Steve Jobs stands up for gay rights at NeXT

Mon, Oct 10, 2011

Featured, News

So many Steve Jobs stories it’s literally impossible to keep up with the stream. This one, however, deserves special mention.

Ronald Hayden details his first experience with Steve Jobs when he was hired on as a manager at NeXT. The following is excerpted from Hayden’s public Google+ profile.

“When I was a child, I had few heroes. I didn’t follow sports. As an amateur magician, Robert-Houdin was a sort of model for me, and as someone who grew up on science fiction, Robert Heinlein was a sort of father to me.

But only one person in “the real world” held a fascination for me, and that was Steve Jobs.

It was impossible to imagine that early in my career I would end up working for Steve, at NeXT. That would be a ridiculous dream. Yet it happened.

At what seems now a ridiculously young age, I managed to score a job as a manager at NeXT, Steve’s “failed” company after Apple. I was dumb enough to join after they’d dropped the hardware and most people assumed they were out of business. I was coming from a hugely successful company — Oracle — to a failed venture by that has-been, Jobs. All I knew was that they were doing incredible technology and I wanted to be a part of it.

On my first day, Steve called me. Clearly he wanted to connect with a new manager at the company, and set his stamp. But what sticks with me most is what happened next…I discovered that through a comedy of errors while I was quite sure that NeXT provided domestic partners insurance coverage (at a time when that was quite rare), they only provided such coverage to straight couples, not to gays. Not because of ideology — they had started the program with coverage for same-sex couples — but because their insurance company scared them out of it with doom-saying projections of how their costs would quintuple or some such nonsense. As someone absolutely dependent on the insurance coverage (we were oh-so-close to bankruptcy back then), I realized I had to immediately quit.

After only days of a new life, leave the company and the CEO that represented my dream career. I informed HR that I would need to return to Oracle.

“Hold on,” the head of HR said, “Let me see what I can do.”

He worked with Steve, and they contacted the insurance company. After a couple of bizarre weeks where I attended meetings all day filled with amazing people and amazing technology, knowing that at any minute I would have to leave, HR informed me that they’d talked the insurance company into providing special coverage. Just for me. It was that important to NeXT and to Steve that they keep a nobody first-line manager they had just hired.

A couple of months later they turned that into coverage for all gay employees at NeXT.

I sent email to Steve, thanking him for this strike for human rights.

He responded, “Keep those suggestions coming!”

As if I had come up with a way to save money on paper cups.

And that was the beginning of almost 20 years of working for Steve.

I’m not an emotional person. I don’t cry. But now I’m crying.

Thank you, Steve.”


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