Entrepreneurs

Apple's first employee shares lessons he learned from working with Steve Jobs

Bill Fernandez, Apple's first employee, knew Steve Jobs (right) and Steve Wozniak (left) since childhood.
Tony Avelar | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Bill Fernandez, Apple's first employee, knew Steve Jobs (right) and Steve Wozniak (left) since childhood.

Bill Fernandez and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs became friends in seventh grade.

"Neither of us wanted to play the social games that you needed to play to be accepted into any of the numerous cliques," Fernandez tells Y Combinator in a series of interviews with early employees at tech companies. "So we eventually gravitated towards each other and started hanging out."

About 10 years later, 22-year-old Fernandez joined Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Mike Markkula at Apple as the company's first employee.

"Technically my title was Electronic Technician," Fernandez tells Y Combinator. "What that really meant was that I was a very intelligent and capable jack of all trades and gofer. ... Pretty much any kind of technical or gofer related thing you know, was my job."

Fernandez, who is currently working on his own start-up, Omnibotics, says working with Jobs during Apple's infancy taught him a few key lessons about making it in the entrepreneurial world.

Primarily, "to succeed early on you have to be a self-starter. You have to be self-empowered," Apple's first employee says. "You have to have a sense that, 'I can do whatever needs to be done even if it's never been done before.'"

Secondly, you have to be versatile and willing to grind, Fernandez says: "You've got to hustle and you've got to be everywhere and do everything. There are a million jobs to be done and when you're one guy, you have to do all million."

Fernandez notes, "Jobs as a founder had a lot of drive. He also had a lot of hustle. He was moving all the time. It takes that [drive and hustle]."

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