Even if you don’t know too much about Apple, chances are you’ve at least heard about how important secrecy is to the company.
Apple has a reputation for keeping its plans and projects under wraps — not only from the public, but from other employees in the company, too.
There are some important reasons for Apple’s emphasis on privacy; it’s more than just a safety measure to ensure products don’t get leaked out to the public before their official unveilings.
Secrecy actually helps the company run more smoothly, one former Apple employee tells us.
David Black worked at Apple for nearly 12 years in the early 2000s before he left to work on his own startup.
During his time at Apple, Black took on a few different roles that included working as a senior consulting engineer in Java and WebOptics, a solution architect for the company’s Strategic Education Solutions department in China, and managing Apple’s Asia Education Marketing vertical out of Beijing. He now works at design tech consulting firm DB3 Innovation.
It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s been three years since Black has worked at Apple, and it’s certainly possible that things have changed since then. But here’s what he had to say based on his own personal experience working at the company for more than a decade during the Steve Jobs era.
“I would say there’s a very powerful culture of secrecy there,” Black said to Business Insider. “You even have to be careful with speaking to others within the corporation about what you’re working on.”
That’s because Apple functions a little differently and may be more competitive internally than the average corporation, Black said. To avoid confusion and conflicts, it’s easier for the higher-ups to monitor what everyone is working on. Tasks are all funneled through one group.
“All of these groups are kind of competing to do the same thing,” Black said.
The former Apple employee cited an example, saying that while one person in a particular group is hiring someone to create packaging for a product, another person in an entirely different group is also trying to find someone to design packaging.
To make things easier and ensure employees are working on the proper projects, these types of requests are funneled through one group at Apple, rather than individual managers of separate groups.
“Apple maintains a very functional structure, so it takes the people above your head to try and keep an eye on what’s going to collide with another [project],” Black said. “This leadership has to have incredible insight into the organisations below them to keep those collisions from happening.”
This type of structure in which employees don’t share their plans with others within the company also creates a checks-and-balances sort of system, Black said.
“So I can’t go to the marketing team and ask them to do something,” he said. “Because they may have directives that say what I’m asking for may not align with some people [in the company].”
In addition to keeping management running smoothly, Apple employees are encouraged to keep their work confidential just in case a project needs to be killed off unexpectedly.
“They also don’t want to set expectations,” Black said. “It’s really, I believe, to have the option of changing their mind at some point. If they need to go down a certain path and they need to stop, they can. No one’s going to be crying about the thing that wasn’t released.”
There’s also a crucial golden rule instilled in Apple employees as early as orientation, Black said.
“Right now, I would be fired,” he said with a laugh. “You just don’t talk to the press ever. It’s that simple.”