'These People Are Nuts': Two Former Managers Reveal What Working For Apple Is Really Like

Tim cookREUTERS/StringerApple CEO Tim Cook.

Two former Apple managers have revealed in a podcast exactly what it’s like to work for Apple — and it doesn’t sound pleasant.

Speaking in the Debug 47 podcast, transcribed by Ole Begemann, Don Melton, former director of internet technologies, and Nitin Ganatra, former director of iOS apps, reveal just how demanding Apple executives could be.

Staff get emails from their bosses at 1am — and are expected to reply immediately.

Melton says in the podcast that “Sunday is a work night for everybody at Apple … Because it’s the exec meeting the next day. So you had your phone out there, you were sitting in front of your computer, it didn’t matter if your favourite show was on.”

But a welcome reprieve came in the form of a certain TV show.

You could count on the hour that The Sopranos was on that Scott [Forstall] wouldn’t bug you ’cause he was watching The Sopranos. And that was your reprieve. You could go to the bathroom, you could have a conversation with your family.

Apple managers are expected to work demanding hours. Emails from executives would often arrive in the early hours of the morning, and employees were expected to reply to them immediately. Ganatra explained just how bad it could be:

You get an email forwarded to you that’s not to you. It’s from Scott, but it’s a forward from Steve and it’s just coming at this crazy hour, right? You just know that there’s this firehose of emails that are just going out at 2:45 in the morning and there are VPs or executive VPs who are scrambling to get answers. And that was just week after week, month after month, over the years.

Melton backed up this claim, explaining that Apple employees need to be available 24/7:

If you forwarded something to one of your people at 1 o’clock in the morning and they didn’t reply promptly, you got a little annoyed at them … When someone came into my office and said they wanna be a manager, I asked them, “How did you sleep last night?” And they said, “Oh, fairly well.” and I said, “Good, ’cause that’s the last good night’s sleep you’re gonna get.”

But it’s not just engineers and managers that don’t get much sleep. Even Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is online for most of the day and night, as Melton explains:

When you hear the so-called apocryphal stories about Tim Cook coming to work in the wee hours and staying late, it’s not just some PR person telling you stories to make you think that Apple executives work really hard like that. They really do that. I mean, these people are nuts. They’re just, they are there all the time.

Ganatra goes on to guess that Tim Cook only gets around three to four hours of sleep each night.

Towards the end of the podcast, Don Melton, Apple’s former director of internet technologies, sums up just how tough working for Apple can be:

There is no way you can cruise through a job at Apple, Inc. That just does not happen for anybody I’ve ever seen.

You can listen to the full podcast here, and read Begemann’s transcript of the interview quoted above here.

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