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With over 25 years of experience in the tech world, Ron Weissman has worked side by side with the legendary Steve Jobs, has taken companies such as Verity to new heights of profitability and invested in numerous others as a venture capitalist with Apax Partners.

Ron is also an angel investor at Band of Angels, one of the oldest angel groups in the country with 150+ members.

He currently sits on the boards of many tech companies, as well as on the Board of Directors of VC Taskforce.

Lifograph University Graduation Ceremony

Ron was the inaugural speaker at Lifograph University, an educational program that trains Lifographers, i.e. content curators at Lifograph.

Ron opened his speech by recognizing the graduating Lifographer cohort and the enormous scope of the project they are undertaking. He acknowledged the challenge they are faced with: filtering massive amounts of data in the noisy news environment of today’s internet age.

Then he shared his story about how he started working with Steve Jobs and what he learned during the process.

5 Lessons Learned from Working with Steve Jobs

Ron was an Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland and he also ran academic computing at Brown University before he was tapped by Steve Jobs to evangelize NeXT Computer around the world.

1. Hire Differently

As a highly successful college dropout, Steve was skeptical about brand name universities.

When interviewing candidates, he was more interested in what prospective hires had accomplished at their previous positions, rather than the number of acronyms behind their names or the pedigree of their college credentials.

To wit, this is why Steve recruited Prof. Ron Weissman from the ivory towers of academia even though his background was in history, not primarily entrenched in technology.

Ron told the story about how Steve hired former Flying Karamazov Brothers (FKB) juggler Randy Nelson who ended up becoming a world-class corporate trainer at Pixar.

Steve’s ability to spot and recruit talent from uncanny places was especially valuable for Apple as these ‘outsiders’ are the types of people who can bring a creative and fresh outlook to problems which might not be as adeptly addressed by those ‘within the Matrix’, so to speak.

2. Watch your team closely

The audience chuckled as Ron described how Steve was notorious for sneaking up on clueless employees at any given moment and asking them difficult questions about their current projects.

In a culture where “micromanaging” is somewhat denigrated, Ron believed that Steve’s ubiquitous presence around the Apple campus and his tendency to deeply engage and even challenge everyone he encountered fostered a heightened level of accountability.

This brand of ‘imposed conscientiousness’ probably led to above average performance across the board. Even though the engineers and artists at Apple dreaded having to defend their ideas under duress, it meant that they had to think through their work product just a bit more than they usually would.

Again, this probably resulted in the high quality products that the Apple brand is now synonymous with.

3. Focus, Focus, Focus

Ron passionately repeated these words while looking at each attendee in the eye. Amongst Steve Jobs’ myriad abilities, one of the main reasons why Apple was and still is outrageously successful was most likely Steve’s uncompromising commitment to simplicity and esthetics in the design values around all Apple’s products.

Steve Jobs' single-minded, focused approach, meant a very disciplined pursuit of “less is more” and saying “no” to a whole lot of opportunities.

The ability to select a specific target market and to build niche, dominant products, ultimately proved to be Apple’s ticket to MVC (Most Valuable Company) glory.

4. Wipe the slate clean and start over

When something wasn't working at Apple, Steve was a big proponent of rebuilding an existing product from the ground up.

This flexibility and willingness to quickly accept defeat and move ahead with a completely clean slate set the stage for Apple’s agility and was the reason it thrived in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Previously renowned household-brand companies such as DEC, which were too slow to restructure their original product roadmaps and quickly abandon sinking ships, did not survive the rise of the microcomputer.

5. Don't just build good products, build GREAT products

For Jobs, it wasn't enough to just be better than the competition. His focus was on building products that were orders of magnitude more competitive.

This is the approach which led to Apple’s revolutionary smartphone and tablet which have literally transformed computing and the transition from the desktop into the pocket.

Steve Jobs' single-minded, focused approach, meant a very disciplined pursuit of “less is more” and saying “no” to a whole lot of opportunities.

The Lifograph University graduating cohort and their guests left inspired to think independently and achieve more by focusing on less, just like Steve Jobs did.

Adapted from an original blog written by Eli Angote, graduating Lifographer and founder of  TheBestNotary.net.

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