Imagine this: You’ve just landed your dream job, but you can’t tell any of your friends about it, post about it to your Facebook page, or list details about your accomplishments on your resume.
This is what it’s like to intern at Apple.
“They want to be able to release a product that everyone’s happy about but no one knew about before,” said a former Apple intern that requested to only be referred to as Brad. “You can’t tell anyone anything about your job,” he said. “You can’t tell people outside of your family what you’re working on.”
The strong emphasis on secrecy combined with an unusually loyal legion of employees makes the culture at Apple much different than that of most Silicon Valley companies. We chatted with Brad to learn more about his experience, and here’s what we found.
Getting the job
The interview process at Apple is much different than what you’d find at Google and Facebook, Brad says. Apple interviews intern candidates for specific roles, and the manager of that particular team would conduct the interview.
According to Brad, who has interviewed for an internship position at Facebook and has heard from friends who have interviewed at Google, those companies do things a little differently. Rather than interviewing an intern candidate for a specific job, Google and Facebook conduct more general interviews and then place them on specific teams once they’re hired.
Brad didn’t mention any specific interview questions he encountered at Apple, but said that he spent an hour or two talking about his previous job with the interviewer.
“It was kind of a really simple interview process,” he said.
And when he heard he got the job at Apple, he accepted the offer immediately.
“I was super happy,” he said. “I just told them on the spot that I was going to take the offer before I even saw the pay or anything.”
Apple pays its interns really, really well.
Interns make $US38 per hour, according to Brad, which aligns with anonymous salary reviews posted on career site Glassdoor. This averages out to about $US6,700 per month, Brad says.
Interns also get paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week, Brad says. And, anything over 40 hours counts as time and a half, while interns make double their normal hourly wage for working more than 60 hours in a week.
This gives interns a big opportunity to save up for the future — especially because they don’t have to pay for housing. According to Brad, Apple offers free housing in the Bay Area if you don’t mind living with another Apple intern.
In fact, this was one of the best parts of the Apple intern experience for Maxime Britto, a former Apple intern who worked on the Safari team back in 2008.
“The greatest thing with housing is that you are not alone,” Britto wrote in a Quora post. “You share it with three others interns from all around the world. It is a great way to learn and mix with other cultures.”
If you don’t want to bunk with other Apple interns, the company gives you $US1,000 toward your monthly rent, says Brad. If you’re moving out to the Bay Area specifically to work for Apple, the company pays you around $US3,300 to cover the cost of relocation costs such as airline tickets, shipping your belongings out to the Bay Area, etc.
“[They’re] bringing people from all over the world, and they don’t want to make it a big pain to have to move there,” Brad said.
Apple tries to make it as easy as possible for people around the globe to work at Apple. Britto said that Apple assisted with his paperwork when he came to the United States from France.
He also noted that Apple employees were especially understanding that English wasn’t his first language.
“Whether it was at work or with the other interns outside of work, people have always been very patient and nice to me,” he wrote on Quora.
A culture of secrecy
Apple’s goal is to “surprise and delight,” says Brad, so it’s key to keep their projects as secretive as possible. Apple also ensures that employees from different departments don’t find out what each other are working on by blocking off access to certain buildings on campus.
“Everything is totally locked down,” Brad said. “There’s no taking pictures on campus; it’s super crazy.”
This is an idea they instill into interns and employees on day one in what Brad referred to as “secrecy training.” (As it turns out, that’s not just to prevent leaks. It’s actually a management technique, which you can read about here).
Sometimes, Apple employees will work on a product without even knowing what it is. Brad said he spoke with an Apple employee who worked on the original iPad back in 2010. This person said he or she had been working on 9.7-inch displays for one or two years without knowing exactly what they were for.
“They didn’t know if it was a big phone or a small laptop,” Brad said. “They had no idea. It wasn’t until the product release where Steve Jobs went on stage and showed the iPad that they realised this is what we worked on for the past two years.”
Nate Sharpe, an engineer that interned at Apple back in 2008 in the iPod Product Design group, cited the secrecy as one of the job’s biggest perks.
“It was super cool to get to be intimately involved in products before they came out, and to see the gritty details of past products, even some that never made it to market,” he wrote in a post on Quora.
Meeting the higher ups
Apple gives interns the opportunity to meet with company executives through a speaker series that runs once every few weeks. The roster includes everyone from CEO Tim Cook to design chief Jony Ive to the people in operations that help manage Apple’s supply chain.
During his time at Apple, Brad got to attend a talk given by Apple’s vice president of camera technology. Brad didn’t specify the executive by name, but John Kerr manages Apple’s camera engineering program for iPhones, iPads, and Macs, according to his LinkedIn page.
These talks usually focus on what their business unit is, how they rose in the ranks to reach the vice president level, and then they open it up to questions.
They also reveal some interesting insights around Apple’s products and what went into making them. For example, when Brad saw the Apple camera technology executive speak, he learned about the difficulties that went into making the iPhone 6’s camera.
One person in the audience asked about what the decision-making process was like when creating the iPhone 6’s camera, since it protrudes out from the back of the device. Brad said that there was some conflict between the camera team and Jony Ive’s design team.
“It was basically a tug-of-war for a while,” Brad said when recounting what he learned from the seminar. “But they settled on having the camera protrude a little.”
Ive didn’t want the camera to stick out because he didn’t think it looked nice, according to Brad.
“They only had two options, make the phone thicker or the camera worse,” Brad said.”And they didn’t want to rip it apart and make a worse one.”
Brad said he also heard the vice president of operations speak about what it’s like to manage Apple’s massive iPhone production process.
“Some portion of the iPhones that come off the assembly line aren’t perfect, and can’t be sold,” Brad said. “It’s interesting to hear about the challenges.”
‘People don’t really look for other jobs’
Beyond its emphasis on secrecy, Apple is different from other Silicon Valley companies in a few ways, says Brad.
At other companies like Google and Facebook, it’s not uncommon for employees to get poached or to leave after a few years to start their own companies. But, Apple employees are extremely loyal and usually stay at the company for anywhere between 25 and 35 years.
And, Sharpe also notes in his Quora post that a lot of interns get full-time employment after their internship if they do a great job.
“That’s crazy, I’ve never seen that anywhere,” he said. “They talk about Steve Jobs by his first name. The kind of loyalty they have is ridiculous. People don’t really look for other jobs…They don’t even know what’s out there.”
That type of loyalty pays off, says Brad, who hinted that Apple compensates very well, even for lower level employees.
“[You’ll see] people coming into work in sports cars, and they are just normal engineers,” he said. “Not high-up managers or anything like that. So you can see why they don’t want to leave at this point.”
Apple declined to provide comment for this story.
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