Skip to main content

Transforming Cutting-Edge Technology

Lynn Gong (MMM '18) talks about her role as a product manager at Adobe and how Northwestern Engineering's MMM program helped prepare her for the job.

Lynn Gong (MMM '18) learned a lot about innovation during her time in Northwestern Engineering's MMM program, but one of the simplest lessons she took from her experience might actually have been the most influential on her.

"The more you invest in a project, the more you get out of it," said Gong, now a product manager at Adobe. "You can deliver an okay result with 60 percent effort, but if you want to deliver a perfect result, you need to be 100 percent all in. You need to invest your time, your effort, and really talk to customers and build your empathy for them."

When she graduated, Gong knew she wanted to take that lesson in commitment and bring it to a company that would allow her to help build a product and bring it to market for the first time. Gong said she had multiple job offers but wasn't excited about the idea of moving a product from version 13 to version 14 with minimal changes. What appealed to her about Adobe was being a part of product development from the ground up. And that is exactly what she has been able to do.

"Right now I work at the intersection of Adobe's research, design and engineering teams," Gong said. "My role is to transform cutting-edge technology into our products."

This past fall, Adobe announced Liquid Mode, a new technology that uses Adobe Sensei — the company's artificial intelligence and machine learning platform — to understand the structure in a PDF document and reformat it for mobile devices. Liquid Mode was born out of the fact that despite the incredible technological advances of mobile devices, they hadn't been able to take information from a PDF and present it in a user-friendly way on a small screen. If a user wanted to read a PDF on a cell phone, they needed to zoom in on the document and then move the document around to try and see all the text. Simply put, it was not a good user experience.  

Gong was a product manager for the iOS version of Liquid Mode. She worked alongside dozens of engineers to determine how to make the product faster, improve a user's first time experience, and ultimately increase monthly active users.

"In Liquid Mode, AI is mostly using computer vision technology to detect headings, paragraphs, lists, images, tables and all the objects in a PDF and using that knowledge to re-layout the content to fit any mobile device screen," she said. "It's only one button in the Acrobat app, but it actually was multiple years in the making. It was a very hard project." 


Gong routinely finds herself referring to frameworks and mindsets she honed in MMM, including the idea that to create something new, she should search for the intersection point between desirability, feasibility and viability. That is where real innovation resides.

Gong credits the knowledge she developed in MMM and experience working on client projects with helping her get to where she is today, and she makes it a point to help prepare other MMM students in the same way. This winter will be the fourth time Gong and Adobe have sponsored a project in the program's Business Innovation Lab. In the course, students work in teams to apply design innovation knowledge learned in the program to a specific problem presented by an industry partner.

For Gong, not only is she able to give back and reinforce the lessons in commitment that she learned, but she's also able to keep her eyes open for budding ideas in the process. 

"Students are able to apply the techniques they just learned in class into real-world problems," she said. "Each of the projects has helped inspire us for new features for the Acrobat or Document Cloud platform."

Back to top