Meet the Adobe I/O Team: Mihai Corlan on Building Adobe’s Serverless Platform

Mihai Corlan is a product manager for Adobe I/O Runtime, Adobe’s serverless platform. Originally from Romania and now based in Silicon Valley, Mihai is passionate about building great products with great teams and has been working with web technologies since the late ’90s. He’s been at Adobe for more than 10 years, and only left briefly to pursue his first product management role. He returned to kickstart the formation of the I/O project, the mission of which is to create developer tools to help extend and integrate Adobe products and technologies.

Mihai Corlan, building Adobe I/O Runtime — Adobe’s serverless platform.

We caught up with Mihai to find out more about his career path, the tools he works with, his proudest achievements, and what he’s going to talk about at Adobe Summit in March.

How did you get started in the industry, and what’s your career path at Adobe been like?

I started as a web developer, moved into developer evangelism, and eventually to product management. I was the first product manager to get hired on the I/O team in 2015 to bring life to a new project back then: adobe.io and console.adobe.io.

Adobe acquired a Romanian startup in 2006, and I was one of the engineers working on Dreamweaver extensions. After the acquisition I moved to the Flex Builder team (an Eclipse-based IDE used for writing ActionScript and Flex code). In 2008 I had the chance to join the developer evangelism team, focusing on Flex and Adobe AIR. I briefly left the company in 2014 to pursue my first product management job and returned in 2015 to help launch the Adobe I/O developer story.

What challenges did you face when you became Adobe I/O’s first product manager, and how did you overcome them?

I wish it was a unique challenge and that the experience of overcoming it lends itself to some cool stories that I could get published…In reality, it was just the tight deadline to deliver a 1.0 product — from November until March to build both console.adobe.io and www.adobe.io with a small team that was also just coming together. Our secret for success was trusting each other. I completely trusted my engineers, and together we’ve made the best possible decisions to deliver a product that ultimately meets our internal and external customers’ needs.

Can you tell us a little bit about the tools and technologies you work with?

I use a wide array of tools: from email, Slack, Evernote, Microsoft Office and Google Docs, Adobe XD, and Photoshop, to Brackets, Visual Studio Code, and GitHub. I am still close to code! The last bit I wrote was a proof-of-concept for running an Express web app on top of Runtime, and then some scripts to create the actions and namespaces required to do some automatic testing.

What achievements are you most excited about in your work?

Argh, that’s a tough question. I believe that most product managers are proud of all their previous products or milestones while being totally focused and consumed by their current one.

So yeah, I am pretty happy with how we shaped Adobe I/O, and now I am super excited to work on I/O Runtime. I have an amazing team that solves interesting problems at Adobe’s scale every day.

In case you didn’t know, I/O Runtime is Adobe’s serverless platform. Our vision is that Adobe customers will use it to extend Adobe solutions much easier and faster. Oh, and if you don’t know what serverless is, then you should watch the video below and learn all about it! Most tech people agree that it’s the biggest change yet on how software will be developed and distributed in the coming years.

All of this motivates me to both go deep on the technical side of the project, and fly high to stay in touch with what’s happening with serverless in general.

Have you got any tips for other developers wanting to make the transition into product management?

Too many and yet not enough to be really helpful! I guess you need to realize that there is a huge shift in terms of what you need to do to be successful and how you do it. As a developer, you are pretty much in control of your deliverables. As a product manager, your key to success is to rely, trust, and influence others on a daily basis while accepting that nothing is ‘final.’ If this sounds both scary and exciting, then you might be cut out for product management.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

I hate this question! It makes me feel like I wasted my professional life because I don’t remember one piece of advice that completely changed me. I consider myself lucky because I always work with people smarter than me, and I learned a lot from each one. Also, people believed in me, and offered me the opportunity to do something new: move from engineering to evangelism, or from evangelism to product management.

What are you looking forward to working on next?

I only see our GA (general availability for I/O Runtime). We know that any Adobe customer looking into extending Adobe solutions will benefit from having a consistent way to do it. Add to this the advantages of serverless, like the lack of a need to manage infrastructure, and you have a winning combination.

After the GA, I am looking forward to our 2.0 release; so many things we want to do, so many customers we want to help. If you really want to know, we should talk again a year from now!

What will you talk about at the Adobe Summit?

I will co-present a session with Carmen Sutter and Fred Kuu about extending Adobe’s solutions with serverless and I/O Runtime. Join us to understand a variety of use cases: from processing I/O Events in order to send emails through Adobe Campaign to extending the AEM Commerce integrations. And hear how the Adobe.com team uses Runtime to enrich data in near-real-time in Audience Manager in order to extend ABM Personalization efforts on the website.

Adobe Summit takes place in Las Vegas from March 26–28. Follow the Adobe Tech Blog for more developer stories and resources, and check out Adobe I/O on Twitter for the latest news and developer products.