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2007 Engineer of the Year Finalist Michael Dhuey's Hardware Knowledge Helps Breathe Life Into iPod, TelePresence

October 16, 2007 | Chris Payatagool

Veteran electrical engineer shows willingness to handle myriad tasks

When Cisco Systems, Inc. launched a search for the ideal engineering team for its TelePresence project three years ago, the company's managers looked for sink-or-swim types of engineers.

"No one had ever done anything like TelePresence before," says Phil Graham, senior director of engineering for Cisco, referring to the company's unique video teleconferencing system. "So, we were looking for people who'd been continually thrown into new areas and had always been successful at executing."

Enter Michael Dhuey. Dhuey, a 25-year Apple Computer veteran and co-developer of the monumentally popular iPod, helped breathe life into TelePresence. At Cisco, he contributed expertise in camera technology, displays, power supplies, backplanes and even in visual effects, at times working with famed Steven Spielberg cohort Janusz Kaminski to create the proper lighting effects for TelePresence.

"He doesn't show fear of technology," says Graham. "When he doesn't know a topic, he just gets in and learns."

Indeed, Dhuey's ability to learn has put him among the finalists in the Design News Engineer of the Year balloting for two consecutive years. And he's been placed in that rarefied realm of the engineering world for good reason: The easygoing hardware engineer has helped Apple and Cisco move beyond the realm of product engineering and into the creation of whole new product experiences. Like the iPod, which was about creating a music experience that fits inside a shirt pocket, TelePresence was designed to immerse the user in a virtual world.

Dhuey's success in those areas shouldn't be surprising, however, given his background. He began programming at age 14 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and by 16 was working as a programmer at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance. He was awarded his Bachelor of Science in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before joining Apple in 1980 and has earned 13 patents during his career.

The iPod, however, was Dhuey's big splash. He joined the iPod project (then called the P68) at such an early, secretive stage that Apple wouldn't even tell him what the product was. When he finally learned the nature of it, he still wasn't allowed to tell his family.

[via Design News]

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