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March 05, 2020

A long, ‘wild ride’ at Apple

Lisanne “Lissy” Abraham ’74 looks back at an unexpected career in Silicon Valley
by Allyson Irish

Say the word “apple” and you’d probably have just as many people think of the company as the fruit. The ubiquity of this tech behemoth—founded in 1976 by the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak)—transcends generations and geography. Apple, Inc. has a storied history and Lisanne “Lissy” Abraham ’74 has been there to experience much of it.

Currently working in Apple’s internal communications division, Abraham is set to retire this spring after 32 years. Having started at the company just a few years after Apple’s iconic “1984” commercial wowed the world, Abraham says her career with Apple has been “a wild ride.”

Lisanne “Lissy” Abraham ’74

“It’s been fascinating to see the evolution of technology and the evolution of publishing technology.”

Abraham works at the corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. in the uber-cool main building known as “The Ring.” Completed after Jobs’ death in 2011, the building is an homage to Jobs’ particular sensibilities, with every detail approved by the visionary leader.

“It’s wonderful. I love it,” Abraham says of the Apple campus. “This was really Steve’s last big project. One of his goals was to make it park-like so inside the Ring there are all these walking paths.”

The Ring: Apple's corporate headquarters in Cupertino, CA

You can know how something works, but you have to be able to explain how it works to somebody else. And you can’t tell them everything at once.

Lissy Abraham ’74

Abraham came to Apple through what some might consider a side door. Not trained in either computer science or technology, she had previously worked as a magazine writer and editor when, in 1983, she had the chance to work on a new publication called Classroom Computer Learning. “The idea,” she says, “was teaching teachers how to use tech in the classroom.”

Soon after the magazine was launched, a mutual friend connected Abraham with an editor in Apple’s publishing department. The rest, as they say, is history.

Abraham has worked as a writer, editor, project manager, and senior instructional designer. One of her favorite projects was working on the “Tips” application for the iPhone, a project that required Abraham to consider the variety of users and break down the many iPhone functions into easy-to-follow steps.

“Our audience is really everybody, so we try to cover a huge range of experience,” Abraham says. “Most of the time the people who are searching for an answer are naïve users. Or maybe they are a switcher from Windows. You can know how something works, but you have to be able to explain how it works to somebody else. And you can’t tell them everything at once.”

Perhaps as a result of her Abbot and Andover education, Abraham has always felt comfortable in the high-pressure tech environment, which many say lacks diversity and work-life balance. While Abraham acknowledges that tech has a lot to improve upon, she says her career at Apple has been positive. “I never felt that I was being ignored or ridiculed or passed over because I was female at Apple.”

After more than three decades at one of the world’s largest and most successful companies, Abraham is excited for the next chapter of her life. She is looking forward to spending time with family in Miami, traveling, playing music, and doing more volunteer work as a court-appointed advocate.

“I feel like I have been extremely lucky and I’ve been really happy at Apple,” Abraham says. “I’ve had a bunch of different gigs there and I never got bored!”

Categories: Alumni, Magazine

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