“Technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, yields the results that makes our hearts sing.” – Steve Jobs
In 1998, I joined a creative agency called CKS Partners in San Francisco. The agency had the prestige of being hand-picked by Steve after his return to Apple in 1997, but at the time I had no strong opinion of Apple and Steve Jobs’s celebrity. I just loved the field of design and marketing communications.
After a few months on the job, Steve Jobs became my client.
I can’t say I made much of an impression on Steve. I must have been in meetings with him over ten times and never once got a formal introduction. We did share some moments, however. Like the time in a meeting in the Apple boardroom where he turned to me and barked, “Hey, don’t write that down!” I dropped my pen. What was he saying that was too secret to be scribbled into my Hello Kitty notebook? It was his launch plan for OSX. Or, when I accidentally bumped into an iMac during a meeting setting off a musical ‘boing!’ while trying to stay out of his way as he paced the boardroom. I wanted to disappear into the floor, but he just gave me a bemused glance. That’s it.
But, he made an impression on me. I was an English major with a love of design who happened to land on a technology account. Working in technology could have intimated me, but his appeal to form and function instead of ones and zeroes inspired me. I discovered that I could help my team find the words and images that told the story best. We all tried hard to please him and make sure our work “did not suck,’ and we stayed true to his vision.
Then came 2001 and the dot com crash. The creative agency I worked for had lost its way and was facing bankruptcy. We only had a week or so left before the agency closed its doors, and I flew home to the East coast to think about my options. I could return to my roots on the East coast. Or, I could go to work as an employee of Apple.
Torn between staying in the Silicon Valley or coming home to calmer waters, I asked my grandfather for advice. His response surprised me. “Go to Apple. You will never have this chance again.” I took the job at Apple.
For the next four years I entered the ‘reality distortion field’ working on iTools, iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes during at a formative time when Steve Jobs was building out his vision of the ‘digital hub.’ I made great friends; I learned everything from coding plists, to color matching, to how to create iPhotos books, to how important it was to be ‘pixel perfect.’ I never looked back.
It was only with Steve Job’s passing recently that I came to realize that his ability to make technology accessible is what encouraged me. If the culture he created had not valued the kind of ‘soft skills’ people like me brought to the table, I may not have continued in my high-tech career which has led me to Apple, Adobe and now Salesforce. I hope everyone appreciates his unique passion and vision, and the lesson about blending art and science is not lost.