The previously under-reported contribution of women to the creation of tech giant Apple has been brought to the forefront thanks to Danny Boyle’s new film Jobs. The women from Steve Jobs’ original team, who worked on the 1984 Macintosh, included graphic designer Susan Kare — who created several of the iconic Mac icons as well as some of its original typefaces — and Joanna Hoffman, who was key in developing the computer’s unique “user experience.”
Hoffman (played by Kate Winslet), who was Apple’s head of international marketing, is restored in the movie to her important role as Jobs’ close colleague and confidante and one of the few people who dared to challenge her often volatile boss. “So often Steve was so enthusiastic and so brilliant and visionary, and not necessarily reasonable,” Hoffman said at an event at SAP Labs in Palo Alto on Monday, which featured many of the women of Apple’s early days. “I found myself being the party pooper.”
Organizing the panel was Andy Cunningham, a PR consultant (also in the movie) who planned out what was then the tech industry’s biggest campaign. She praised Jobs for giving the women of the Mac team “freedom to do what we were good at doing,” but also recalled the four times she had been fired by him, saying she “may have the record.”
The assembled women agreed that while it could often be challenging or even infuriating to work for Jobs, he was also a detail-obsessed visionary who managed to get the very best out of talented people. Barbara Koalkin Barza, a former product marketing manager for the Mac, said she believed conflict was something Jobs was looking for, as “he didn’t want to be surrounded by ‘yes’ people, as much as he liked to be in control.” She also recalled how Jobs ordered her to redesign a staircase at one of their offices twice, but said she she has taken his “laser focus on details” to heart throughout the rest of her career.