Joanna Hoffman is one of the original members of both the Apple Computer Macintosh team and the NeXT team. She is the person who “did the best job of standing up to Jobs”.


Childhood in Armenia

Meeting Parajanov and Yengibarov

Born to an Armenian mother and a Polish father, Joanna Karine Hoffman Nazarian has spent her childhood in Soviet Armenia with her mother’s family. The latter was an actress and like many Armenians at the time was not fond of the Soviet regime. From an early age Joanna was surrounded with people whose worldviews drastically differed from those forced by the government.

Joanna does not have anything nice to say about the Soviet regime: censorship which was everywhere in Armenia at that time, as she remembers, destroyed creativity and made it really hard for people to reach their aspirations.

“There was nothing at your service. Everything was impediment. Everything was set up that it would be hard to live, to accomplish anything, to get through anything”.

With her uncle making storyboards for Parajanov’s “The Color of Pomegranates”, Joanna knew the director from an early childhood and had a big respect for his artistry: she says Parajanov to be one of the people who influenced her throughout her childhood.

At the age of 8, the girl moved to her uncle who had just got a studio in a newly opened circus in Armenia (he was doing the posters for the circus) and she was honored to meet there Leonid Yengibarov.

“He was a clown with an incredible mimes that were so counterrepretion. They would bring you to tears”.

She also mentions that Yengibarov was a good friend of Parajanov and they were thinking about how they might explore their relationship.


At the age of 12, Joanna moved to Poland to live with her father later to reunite with her mother in USA, where the latter had just got married. The girl was really erudite: she liked languages, literature. Yet, still in her early childhood she had decided to become a physicist, later reconsidering her decision and changing her profession to one of an archeologist.

In 1977, at the age of 22, Joanna made an archaeological journey to Soviet Armenia, afterwards Russia. Having been an assistant for a well-known Urartian archaeology expert, she dived deeper into her country’s history. Having plans to go to Iran, where she was meant to do research in the part of the country where Urartian lands were centuries ago, Joanna was disappointed when her grandmother told her that going to that country was impossible as the Iranian Revolution had just started.

“I thought there have been demonstration in Iran for a long time. That doesn’t effect the archaeologists out in the boonies. And the next thing I know: the airport closed, the hostages were taken and I thought ‘My grandmother was right as usual.’ “

Working at Apple

Steve Jobs

After making another career change, Joanna ended up being the main marketing specialist in one of the most successful companies out there. Being the only member of the marketing team, Hoffman understood who Apple’s main target was: the academia and the international market. And she was right! With this knowledge they pushed the product forward and reached huge success.

Being one of the few people who could handle Steve Jobs at his worse, Joanna says that one of the best qualities of this man was judging others by their talent and skill and not by their gender or race. Both women and men were equal in his eyes. Jobs liked when people pushed their ideas forward, argued with him, he liked this type of stubbornness that comes a long way while working, especially in a project like this, where society wasn’t that much of familiar with where the industry was heading and what the potential benefits of mackintosh could be.

Kate Winslet and Michael Fassbender in the roles of Joanna Hoffman and Steve Jobs

The relationship between two is depicted in the movie “Steve Jobs,” where Joanna is portrayed by Kate Winslet and Jobs by Michael Fassbender. Kate has won a Golden Globe, BAFTA Award and got an Oscar nomination for this role. For the preparation of the role the actress had had long chats with Joanna and had learned about the relationship between her and Jobs to be able to portray her as accurate as possible.

“He was far more articulate and verbally more agile and more biting than the way he came out on the screen and in many ways far more humane”.

Joanna had this to say about the character of Jobs in the critically acclaimed movie but added that the director had depicted the working atmosphere and dynamic really well.

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