Adobe: Beer Bash

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It's easy to get jaded, and kind of hard not to. But one thing that helps is trying to look through the world through baby eye's (look at things like this is your first time seeing it). Adobe has some awesome benefits, and they often rank in the top-10 places in the bay area to work... and the bay area ranks in the top of the nation, and our country is ranked pretty high as well. But like all large companies, they're constantly shifting things around, and many of those shifts aren't always for the better. Some people leaving, some going (not always voluntarily). So you get a two starkly different views of things, those of an old-timer (OT) versus the wide eyes of a new timer (NT). He's some examples of what that means.

Beer Bash

Adobe has often had a Friday "Beer Bash"... basically, where a bunch of people congeal to chat about the week and just bullshit starting Friday at 5:00, with company provided beer and snacks. This worked well for 20 years, so Corporate Planning decided to get involved and take it over, and of course, fucked it up tragically -- raised the costs, annoyances, and eventually tried to cancel it as a cost saving measure.

During that time you could see the following exchange:

  • OT: I can't believe they screwed up beer bash?
    • NT: You get a beer bash?
  • OT: Yeah, weekly. (Kind of nightly during summer when the interns are around). But now that it's run by our internal catering, it's just chips and salsa, crudités, some cheese and crackers. Maybe some gummi worms. We used to get Pizza or catered indian food of our choice... so this isn't nearly as good.
    • NT: Wait. Your company, pays for your beer AND your food?
  • OT: Yeah, and wine. Why are you so hung up on that? But they only have 2 or 3 decent choices on tap, and only 2 wines. We used to have a wider selection. And they added Karaoke. Do you know how tiring it is to hear one of your coworkers crooning bad falsetto Bee-Gees, while you're quaffing their free beer? Why'd they have to ruin it.
    • NT: Sure, that sound rough. (Rolls eyes).

That's not an uncommon thing in the Valley. A company does something that's nice, cuts those benefits as they scale or through operational incompetence, and people no longer realize the benefit they have, but what they're not getting any more that they used to.

As it was, the history of Beer Bash was basically one team (Photoshop) sponsored a wind down event starting in the early 90's, and people loved it. So it grew and expanded, and multiple teams shared in the responsibilities (and costs) of just going to Costo, buying a case of assorted wines and beers, and some snacks, and spending some more on pickup catering from some local shop. Often Pizza, but sometimes Indian food, Vietnamese, or whatever the team felt like doing. It ran about $400 for 75 people. But the basics were 5:00pm on Friday, congregate down and chat with others in an HR free zone, and just shoot the breeze, while occasionally sharing what everyone is doing, and some of the latest gossip.

Corporate jumped in, and decided to advertise it (internally), move it to a different Cafe, cater it, and up the cost to $2,500/week. They over doubled the attendance, added Karaoke (much to the annoyance of the old timers or anyone trying to talk), they catered it with the same stuff every week: crudités, salami plate, sandwiches, and some chips. They added drink tickets (2 per customer), and used tab beer instead of assorted bottles, and wine came in two choices: red or white (instead of assorted bottles picked by our wino's). Virtually everyone that knew the old beer bash, preferred the old way, at a fraction the cost.

Eventually Corporate jumped in and decided to cancel beer bash (02/2018), after 25 years... and that didn't go over well. Their excuse was they wanted to use that money for other things.... yeah, like more sexist programs to advance Women in the company, or other fake sensitivity stuff that was eye-roll worthy. While the mixer with people from all races and backgrounds that was happening weekly, was unfunded? Makes sense in some bean counter or HR persons mind.

