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Former employees shed light on Apple's internal corporate culture

post #1 of 105
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Former workers of Apple have offered a peek inside the company's secretive corporate culture, with a glimpse at employee mentality, security, and the difference between a project in which Steve Jobs is involved, and one without the chief executive's interest.

Purported details about Apple have been shared by some ex-employees who have left the company on Q&A website Quora. As first reported by Silicon Alley Insider, current Facebook employee Chad Little and Mint.com employee Justin Maxwell offered a glimpse of their time spent at Apple.

Little claimed that, like most companies, Apple has its fair share of red tape that can frustrate employees. But those issues go away and projects take on a "startup level urgency" when something is given the attention of company co-founder Jobs.

"If you have a project that Steve is not involved in, it will take months of meetings to move things forward," Little wrote. "If Steve wants it done, it's done faster than anyone thinks is humanly possible. The best way to get any cross departmental work done is to say it's for Steve and you'd probably have it the same day."

Maxwell said that Apple's legendary secrecy lives up to its reputation, though he said things could be different after the lost iPhone 4 prototype incident. Nothing like that happened when he worked there, he said.

"It wasn't just the rules, it was the job itself," Maxwell said of security. "The measures that Apple takes to protect its creative and intellectual environment are unparalleled in the valley, and it's been a disappointing experience since leaving there. Apple's security policy extends to blogs, to speaking engagements, to what we talk about with our spouses. Most people get it and respect it."

He continued: "If I was still at Apple, I would not be responding to this question, nor would I feel wronged for not being able to.... The general idea is this: You are part of something much bigger than you. The ideas you talk about in the hall, the neat tricks you figured out in CSS, the unibody machining technique, that's part of your job, something you are paid to do for Apple's success, not something you need to blog about to satisfy your ego."

The great lengths that Apple goes to in order to keep projects under wraps was profiled last year by The New York Times. That report said the company's veil of secrecy began to take shape around the release of the original Macintosh back in 1984.

One employee said that employees working on secret projects at Apple must "pass through a maze of security doors, swiping their badges again and again and finally entering a numeric code to reach their offices." Once inside the top-secret areas, employees are often monitored by surveillance cameras as they work. Those working with the most sensitive projects are allegedly instructed to "cover up devices with black cloaks when they are working on them, and turn on a red warning light when devices are unmasked so that everyone knows to be extra-careful."

And in January, a former Apple marketing manager described the company's "controlled leaks," which he said the company sometimes relies upon to gauge public reaction, confuse competitors or encourage partners.

Other information on Apple's corporate culture, from the Q&A:

Launch events provide "probably the single greatest feeling working at Apple," Little said. Workers work feverishly and pull all-nighters to prepare for the company's public presentation, then the employees gather in the cafe to watch the event unfold. "It's a great rush and your whole team feels it."

Apple employees "truly feel they are changing the world with what they are doing," Little said. "Apple is one of those companies where people work on an almost religious level of commitment."

Benefits, however, were described as "lacking." Little said most things on campus, including meals, snacks and the gym, come with a cost. He said one person asked Jobs why the benefits were limited, to which the chief executive reportedly responded, "It's my job to make your stock go up so you can afford these things."
post #2 of 105
Sounds awful.
post #3 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

yep, what if steve...
post #4 of 105
This is really no big deal, try working for the Government in a SAP environment. Just as bad if not worse...
post #5 of 105
So, Apple is like most corporate offices, when the CEO is involved, projects move quickly.

In my Apple experience, understanding you were "part of something bigger" was key to not discussing Apple initiatives outside of the team. Of course, sense it's your own co-workers you tend to share a beer with after work - it's not all that tough.
post #6 of 105
Steve Jobs=Christ the lord
Apple Inc=THE CHURCH!
post #7 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

No it doesn't.

As the saying goes, "Nothing worthwhile is easily obtained."

It may be tough, but it's worth the effort. Where would be all be now if it wasn't for all the concerted efforts of this impressive team?

Daniel Swanson

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Daniel Swanson

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post #8 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post

No it doesn't.

As the saying goes, "Nothing worthwhile is easily obtained."

It may be tough, but it's worth the effort. Where would be all be now if it wasn't for all the concerted efforts of this impressive team?

Who is to say such accomplishments could not be done in a better environment? It is, of course, a personal choice to operate in a firm like that. So I can't fault Apple. But it certainly does not sound appealing.
post #9 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

Sounds pretty good to me. Personally I'd find working in a corporate environment to be extremely boring unless the people at the top instilled everyone with a sense excitement and vision. Sounds like Apple does quite well in that department. I think all those trivial perks that some companies offer, like free gyms and snacks, are incredibly silly.
Please don't be insane.
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Please don't be insane.
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post #10 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

Sounds fascinating. Not many companies can evoke that type of commitment and sense of purpose. Most companies would kill for it.

