Turning good ideas into great iPhones

Neil Glover profile

Photo courtesy of Neil Glover

Chances are high that you’re reading this on an iPhone — or at least that you have one in your back pocket. The iPhone is all in a day’s work for Neil Glover, senior engineering program manager on the iPhone System Hardware team at Apple Inc.

“What is the first thing someone touches in the morning? For hundreds of millions of people, that’s an iPhone. So, it is pretty crazy and pretty rewarding to work on something like that,” said Glover, B.S. electrical and computer engineering ’12, M.S. ’15.

At Apple, Glover’s job is to help coordinate the iPhone hardware design and engineering process from top to bottom and start to finish. No two days are alike; one day he could be managing factory builds, the next delivering weekly updates to the senior executive team, and the next managing the allocation of development hardware and systems across the company.

“What I am focused on, and which teams I am working most closely with, is highly variable and usually depends on which phase of the project we are in and where the problems or areas of focus are at that time,” he said.

Glover has been assembling machines since he was a kid. “I was building computers constantly so that I could play the latest games,” he said of his childhood. “It definitely kept me interested in cutting-edge hardware, because that was what was required to keep up.”

While he was already pursuing hands-on engineering in his free time, Glover was less focused on his classwork.

“I did not apply myself in high school as much as I could have, I guess is a polite way to say it,” Glover laughed. “I was interested in a lot of things. Doing every assignment wasn’t one of them.”

But Glover knew that by studying engineering, he could keep building things and enjoy a rewarding career. So, after applying himself academically at Lane Community College for a few years, “the logical next step was Oregon State,” Glover said.

The strength of the mechanical and electrical and computer engineering programs at the College of Engineering, plus the history of key advancements originating with its faculty and alumni, sealed the deal.

Early on at Oregon State, Glover found himself enjoying the applied focus of classes taught by
Roger Traylor, M.S. electrical engineering ’91, who had returned to teaching after a career in

“It was really inspiring to see someone who wasn’t a career academic, who, when he says, ‘You really want to know this stuff,’ you can really believe it because he was out there in the world building cool stuff,” Glover said.

Glover also found his way into Patrick Chiang’s research group, where he stayed on to complete graduate studies after earning his bachelor’s degree. (Chiang is now at Fudan University in Shanghai.)

For part of his research in Chiang’s lab, Glover worked on a wearable health and activity monitor that incorporated a small flexible printed circuit board with ECG electrodes and amplifiers. The device could be hooked up to a Bluetooth Low Energy system-on-a-chip and connected to an iOS app to display heart rate data in real time on an iPad. Years later, when he was a candidate for a job at Apple, Glover wore this apparatus to his in-person interview and impressed the interview panel with his experience in flexible circuit design.

“I really have to thank Patrick for that part,” he said.

Glover began to recognize his skills as a coordinator —someone who could be a conduit for communication on a large team and who could help fellow lab members turn big ideas into reality.

“What I learned early on is that I was never the smartest person in the room. But I had an ability to help people do their best work,” he said.

Those experiences relate to his current role on the iPhone team, where he’s constantly linking people with solutions, all in service of building a top-of-the-line smartphone.

“A lot of what I do today is help people communicate their challenges to an executive audience in a way that gets them the help they need,” he said. “The overarching theme is bringing a ton of smart and driven people from diverse backgrounds and expertise together to collaborate effectively and turn their good ideas into great products.”

May 7, 2024