When you use an app from a big software company, it can be easy to forget that there are individual people behind those logos. One of those people is Rick Treitman, with the unique title of 'entrepreneur-in-residence' at Adobe.
Rick created one of the first collaborative online word processors on the web, called Buzzword, which Adobe ended up acquiring in 2007. Rather than give him a middling title Rick kept his entrepreneurial spirit intact as 'EIR' at Adobe, where he now works on their document-focused initiatives. We caught up with Rick to learn a little about how he works.
Location: Boston, MA Current Gig: I'm an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Adobe, heading up our Adobe Document Cloud Ideation Lab One word that best describes how you work: Customer-driven Current mobile device: iPhone 6 and the 25cm iPad Pro Current computer: I've got two: MacBook Pro and MacBook Air
First of all, tell me a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I'm living proof that it's possible to make a living after majoring in English. I planned on being an English teacher, but flunked out after two years. It's the hardest job I've ever had, and I wasn't up to the task. There's a longer story that I won't go into, but I transitioned from teaching to tech writing just as the mini-computer boom started. From tech writing, I moved to product management and marketing, moving from the mini-computer boom to the first personal computer software boom — as employee number 200 at Lotus.
After Lotus, I tried an advertising startup then moved to owning a technical bookstore in the heart of Greater Boston's high-tech area. I figured I'd retire there — but after 15 years, Amazon put us out of business. Tim O'Reilly was a friend of the bookstore and delivered a talk in our shop about this new concept — "Web 2.0." I started thinking about what a word processor for the web would look like, called some of my ex-Lotus buddies, and we started Virtual Ubiquity. We built one of the first online, collaborative word processors — Buzzword. And we built it in Flash. Adobe was impressed enough that they bought the company in 2007 and I've been EIR at Adobe ever since.
What apps, software, tools can't you live without? Why?
Like most people, I'd find it pretty hard to live without email. I need to web for research. I find that when talking to customers, it is much better to hand write notes than to be typing on a laptop. It may seem a little old-fashioned, but it's less intrusive and less of a barrier between the customer and me.
What's your workspace setup like?
I sit in a 6x6 cube with a busy passageway behind me and a lot of noise from conversations all around me, so I guess I should add my Bose Noise-Cancelling headphones to the list of equipment I value.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
It's pretty simple. I'll occasionally make a note in my iPhone through the iOS reminders app.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
I'd like to think I'm good at discovering solutions by seeing intersections between people, problems, and technologies.
What do you listen to while you work? Got a favourite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence?
I also like jazz and blues playlists on Spotify.
What are you currently reading? Or what's something you'd recommend?
Sapiens, by Yuval Harari — a brief history of humankind. Moonglow, by Michael Chabon — fantastic novel based on the life of his grandparents. Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaassen — another hilarious novel from him. I read everything of his I can find. The Relic Master [by] Christopher Buckley — also pretty funny, as is the rest of his work. Anything by Dennis Lehane or Elmore Leonard
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
We live in the golden age of TV, so I'm on Netflix, Amazon, HBO, etc. looking for good shows. Reading (can't you tell by my answer above?) and biking are of course up there.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
The best time saver is that I commute about 48km a day by bike — no wasted time in traffic, no worries about finding a time to workout and plenty of time to brainstorm problems as I ride. Over the last three years I've averaged more than 11,265km a year.
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
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