Apple is probably the best company in the world at consistently releasing major updates that work well and are adopted by the majority of its customers.
Developers get updated on the latest versions of iOS and Mac in June, every single year. Whenever a new iPhone comes out, consumers get a new version of iOS that both takes advantage of the new hardware as well as brings new features to older models.
To regularly bring massive new updates to devices with different levels of performance without ruining millions of people’s experience with subpar performance, Apple can’t just be good at coming up with new features and apps — it has to chip away at all the little quirks and bugs that show up in new software.
Kim Vorrath, Apple’s vice president of “program management” for iOS and Mac, is the person in charge of making sure that the company’s various engineering teams are always whittling away at known issues, as well as keeping track of what new features make it in to updates.
Her attendance at regular “Bug Review Board” meetings keeps Apple employees mindful of whether their ideas can be implemented on time and polished enough to meet customer expectations, according to a profile in The Information by Jessica Lessin.
But beyond that, Vorrath also seems to be maintaining the intense expectation of quality work from employees that the company was famous for under Steve Jobs. Lessin’s sources recall a particularly explosive time preceding the release of the first iPhone in 2007:
Ms. Vorrath, who has worked on all seven iOS releases, generally operates by asking lots of questions of engineers, sticking to the facts and getting them to explain in plain English why a particular feature should be included in the operating system. She’s easy to get along with, say former colleagues, who recall playfully mocking her 1990s feathered hairstyle and late 1980s fashion sense. But she isn’t known for chitchat and has been known to “blow up” on occasion when people miss deadlines or make excuses, colleagues say.
During a tense time before the first release of iOS software in 2007, Ms. Vorrath grew irate when a colleague was heading home early before another marathon weekend meeting. She slammed her office door so hard that the door knob broke, and she locked herself in. Mr. Forstall grabbed a baseball bat to try to break her out, people who worked at Apple at the time recall. Mr. Forstall didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Vorrath has been at Apple since 1987, when she started as a technical support intern. She moved up the Mac team until she was in charge of maintaining Mac OS as the company transitioned to Mac OS X. She then went on to become chief of staff for Scott Forstall, the software exec forced out of the company in 2012.
After a brief leave after Forstall’s departure, Lessin’s sources claim that she has been working with Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi as the company reorganizes engineering teams by combining those that do the same things.