The good news is a lot of old-timers didn't like the new format, so they broke off and create their own bashes. The old photoshoppers recreated the original... just everyone pitched in $10, and that was enough of a budget to keep the old style beer bash going. And the Acrobatters had broken off earlier as they were more wine snobs -- so their was you had to bring a NICE bottle of wine (say $30-40), and they drank until all the wine was gone. Both would occasionally bring some hard alcohol for us bourbon/scotch/whiskey drinkers. Anyways, once Corporate cancelled their beer bash, the PS folks went back to their VP and asked for funding again, and got it up to $1000/week.... which was more than enough to bring back the old style beer bash. Attendance was up (more like 150/week), Karaoke was banished to another area a good 50' away, and everyone far preferred the new/old format.

More Examples

Other examples of benefit myopia was that:

  • Cafeteria -- they went from one Cafeteria with everything, to 3 specialty ones. While the total selection went up, each of the new Cafeterias had less choice than the old one... and now there was always the debate with teams on which one to go to, or where to meet with food if you couldn't agree on one.
  • they stopped bringing the gourmet food trucks in regularly.... because there's 20 places to eat within walking distance (twice that if you drive a few minutes), and we have 3 cafeterias... all with limited selections and more pricey than before when they only had one. Still, $9 for a decent cafeteria lunch isn't bad... it was just more expensive and fewer choices than before.
  • Vacations -- we went from having many days off, and 3 weeks paid vacation, and a 4/5/6 week paid sabbatical every 5 years.... to getting no official time off (that would accrue as pay), but you do get 2-3 weeks paid, negotiated with your boss, still kept our sabbaticals, and we got 2 1-week shut-downs during X-Mas and one in Summer (4th of July). This is a net win, but if you're used to having 3-5 months of paid vacation accrued, it seems like a loss. So lots of kvetching when this happened, over one of the more generous paid time-off policies around.
  • They went to open floor plans, which annoy people so much, that they spend more time at our on-campus gym, or using the somadome (http://somadome.com).

It's all perspective.

Conclusion

These aren't even first world problems, these are bay-area problems. But if you're neck deep in the environment, it's easy to see what you lost, and not always easy to see what you have.

But if you have any doubt about what kind of place you work at, you just need to have something bad happen.

The other day, a coworker got hit by a car (walking to the train). Adobe security was on it in seconds. (It was in sight of our building). Ambulance and police were there instantly, she was rushed to the Hospital. It sounds like she's going to be fine, eventually, despite a broken vertebrae and bumps, scrapes and bruises. But she's on the road to recovery.

One of the more impressive things is that's not where it ends.

Her management was called immediately, security contacted her Mom who was in Florida... and doesn't speak english. No problem, a translator was arranged. A flight was scheduled for her to come out immediately. Since she was in Miami while a hurricane was about to make landfall, a car was arranged to drive her to an airport (a hundred miles away) where she could get out. Once arriving they had a hotel next to the Hospital arranged, contact points, and so on. Basically, whatever they could do to make sure things were as easy as possible, they did.

This isn't a one off. Whenever there's a disaster or crisis, security is on top of it: coordinating with who is safe (and who isn't) and doing everything they can to get our people (and their families) as safe as possible. Earthquake in Japan, violence in Oakland, volcano in Iceland, and they're doing what they can to adapt to the crisis.

Once while working at another company, long ago, I had one of my employee's parents get in a motorcycle crash. He came in and told me about it, and I said, "Go! You have whatever time you need, we'll cover and work around it" -- crunch time, pending milestone demo, etc., it didn't matter.

I got a little chewed out for it, "What authority did you have to give him that time off". I explained, "So fire me! Do you really think holding him here during a crisis is going to be good for him or the company? What kind of company do we want to be?" They thought about it, realized I was right, and backed off (still grumbling a bit about the risk to the schedule I'd incurred). The difference is, in Adobe, there would have never been a doubt, or a questioning of someone making that decision.

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Adobe

These are a few articles (stories) that I've written, just to share my experiences as an Adobe employee for over a decade. I like the company, and all companies have good and bad quirks. But these are just my observations on what I found amusing or memorable about my experiences there. Definitely not to slam the company, or many good people who have worked there -- just because I sort of journal on life.