Aside from being one of the greatest innovators that tech has ever seen, Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and former CEO, was also a fascinating character. Often described as a frosty character in the workplace, this aspect of his personality was seldom more obvious than at lunchtime, when Apple employees would shun the head honcho through fear of being fired.
David Black, a Java and WebObjects engineer who worked over in Cupertino for over a decade, sat down and talked with Business insider about his time working with Jobs, and reflected fondly on just how strongly his presence was felt whenever he entered the Apple cafeteria. In fact, within 15 or so minutes, most of the staff would clear the area, and according to Black, “no one would fill the seats near him.”
Jobs apparently liked to quiz employees on their projects, which would make them feel on the spot and under pressure at a time when they just wanted to relax. Given the stature of Jobs, allied to what Black describes as a dark sense of humor, it’s no surprise that awestruck Apple employees were too fearful to hang out with him at lunch, and as such, he cut a rather lonely figure.
He did take something of a perverse pleasure in bamboozling workers, which was where the dark humor really came into play. On one occasion, he asked an intern what he was working on whilst in the elevator, and when said intern replied that he was carrying out quality assurance, Jobs is said to have replied: “Why are you going down? You should be going back up to work.” Having clearly shocked the young intern, he then came out with “hey, just kidding,” and allowed the poor guy to continue about his business.
Given Jobs’ reputation as an ideas man, the fact that he was left, quite literally, to his own devices, was probably to the benefit of Apple as a company. During his tenure, some of the most iconic products were created and released, including the iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air and much later, the iPad tablet, and with the obvious distraction that comes with sharing lunch space with others, perhaps the tranquility allowed Jobs to become consumed by his ideas for new products.
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