Former Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs is known for instilling Apple’s ridiculously high standards when it comes to product design and development.
A large part of meeting those standards involved motivating employees to work hard and be prepared at all times — values that Jobs took very seriously, according to a former employee.
David Black worked at Apple for nearly 12 years in the early 2000s before he left to work on his own startup.
During his time at Apple, Black took on a few different roles that included working as a senior consulting engineer in Java and WebOptics, a solution architect for the company’s Strategic Education Solutions department in China, and managing Apple’s Asia Education Marketing vertical out of Beijing.
He now works at design tech consulting firm DB3 Innovation.
Black said he didn’t interact with Jobs too much, but was around him enough to see how his presence influenced employees.
For example, when Jobs would sit down outside on the patio at lunch, Black said employees would finish their lunches with 15-20 minutes of Jobs entering the area.
“No one would fill the seats near him,” Black said to Business Insider. “Just because you wanted to be ready for that moment.”
One of the first things they teach you at Apple is to be prepared to answer the question, “What are you working on?”
Black shared a few stories that he had heard from other employees and the HR department while at Apple.
Black said he heard about a sales representative that had hopped in the elevator with Jobs on his way out of the office. Jobs had asked him what he was working on that day, and the sales representative answered that he had been selling software all day.
“It was just that little moment of being challenged,” Black said.
In a separate instance, Jobs asked an intern what he had been working on while in the elevator. He mentioned that he was doing QA (quality assurance) for a product. Jobs then asked him, “Why are you going down? You should be going back up to work.”
“The kid completely went pale-faced,” Black said. “And Steve said ‘Hey, just kidding.'”
“It’s one of those things where he just does that to see how people respond,” Black said. “It’s a little bit of a power thing I think.”
The HR team at Apple told Black a story about an intern that ended up in the elevator with Jobs. When he asked her what she was working on, he also asked to see the project right then and there.
“That’s why you just don’t want to be within private space next to Steve,” he said. “Then you have to perform on the spot.”