Menlo College Trustee Andy Cunningham Among Women of Influence Who Exerted Their Indomitable Will Around Steve Jobs

Menlo College Trustee Andy Cunningham among Women of influence who exerted their indomitable will around Steve Jobs

On the evening of November 2, 2015, Katie Hafner moderated a panel that included Menlo College Trustee Andy Cunningham and other early Apple employees Barbara Koalkin Barza, Susan Barnes, Debi Coleman, and Joanna Hoffman. SAP Labs was the venue for the discussion on “Limitless Leadership: Lessons Learned From The Powerful Women Who Worked With Steve Jobs.”  The audience was packed with legends of the computer world, including Andy Hertzfeld, Guy Kawasaki, and Bud Tribble.

The indomitable will of the panelists was poignantly revealed in the discussion. Their collective courage and passion was a force that helped move the visionary dream of Steve Jobs to reality. Each of the women demonstrated an internal strength that led them to influence the world.

Hafner initiated the talk, reminding the audience that the film Steve Jobs was “Hollywood at work” and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s transformation of fact to film had morphed to “the story of Apple and a Sorkin-ized version of Steve Jobs.”

Hoffman, head of the International Marketing Team which brought the Mac to Europe and Asia, and a close advisor to Jobs, said she was initially worried about being characterized in the film because there was “no way to control” it. “It was most important that they get the tone.” After meeting actress Kate Winslet, who played her part, Hoffman acknowledged that she was ok with the performance and described Winslet as an “amazing mimic.”

Coleman, who helped launch the first Macintosh computer, joked about her “secret aspirations” to win the “standing up to Steve” award after Hoffman had won it for two years. Coleman subsequently won it for three years.

The group agreed that gender was not an issue for Jobs. “It was all about your ability to survive and not get crushed,” said Barnes, Controller of the Macintosh Division at Apple Computer.

“Nothing interfered with his (Jobs’) agenda, said Cunningham Collective Founder and President Andy Cunningham. “The reality distortion field (a Star Trek phrase reportedly first used by Apple VP of software technology Bud Tribble, but delivered by Kate Winslet in the film) included all of us.”

Former product marketing manager for the Mac and director of marketing at Pixar Koalkin Barza recalled a humorous prank in which some of the staff wore a T-shirt that said “90 hours a week and loving it,” never realizing that the heavy work-load would become their reality.

Envisioning the future of women in technology, Hafner regretfully summarized that the 1980s were the heyday for women. The percentage of women graduating with technology degrees has dropped significantly in the intervening years. She pointed out that there is an increase in the number of colleges that are designing new curriculum to reverse the downward statistical spiral.