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CEO Class Inspired by Apple Executive

A retired Apple executive who was project leader for the development of the iPhone had the attention of high school seniors Thursday morning, Aug. 30, at the Free Methodist Church in Hillsboro.

John Wright, a Hillsboro resident who retired in 2016 and with his wife, Kendra, is now renovating the historic Red Rooster Inn in Hillsboro, was guest speaker at a "meet the team" Montgomery CEO breakfast networking event.  CEO, "creating entrepreneurial opportunities," is an investor-funded opportunity for a group of high school seniors from throughout the county to learn business and communication skills.

Wright, a St. Joseph native who graduated from the University of Illinois, said he started as a software engineer, and arrived at Apple before the first iPhone was developed.

"It was really going to be a computer in your pocket," he said.

After other Apple executives turned down the opportunity to take on the project because of the daunting task of tailoring a computer operating system for a phone, Wright was willing to take on the project and given permission to use anyone from the company for his team.  Over an eight-month period, team members worked 14-hour days every day except Christmas.

"We pulled it off," Wright humbly understated.

CEO students took notes when he shared a list of what he learned throughout his career: get advice, seek mentors, cultivate a set of heroes, know when to get advice and when to ignore it, track productivity, strive to become an expert, and find people who are experts.

"If you don't understand something and you're in charge, you're going to run into problems," Wright said.

He encouraged CEO students to envision what they would like to accomplish without constraints, take time to plan and brainstorm, know the customer's perspective, be passionate, know what they're good at, and always look for the next thing.

Wright was introduced by CEO board member Merle Imler, after students heard from board members Rex Brown, Kurt Aumann, Phil Borgic, Misty Borrowman, Amy Patton, and chair Heather Hampton+Knodle, who echoed a line from Newsies, "Give me a big life in a small town."

CEO facilitator Dr. Ryan Follis asked each member of the new 2018-19 class to introduce himself and herself.

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