Steve Jobs was legendary for being a very difficult person to work with.
He was demanding, exacting, and at times irrational. It was part of his charm, we suppose, because most people who worked for him were loyal and loved him.
There are, of course, exceptions. Erin Caton, who worked on MobileMe, is one of those exceptions, it seems.
At Medium, she wrote a post warning startup CEOs to avoid being like Steve Jobs, who she thinks was “a bit of a dick.”
When she first started at Apple, he cut her in line to buy some sushi at Apple’s cafeteria. That was strike one.
Strike two came when he shredded her and the rest of the MobileMe team for an epically crappy product launch.
MobileMe was a web-based email service that cost $100 a year. It was a dud. It didn’t work, emails were lost.
Jobs’ reaction to MobileMe is legendary thanks to Adam Lashinsky’s reporting. Jobs gathered the MobileMe team in Apple’s auditorium, and according to Lashinsky, said, “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation … You should hate each other for having let each other down.”
He then replaced the leader of MobileMe on the spot. The clear implication: Do your job, do it well, or you will be fired.
The story has become of those defining Jobs stories that shows he’s a no-nonsense leader who demanded results.
Caton has a different take on the events.
She writes, “It was his fault that the MobileMe launch went so poorly, not ours.”
She says, “we had been telling our bosses that we did not feel confident about our launch date for a long time. We gave any number of suggestions of what we could do to launch that wouldn’t be such a giant production, but would totally have worked. Somewhere up the chain of command, it was decided it was not the Apple-way to launch something without a million fireworks.”
The launch was a failure. The team stayed up all night fixing the bugs. Then when they were done, they marched into the auditorium where Jobs chewed them out.
“He stood in front of us and yelled at us, told us that we should be mad at each other, said we could have done a staggered launch and complained that we didn’t even try to do all the things that we (those on the ground floor of production that actually make the f***king products of the world) had been begging to do,” she says. “It was the world’s best de-motivational speech.”
Because he didn’t listen to the MobileMe team who warned of doom, she says it was all his fault.
The morale of the story, from her perspective: “The best thing you can do for your product is to have your staff tell you the truth, and listen to it.”