits with my own images — I discover which tools and techniques work the best for the look and feel that I’m after.
I’m also able to provide feedback to the product and engineering team from not just what I discover, but also from the customers I interact with. While I used to think of “work” and “life” being separate things that I had to try to “balance,” I now find it much more satisfying to weave them together into a tapestry.
B+C: Does the inspiration you find when you travel make its way into the mix at all?
JK: Travel can be a way to see a new perspective, gain insights into other cultures, and meet people with different life experiences — all of which we can use to broaden our minds. As an artist, making photographs when I travel has taught me to be more observant, patient, and empathetic; these are all skills I incorporate while working with anyone.
I’ve actually had several long-term photographic projects, both of which were the direct result of travel. The first one, Window Seat, came from my frequent business travel — I needed a creative outlet, so I started shooting photos out of the airplane window. I was looking for an opportunity to photograph something, but all I had to look at were the insides of airports, cabs, hotels, and convention centers, and for the life of me I just couldn’t find a way to make those places interesting subjects to photograph! Shooting photos from the window seat allows me to stay sane during those long flights, and it gives me something to focus on, so that I’m doing more just moving between point A and point B.
The second project, Passenger Seat, started as I traveled through the northeastern United States to view the leaves in fall. We drove around all day looking for iconic New England landscapes, and between the small towns, I started playing with the camera, taking images out the window of the car using a slow shutter speed and panning with the landscape. At the end of the day, the images that I had made “in between” were the images that resonated with me. I found myself capturing ephemeral moments that weren’t observable when the image was made, yet these photographs conveyed the mood, colors, and transient notion of fall better than anything that I had mindfully composed. It was the perfect use of technology to see the unseen.
B+C: We love it! On the flip side, how does Adobe’s community of photographers inspire you and your creative work?
JK: One of my things I love most about my job is that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with so many creative artists, photographers, scientists, designers, etc. who are willing to share ideas, techniques, and ways of thinking about the world around us. While I love talking to people in person, I also find that exploring online communities (like Behance) allows me to be inspired by people whose work I would otherwise have missed — including illustrators, typographers, designers, 3D artists, and more. I’m constantly impressed with the unlimited ways in which the community pushes the technology to the limits in new and exciting directions.
B+C: Photoshop and Illustrator are two programs we couldn’t work without. Are there any lesser-known tools or products you use or recommend for creative work?
JK:Lightroom has become my go-to tool for viewing, editing, organizing, and sharing my photos; it’s freeing to be able to use it with multiple devices — and empowering to be able to capture DNG and true HDR images on mobile! I’m currently experimenting with the new Long Exposure Technology Preview on my mobile phone when photographing water, and I’m amazed by how fun technology can be in creative expression.
When I want to share a longer-form story that includes photographs, text, and video, I love using a Spark Page. It’s template-driven so my pages look professionally designed, has a small learning curve, and looks great on any device. Plus, I can link or embed my Spark page on my social media channels.
Could you imagine staying with the same organization for decades? Tweet us about the career path you envision for yourself @BritandCo.
(Photos via Julieanne Kost/Adobe, featured photo via Getty)
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