What it’s REALLY Like to Work For Apple

| Hidden Dimensions

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Another headline was "Paranoid management, disrespect, constant tension, and long hours."

Having some fun at Macworld

This can depend greatly on one's boss. But, in general, yes, there is constant tension and long hours. It's actually a lot like graduate school. There's an endless barrage of tough classes, exams, take-home exams, grueling thesis work, and late-night hours. And yes, an occasional asshole professor. This is par for the course when trying to achieve something worthwhile.

One final entry. "Middle management asserted itself after Steve Jobs died." A former VP complained about how the engineering team could no longer dictate terms. I submit: that may not always work. When engineering has final say, and parts can't be obtained in sufficient quantity, the product ships late or is always in short supply.

These days, in global economic warfare with Samsung, Apple has to be very careful about how it designs and then manufactures products by the tens of millions. Products must be brilliant, but be shippable in mass quantities in a global market. On time. Consider: the current Mac Pro may be suffering from that effect.

Many a VP, some who were my acquaintance or boss's boss, ran afoul of Apple's executive team because they thought they could throw their weight around. They always found out they couldn't the hard way. It was always sad to see.

What About Today?

I worked for Apple from mid-2000 to late 2005. To find out if much had changed, I spoke, off the record, with a friend who's still there. The answer is that things are pretty much the same — except that things are generally better thanks to Apple's success. Success breeds a certain confidence leading forward that the right things were done. However, there are still the customary Apple irritations, things that every employee puts up with. I won't (and can't) go into detail about that because I don't have permission.

Another colleague I worked with back then says that people she knows now in Apple are just a bit more relaxed. When we worked at Apple under Steve Jobs, there was a certain tension that percolated down through the ranks. It was good — it drove people to excellence, but it could wear one down. Today, I'm told that Tim Cook has created a slightly more relaxed atmosphere. But that doesn't mean there isn't the usual Apple pressure to work hard and tackle some very tough work.

Whining is not the answer. The people who were quoted in this article, I am sure, certainly had their reasons for posting a rant. Frustration. Burn out. Disrupted family life. Insufficient industry experience. A rare but particularly bad supervisor. But every company has those issues.

When you work for Apple you're following a personal dream. You're working with a team that can literally change the world. If you're able to sustain the work and lose some sleep, it's the thrill of a lifetime. However, few last for a very long period of time, and find that it's eventually wise to move on.

In the end, an article like the one I've referenced is just a cherry pick of complaints. It doesn't do proper service or put in perspetive what working for Apple is all about for the vast majority of employees, and it disrespects their hard-won contributions.

It was just one more of those cynical articles that, with blinders, that casts an angry eye towards Apple for the sake of a headline. I was sad to see it paint itself as a relevant vision of Apple.

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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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