Tesla nabs another Apple employee -- this time, it's one of the key designers on the Mac team

Tim CookAppleApple CEO Tim Cook

One of the key designers behind some of Apple’s most daring Mac products in the past few years has moved to Tesla to work on electric cars.

Matt Casebolt, who had worked on the Mac Pro and the new MacBook as a director of product design, said on his LinkedIn profile that he started as a director of engineering for closures and mechanisms at Tesla on his LinkedIn page in December.

9to5Mac first reported the news, and said he actually led the team working on the Mac Pro.

Casebolt, judging by his patents, was a member of Apple’s elite design team, which historically has very low turnover. The small group used to be headed by Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive, but has apparently been going through leadership changes recently.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has famously called Apple “the Tesla graveyard” based on its supposed proclivity to hire Tesla employees that didn’t work out. But the talent movement goes both ways, especially after Apple reportedly retrenched and downscaled its electric car project.

One of the key goals of Apple’s electric car project was reportedly to retain top talent.

Casebolt’s job change comes a day after Chris Lattner, one of Apple’s most visible directors as its head of developer tools and creator of its programming language, Swift, announced that he was headed to Tesla to head self-driving car software.

Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s premier startup incubator, also announced on Monday that Daniel Gross, who had worked on machine learning at Apple after it bought his startup, will be joining Y Combinator as a partner.

A big company

Elon MuskBill Pugliano/Getty ImagesTesla CEO Elon Musk

After Lattner’s announcement on Monday, Apple observers predictably started to speculate as to what it means for the company, and whether Apple may have a talent retention problem.

Casebolt’s newly-publicized move will only add fuel to the fire.

While highly-paid directors and managers leaving a company is never a good sign, it’s important to understand that Apple is a huge company, which has predictable turnover. Out of 116,000 employees, some are bound to leave from time to time.

But there are signs that Apple’s approach to talent may be hitting a strained point. Apple announced through an SEC document last Friday that it had missed internal, still-secret targets for 2016. Apple executives lost compensation because of the missed targets.

And there are signs that Apple, which has grown prodigiously over the past five years, may be slowing its growth on the rank and file and preventing managers from building teams as large as they were even a few years ago.

In 2016, Apple only added 6,000 full time employees, according to SEC documents. That was down from 2015, when it added 17,4000 employees. Apple reportedly scaled back its contract recruiting too, according to a Venturebeat source.

Message boards around the internet are filled with unconfirmed speculation about hiring freezes, and stories about successful interviews without job offers because Apple has significantly slowed hiring.

Apple is still a coveted place to work, and most of the Apple people who I have spoken to love their jobs and the company they work for. It’s too early to say that Apple may be having trouble retaining important engineers. But Apple’s not the only game in town, and it has lots of employees that other Silicon Valley companies would love to have.

Apple is expected to move its executives and lots of employees into its new “Spaceship” campus early this year.

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