Working at NeXT was the most exciting software engineering job I ever accepted.
NeXT was like graduate school, bringing together a high concentration of some of the brightest and most innovative technical minds. Many people had computer science (or other) research backgrounds. One thing that was unusual is that all the technical people there understood all aspects of the machine. Software people could talk about ASICs and CPU instructions, and the hardware people understood the software stack. Every aspect of what it takes to make a computer work was represented in one building: analog hardware, chip design, motherboard design, compiler design (Objective-C), loader, operating system, windowing system, application layer, and applications. Where other companies had engineering teams, NeXT would have a single individual. Many people had been managers or technical leads elsewhere and came to NeXT to be an individual contributor to help create the most innovative computer ever invented (enter reality distortion field).
Things were simple back then, it isn’t now.