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An Interview with Freddie Geier on Steve Jobs and the Digital Future

At this year’s SAP Business Transformation Summit, Freddie Geier, former general manager at Apple for the central European region, talked about what is was like to work with a visionary leader like Steve Jobs. I caught up with him after the event to find out what he’s up to now.

This interview originally appeared on on October 25, 2012.

Freddie Geier wore many hats during his time at Apple, culminating in a two-year stint as the general manager of the central European region. In that time Geier saw the introduction of the iPod and iPhone onto the market, two devices that forever changed consumer standards for intuitive, user-friendly technology. He was also a member of Steve Jobs’ inner circle, a group of about 100 employees with whom Jobs would have wanted to establish a new company.

At this year’s SAP Business Transformation Summit in Budapest, hosted by SAP Business Transformation Services, Geier told attendees what it was like to work with Steve Jobs. From seeing him crawl below a conference table to sort out a faulty cable connection, to hearing Jobs curse the poor design of a rental car, Geier saw many sides of the visionary leader. And he took away some important lessons.

But where is Freddie Geier now? I found out.

For more information on SAP Business Transformation Services, see my blog “The Dos and Don’ts of Business Transformation”, or click here.

When and in what capacity did you work for Apple?

My first journey at Apple began in Cupertino. As Senior Director at Apple’s Application Division I progressed through different management roles between 2000 and 2003. In 2005, I was called back to manage the Sales and Marketing organization for Central Europe in Munich.

What was it like to work for the company during the era of the iPod and iPhone?

I was experiencing a game-changing time indeed. When I moved to the Silicon Valley in 2000, I had a notion of simplicity being key in software development. At Apple, we worked on simplicity that was beautiful enough to set the standard for generations to come. Moreover, Apple did not only enter into two new markets, the iPod also marked the shift from introducing a product to introducing an ecosystem. The success story of this era started with hard work though. Closing the circle from hardware and software by integrating content was ahead of its time. When the iPod was launched in 2001, it was far from being well received by the press and analysts. The claim “1000 songs in your pocket” hit a music business that was facing the boom of piracy.

What lessons did you learn while working there? Are there any “secrets to success” that you have taken with you?

There are three lessons that I still regard as essential. It is all about acute detailing, continuity, and blueprinting the emotional experience for the user. Apple fosters a neat understanding of continuity in terms of taking modular products to the next level and thus enriching the overall system. Maybe most importantly, all work was driven by the question of what touches people when using technology. Beauty at Apple was understood as naturally comprising form and function.

What was it like to work with Steve Jobs? What don’t people know about him?

He was a perfectionist through and through, so working with him was very demanding, sometimes exhausting. Yet, one could always see the benefit of this when looking at the product. Steve pushed the people he worked with to extraordinary achievements they had not thought possible. What most people know is that he had an unparalleled understanding of how people interact with technology. What few people know is that he would crawl under the board room’s table when the system for a presentation wouldn’t work. I also recall him being a fan of the HBO series The Sopranos and not to forget: He really liked German cars.

Where are you working now?

I’m Acting Partner at adventures, a Hamburg based boutique R&D company for pioneer software applications. adventures supports visionary concepts and companies in building bridges to the digital future. We work on turning finely spun scenarios into everyday technologies and reliable commercial set ups. This ranges from developing an idea to technological prototypes and case studies.

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