What it’s REALLY Like to Work For Apple

| Hidden Dimensions

Working for Apple is the experience of a lifetime. Most everyone who has had that privilege looks back with affection on the experience — if one ignores the reason for leaving. But a recent article, without having interviewed any former Apple employees, looks only at the downsides from a few whiners. It was a one sided, deceptive picture.


The article I want to critique is: "Apple Employees Confess All The Worst Things About Working At Apple.". The methodology was as follows: "We sifted our archives, Quora, and Glassdoor to put together this compilation of quotes from former employees about the worst aspects of life inside the Cupertino, Calif., empire."

And then, despite the clickbait headline, the author suggests we may want to take those observations with a grain of salt. Just so he can get off the hook if need be.

Here's how it really goes.

Apple is a Hard Company to Work For

Working for Apple involves a lot of hard work. Sixty hour weeks are typical, and that's perhaps on the low side. That's because there are difficult challenges in Apple's markets, and things that are worth doing are hard to do. This places a mental and physical burden on people.

It's simply not wise to confuse the euphoria of working for a company one admires with the idea that the work will be constant fun, parties, and special privileges. In fact, the reason Apple is so successful is because the senior management knows that highly talented people, accustomed to hard work, self-motivated and ready to accept deferred gratification can contribute a lot to Apple's success.

And then there are the whiners.

In the spectrum of the population, there are always going to be whiners, people with a distorted notion of what it means to work hard in a team for a common goal and still put up with the irritations characteristic of that company.

The very first subheading in the Business Insider article relates to that. "Apple's secrecy is sometimes so strict it disrupts your family life." The discussion makes me think of my own Air Force career. How sympathetic would people be if a young Air Force Lieutenant whined that it was just too troublesome to lock up his classified documents each night and keep national security secrets from his own wife.

One of the great things about working on the federal sales team at Apple was that most of us were ex-military. I don't think there were any of us who disregarded the importance of keeping Apple's secrets, even if it meant some personal sacrifice. While I was doing that, my wife was away a lot, working on the Nathan B. Palmer, a U.S. Antarctic Program icebreaker in Antarctic waters. We survived.

Next, "Everything, and I mean everything, is decided by the marketing team at Apple." Of course it is! Can you imagine how Apple would utterly fail if every V.P. and Director got the idea that they could speak for Apple?

Very, very early in my job at Apple, I almost got fired myself for mentioning, on a list server, (before it shipped) that Mac OS X would have the terminal app. (It was up for debate back in 2000.) I had to quickly apologize to Phil Schiller and my boss had to go to bat for me. It's the province of the each product manager to decide what gets announced both before and after his/her product ships. It's a lesson I never forgot.

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Thank you for posting this.  I am reminded of young engineers at my company, who are whining about how stupid upper management is, or how they have to work long hours to get a project done.  This is what it means to be a professional and not an hourly employee.  There is hard work, and there are people who thrive on it, and others who can’t stand it, and are unhappy and leave.  The people who are left are self selecting for that environment.  As long as there are rewards for the hard work, the company with thrive and survive.  Slavedriving and stupid management practices will cause problems in the long run, and so a balance is necessary.

I’m reminded of the HBO show “Veep”.  It shows, somewhat accurately I’m told, of the day to day grind of high level politicians and their aids.  It is not work for everyone, and only a select few can handle the pressure.  Apple, I’m sure, is the same.



Fortune doesn’t even have Apple in the Top 100 “Best companies to work for”
list.  #1?  Rhymes with Moogle.  So you see it’s not whining after all, now stop whining.

John Dingler, artist

Hello John,
Although there’s nothing especially revealing in what you write, it entertained me by referencing your personal experiences, by its critique of an article that seems to disparage Apple, as well as by its combative attitude toward the cherry picking author in the click bait article that sows dissent as if it were underwritten by Samsung’s lying scumbag PR dept.


John:  One word - Amen!

Cuda: A few more words - I’m guessing you’d be happy to make a living out of trying to sell sugar water to billions of people - as I’m sure working for Pepsi is fun.  Or - wait for it - be equally happy (under cover of providing “free” services to billions of people) surreptitiously mining their data, compiling it into highly detailed dossiers in massive server banks (probably in dark rooms!), and projecting your false moral outrage at the National Security Admin for compiling personal data into probably less-detailed dossiers.



Insightful comments, rooted in real-world professional code of conduct. Your analogy with the Air Force lieutenant is brilliant and spot on.

Extending that analogy, I doubt that few would sympathise with those with privileged access in any industry or profession, whether engineers and designers in the auto industry, scientists in the competitive pharmaceutical industry, or lawyers and doctors charged with client/patient privilege and confidentiality, who either complained of, or violated, such confidential access.

Rather, it seems to be an aberration associated with the tech industry alone (and by extension information technologies more broadly) that we seem to feel either ambivalence about secrecy (not talking about what is done with our personal data - that’s a separate discussion) or a sense that we are entitled to know what is being done with product and service development.

My personal view is that this is due, in no small measure, to our tendency to conflate both issues around how this tech affects both our work and personal lives, particularly if major changes or security compromises might be involved, and new product and service development writ large. Because these new products and services might affect us adversely, we feel entitled to have advance knowledge and even, in some instances, weigh in on their development. Enterprise has enjoyed this relationship to some extent with the tech world, notably MS and their OEMs. Thus, there are those who will sympathise with an employee who feels imposed upon to maintain confidentiality, or who, in a gesture of unilateral defiance, releases these secrets into the wild.

Because our personal and professional lives can be adversely affected by technology, I sense that this is one field where a more nuanced equilibrium between confidentiality and transparency is yet to be reached.


John, I was there right around the same time period (fall 2000 through spring 2005).  I can totally agree with the long hours, but I’m surprised there were no comments in this article about how difficult it is to move within the company, either vertically or, more important for me when I was there, horizontally.  I had a horrible relationship with my manager by the end.  I often said that he couldn’t manage his way out of a paper bag.  I wanted out.  But to move to another group, you have to get a recommendation/permission from your current manager, which he refused to give me.  So I was stuck.  So I left.

I loved my time at Apple and I daydream about working there again all the time, but too many layers of poor management sours the dream.

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