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Rita S. Lane

Vice President of Operations for iPad/Mac Desktop/Mac Accessories, Apple Inc.
MSEE '91

For her leadership in technology operations and her ongoing support for underrepresented groups in the field of engineering

As one of two sisters with two older brothers, Rita Lane credits her father with being a strong influence in her career decisions, which led her to places women didn't commonly go — including engineering.

Her father, who was in civil engineering in the U.S. Air Force, spurred Lane's enthusiasm for both the military and numbers. "I remember playing long division games with him and my brothers," she says.

The Air Force beckoned, especially since its academy had just opened enrollment to women. After graduating with her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, she spent five years in the Air Force in various leadership positions before obtaining her master's in engineering from Purdue, where she attended on a NSF graduate fellowship.

After graduating, she hired on with IBM in an entry level engineering position and began working in the high-tech industry. Since then, she has held senior level positions at IBM and Motorola. Today, she is Vice President of Operations for iPad/Mac Desktop/Mac Accessories with Apple Inc.

She credits Purdue with making her strive harder for answers. "Undergraduate education teaches a lot of rote memorization," she says. "But I started to realize that history is written by the people who win, and these 'facts' are not necessarily the complete data. Purdue taught me to think and to question. That's fundamental. Purdue professors don't just want you to learn it, they want you to prove it."

In addition to her outstanding career success, Lane dedicates time to support underrepresented groups within the industry, particularly gay and lesbian professionals, women, ethnic minorities, and veterans.

Lane, whose mother is Japanese, has encountered stereotypes and prejudice. But she never really thought of herself as a "minority." "I just thought of myself as Rita," she says. "I was half Asian, a woman, and in the military, but I never thought about that. My father had always told me I could be or do anything I wanted." But after a while, Lane realized that often, minorities — particularly women — were naturally quieter, which could unfairly hurt their opportunities. "You can get some incredible ideas from the quietest person in the room."

So, when asked, Lane was delighted to be able to serve on the Purdue electrical and computer engineering advisory board. "I've talked on campus, met with students, and met with the Women in Engineering organization. We have hired some incredible interns and full time employees to work at Apple.

"I realized that out of all my supplier meetings in the past five years, I had met with only one technical woman senior executive in the supplier's company. After 30 years of working in technology, that's shocking. If I can possibly be a role model and encourage more women and minorities to be in the engineering field, I would like to try. "

Career Highlights

2008-present Vice President of Operations: iPad/Mac Desktop/Mac Accessories, Apple Inc.
2006–2008 Senior Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain, Motorola
1991–2006 Vice President, X Series and Storage, Integrated Supply Chain, IBM
1984–1989 Captain, U.S. Air Force
2004 MBA, University of California, Berkeley
1991 MSEE, Purdue University
1984 BSEE, U.S. Air Force Academy