An Interview with John
Warnock

Wolfson :   What about the notion that technology makes us less social beings, that we don't know the neighbor next door because we're too busy sitting isolated in front of the computer?
Warnock :   But now you can get to know a person in Nairobi, whereas before you would never have any contact with that culture. We get perspectives on other people's lives and other people's problems.

Without television and mass communication, that knowledge wouldn't exist. So I think it actually has the possibility of turning people into more understanding and more empathetic people.

The personal contact is a personal thing. The fact that some people don't know their neighbors, I don't think that technology is at fault. You don't lose anything with technology. You gain other avenues of understanding.

Cobb :   Where is technology going? What is the limit?
Warnock :   Who knows? I would never speculate on the the limit. Every time you speculate, you're way too conservative.
Wolfson :   Could you talk about your work, the everyday part of running a company.
Warnock :   One of the biggest parts of my job is to figure out where the company is going. What are the opportunities? So I stay very immersed and very up-to-date on what new companies are being started, what new technologies are emerging, what new ideas are getting floated in business plans, and things like that. I see a lot of product ideas and a lot of new technologies.

What I try to do is factor in how people use computers, what people's problems are, and how these technologies can get applied to those problems. Then I try to direct the various product groups to act on this information.


The fact that some people don't know their neighbors, I don't think that technology is at fault. You don't lose anything with technology. You gain other avenues of understanding.

Most of my time is either listening to people or talking to people, or communicating by e-mail. Adobe communicates worldwide by e-mail in a very, very intense way. I probably have on the order of 50 to 100 messages a day that I read and respond to.


The paycheck is sort of a scorecard to say, "Have you been successful with your life?" But after a point, that's not why you come.
Cobb :   I want to ask you a question that goes against everything my parents have ever told me about being polite. How much money do you make?
Warnock :   That's all public information. And, you want to know something? I don't know. It's not a salary. There is a piece of it that is a salary.

I had no interest in business. No interest. None whatsoever. I never took a course in business.

But a lot of it has to do with bonus plans, and stock options, and all kinds of complicated factors.

Usually the way that I find out is I look at my tax return and find out how much is reported. You reach a certain level and you sort of don't care, because that is not why I come to work. I come to work because I have fun building products that people use.


If anybody had told me when I was in high school or when I was in college that I would be running a billion-dollar company, I would have told them, "You're crazy."
And I don't come to work because I get a big, fat paycheck. The paycheck is sort of a scorecard to say, "Have you been successful with your life?" But after a point, that's not why you come.

Wolfson :   If you went to your high school reunion, would your friends from back then be surprised by your success?
Warnock :   They would be dumbfounded! They would say, "You were this wimpy little kid." You know, people try to map out their lives. You can do some kind of planning, but the future is something you'll never be able to predict. If anybody had told me when I was in high school or when I was in college that I would be running a billion-dollar company, I would have told them, "You're crazy." First of all, I had no interest in business. No interest, none whatsoever. I never took a course in business.

I come to work because I have fun building products that people use.
Cobb :   What were your expectations when you started the company?
Warnock :   We started the company out of frustration with the employer that we had because we were building great stuff and there was no way that this stuff was ever going to get into the hands of the people who could use it.

If you could change anything about your life, what would you change?
I'm a pretty happy camper. Look a little more like Paul Newman, maybe.

I had been with small companies--start-ups--before, so I knew what it was like. When we started the company, we said, "Maybe if we're lucky, this company will make 5 million dollars a year or something like that. Early on, I made a statement that the company would never have more than 50 employees.