If you want to work in tech, you want the words “Apple Inc.” somewhere on your resume. That experience is widely regarded as a key that can unlock virtually any other type of employment opportunity.
But what is it really like to work at the most innovative tech company on the planet? Most people treasure their time there. As an Apple employee, you’re working on the most sought-after gadgets on the planet, alongside Silicon Valley’s brightest minds.
You’re doing something the entire rest of the world is jealous of.
But not every company is perfect, and Apple is no exception. Turns out there are some downsides to working at Apple.
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, California, empire. Take them with a pinch of salt — these are, after all, the low points of life at the top.
Apple’s secrecy is sometimes so strict it disrupts your family life.
Robert Bowdidge told Quora:
“I couldn’t tell my wife anything; she knew I was working in a different building across the street and pulling very late nights, but she didn’t know what I was doing. When I had to travel to Manchester UK to work with more of the Transitive folks, she asked to come along. I had to say ‘no way’ – she worked for IBM at the time, and I knew that the project lead would freak at the thought of our chip vendor learning about the move.”
Your spouse will be told “to forget everything.”
Kim Scheinberg tells this story about her husband, Apple employee JK, who invented an Intel version of Mac OSX that ran on PCs. Bertrand Serlet, the svp of software engineering, liked the project:
“Bertrand sits JK down and has a talk with him about how no one can know about this. No one. Suddenly, the home office has to be reconfigured to meet Apple security standards.”
“JK points out to Bertrand that I know about the project. In fact, not only do I know about it, I am the person who named it.”
“Bertrand tells JK that I am to forget everything I know, and he will not be allowed to speak to me about it again until it is publicly announced.”
“I guess he had some kind of ‘Total Recall’ memory wipe in mind.”
Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller
“Everything, and I mean everything, is decided by the marketing team at Apple.”
This anonymous staffer says:
“Internally, the culture is of extreme secrecy, even more extreme politics and marketing driven decision making. Everything, and I mean everything, is decided by the marketing team at Apple, and 2 reviewers in east coast newspapers. I was shocked and flabbergasted at the role these reviewers had at Apple. As an engineer, I was told to tend to feature requests that were made by Mossberg and party. Scary, and makes me want to sell all my apple stock.”
“I could literally go an entire day without talking to anyone else.”
Not everyone gets to work on the Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino, as former intern Owen Yamuachi discovered:
“My team was located in a distant building on Vallco Parkway, a couple of miles away from the main campus at Infinite Loop. This meant that I was physically separate from most of the other interns, and also there was no cafe in that building. The building itself was also not very pleasant — it consisted mainly of dark, narrow hallways with absurdly high ceilings for some reason, and private offices for everyone. Having my own (needlessly huge) office meant that I could literally go an entire day without talking to anyone else. This has upsides (I had the longest periods of intense concentration I’ve ever had in my life) and downsides (it got quite lonely).”
“Paranoid management, disrespect, constant tension, and long hours.”
This anonymous former employee appears to have hated their time at Apple:
“It entirely depends on the group that you’re in. Generally speaking it is a pressure cooker and all communication is one directional (guess which way that is).”
“Paranoid management, disrespect, constant tension, and long hours sum up most of the real culture in operations … Most of the people in SDM (supply demand management) see it as something they need to suck up for a few painful years after b-school so they can move on to a better gig with the Apple brand on their resume. Like the investment banking of tech. Culture here is strictly top down: any attempt to streamline, impact change, or even discuss a better way to do anything is strictly frowned upon when it comes from the bottom. Work longer/harder, don’t complain or try to fix any of the myriad broken systems or processes, and don’t forget that there are 10 people lined up outside to take your spot (your manager won’t forget).”
“Work here at your own risk. On the upside, cafe food is pretty good and dress is casual.”
“A fairly heavy corporate controlling hand.”
Richard Francis worked at Intel and got to know Apple employees when the two companies partnered on projects.
“There is a fairly heavy corporate controlling hand governing a lot of what Apple locally can / can’t ‘do’ as a business. That made for a fair degree of tension with some senior staff coming in from other parts of the technology industry.”
“I dreaded Sunday nights.”
Designer Jordan Price hated the long, rigid hours he was expected to work.
“I hardly (hardly meaning never) saw my daughter during the week because the hours were so inflexible. I had also taken a substantial pay cut, but I figured I was making a long-term career investment by working for such a prestigious company. On boarding was super bumpy, and they had so many passwords, accounts, and logins that it took nearly a month just for me to get on the server. There were meetings all the time which were disruptive to everyone’s productivity, but they seemed to be a necessary evil in a company that’s so large with such high-quality products.”
“… coworkers that stood their ground and set boundaries seemed to end up on a shit list of sorts and were out of the inner circle of people that kissed the producer’s arse. I started to become one of those people that desperately wanted Friday evening to arrive, and I dreaded Sunday nights.”
“You hardly have time to sleep.”
Interestingly, even former employees who say they loved working at Apple agree on Glassdoor that there is terrible work-life balance. Here’s a selection of Glassdoor reviews:
“Work a lot at night and sometimes you hardly have time to sleep.”
“Work life balance may be a bit tricky, people work their butts off here and surprisingly, at least for me, I don’t ever mind stay a few hours late, because I am treated well and can’t go 10 feet without running into something incredible.”
“Have to be available 24/7.”
If you’re working on a new product, you’ll be chained to it. Almost literally.
An iPad developer told us this story about the lengths the company went to to ensure a prototype iPad didn’t leave the building:
“The criteria was that we had to have a room with no windows. They changed the locks on the door.”
“Three developers and I were the only people allowed to go in the room. Apple needed the names and social security numbers of the people who had access.”
“Apple needed to be able to drill a hole in the desk and chain the devices to desk. They used those bicycle cables.”
You may get paid less than you could make elsewhere.
Because everyone wants to work at Apple, pay is not so much of a concern, according to this Glassdoor commenter:
“Low salaries were a particularly common complaint from Apple employees on Glassdoor, primarily from those who identified as working in Apple’s retail stores, but also from business specialists, IT professionals and others at the company. That said, many positions at Apple do pay better than average.”
“It has become a more conservative execution engine.”
Middle management asserted itself after Steve Jobs died.
“It looks like it has become a more conservative execution engine rather than a pushing-the-envelope engineering engine,” says Max Paley, a former engineering vice president who worked at Apple for 14 years until late 2011. “I’ve been told that any meeting of significance is now always populated by project management and global-supply management. When I was there, engineering decided what we wanted, and it was the job of product management and supply management to go get it. It shows a shift in priority.”
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