“Where there’s a will, there’s a way” is an old English proverb. It could also be the motto of engineers everywhere. Working under this assumption, engineers push the limits of what is considered possible every day. Consider Apple, for example, especially under the reign of Steve Jobs, a known perfectionist with an obsession for detail.
Ken Rosen, a former Apple and NeXT employee, had a story to tell Business Insider about working with Jobs that stands as a great example of the engineer’s will to get things done. Rosen, working at NeXT at the time, had taken on the task of working with Jobs on the keynote presentation for a new product. Jobs told Rosen that he wanted five specific things in the keynote.
“I no longer remember what, but I just remember there were five things he wanted to show in the demo,” Rosen said. “And we worked for a couple of days, and at the end of those days we realized we could do all but one.”
But that wasn’t good enough for Steve Jobs. After Rosen reluctantly informed him that the fifth item could not be accomplished, Rosen said “He put his hand on my shoulder in this very fatherly to the point of patronizing way, and he said, ‘We need to do that one, too,” and just walked away.”
This incident turned out to be one of the most valuable management lessons of Rosen’s career. Annoyed at first by Jobs’ reaction, he and his team continued working on the problem anyway.
“The bottom line is we figured out how to do it,” Rosen said. “And for Steve, it was just another day at the office… But I think there was something to that even for me. [The idea] that you can do something you don’t think you can do, but you’ve got to find a way, is a useful way to look at challenges.”