“Impedance mismatch.” It’s a funny little phrase to hear in everyday conversation, but one that Winston Hendrickson—longtime VP of engineering for Photoshop and many other Adobe efforts, friend and mentor to more people than I could possibly count—liked to sprinkle into chats. He’d use it to flag things that just didn’t make sense, little disconnects in the universe.
I’ve been thinking of it ever since learning yesterday that Winston had passed away following a long illness. I still can’t believe I’m typing these words. Something in the universe feels disconnected, out of phase.
As the dozens of remembrances now flooding Facebook can tell you, Winston was a beloved dad, respected leader, and passionate photographer. After years at Apple leading teams that began the Mac OS turnaround, he’d spent more than 17 years driving development at Adobe. We worked closely together to launch Adobe Bridge, helping tie together the very first version of Creative Suite.
I was a bit surprised later when Winston came over to lead Adobe’s digital imaging teams. I hadn’t realized that on any given weekend you’d likely find him lugging a 600mm lens & big SLR to his daughters’ softball games, an auto race at Laguna Seca, or a photo walk up California’s coastline. Photography took him from Tasmania to Antarctica and beyond, shooting everything from modern dance to SWAT teams in training. (See more here & here.) Winston had that special quality that distinguishes many key leaders at Adobe—a deep and passionate connection to the work, the tools, and most importantly the fellow practitioners we felt privileged to call customers.
I haven’t seen Winston in just over a year, since the day he dropped by to help my kids and many others explore some new Adobe augmented reality tools. He was exactly as he’d always been, looking good & always ready to share a salty joke. (Whenever we’d hear self-congratulation getting a little thick over the years, we loved deflating it by invoking Pulp Fiction’s Winston Wolf: “Well, let’s not start…” I’ve gotta think he’d laugh out loud hearing that reference stuck in a eulogy.)
Therefore yesterday’s news came as a shock. “The only easy day was yesterday,” said a sign on Winston’s door. Well, yesterday wasn’t.
I’ve struggled to write any kind of worthwhile tribute, to find some Big & Meaningful Theme. Listening to colleagues’ and friends’ remembrances, though, I’ve started to think more in terms of a mosaic: we all reach back across time, pulling up whatever bunch of shining fragments we can, and we lay them together to draw the outlines of a life.
“Should you live for your résumé or your eulogy?” Winston’s life showed how one can serve both, and we’re all blessed for it. Thanks for everything, big guy, and safe travels. —J.