To those who think it is all a bit draconian or pale at the thought that things happen only when the boss snaps his/her fingers, well, you are either naive or have never worked in a real company. It's not a democracy. Things are done by fiat.

And, if someone has a problem with it, they can always leave.
post #11 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

Sounds pretty good to me. Personally I'd find working in a corporate environment to be extremely boring unless the people at the top instilled everyone with a sense excitement and vision. Sounds like Apple does quite well in that department. I think all those trivial perks that some companies offer, like free gyms and snacks, are incredibly silly.

Totally agree. Behavioral scientists have long studied these things, and have found that job-related factors fall into two categories: "motivating" factors (e.g., job content, a sense of purpose) and "hygiene" factors (e.g., salary/perks, size of office etc). Those studies show that what truly motivates people and earns the commitment of employees is the former. As you say, the latter is what is considered "cool' in the public realm, and yet buys little by way of motivation or commitment.
post #12 of 105
A cross between the pentagon and Scientology. \ but seriously, think of any company developing new technologies. Cars, etc.
2011 13" 2.3 MBP, 2006 15" 2.16 MBP, iPhone 4, iPod Shuffle, AEBS, AppleTV2 with XBMC.
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2011 13" 2.3 MBP, 2006 15" 2.16 MBP, iPhone 4, iPod Shuffle, AEBS, AppleTV2 with XBMC.
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post #13 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

So if you spent 3 weeks perfecting a subroutine or getting hardware design just right, you'd be okay seeing it splashed in AI or used on anther company's product?
post #14 of 105
Gee, I don't get free meals, snacks, or gym access at my company either. I guess I should feel pretty oppressed.
post #15 of 105
And they say users are in a cult. Pity those employees.

But that's how good products get made I suppose.
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #16 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by maccherry View Post

Steve Jobs=Christ the lord
Apple Inc=THE CHURCH!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Who is to say such accomplishments could not be done in a better environment? It is, of course, a personal choice to operate in a firm like that. So I can't fault Apple. But it certainly does not sound appealing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

A cross between the pentagon and Scientology. \

A proper embracement of mediocrity allows the average person to make silly comments like this.

Any operation that is on the cutting edge or trying to make significant advancements in any arena is going to have this level of commitment expectations. No organization of the many dozens I've experienced that purported a warm and fuzzy environment was on the cutting edge of anything. You accomplish nothing through complacency or striving to make people "feel good about themselves". If you are moving forward in any endevour, you are going to be uncomfortable, protective of your efforts and demanding of your teams. And as an individual, if you do not like the "edge" atmosphere, you will not understand it. It's OK - there are many, many jobs where warm and fuzzy, complacent and average efforts are the norm. But don't expect much excitement, don't expect much challenge, and don't expect to be the one who creates excitement, controversy or advances. If all you worry about is comfort, feeling OK about yourself or being able to live an average life then perhap Apple, Inc is not the sort of company for you.
post #17 of 105
Only one thing to comment.

I freckin' love Café Macs.

Incredibly delicious food, exceptional variety, excellent prices.

I wish I had access to that restaurant for day-to-day eating.

(Café Macs is the restaurant in the Cupertino Apple campus.)
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone that can do him absolutely no good.
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The true measure of a man is how he treats someone that can do him absolutely no good.
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post #18 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

"Launch events provide "probably the single greatest feeling working at Apple," Little said. Workers work feverishly and pull all-nighters to prepare for the company's public presentation, then the employees gather in the cafe to watch the event unfold. "It's a great rush and your whole team feels it."




It looks to me like you "missed" the most important part of the story .... I guess it's true ... people only see what they want to see.
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See, in the record business, you can show someone your song, and they don’t copy it. In the tech business, you show somebody your idea, and they steal it. (Jimmy Iovine)
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post #19 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by maccherry View Post

Steve Jobs=Christ the lord
Apple Inc=THE CHURCH!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

A cross between the pentagon and Scientology. \

Looks like the trolls are really struggling with this one. Can we at least get a little originality, please, guys?
post #20 of 105
I work for an insurance company. This sounds wonderful.
post #21 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by bfulda View Post

This is really no big deal, try working for the Government in a SAP environment. Just as bad if not worse...

Yup I agree...working on defense-related work is exactly like that...and you know what...it should be. In apples case, they are protecting their investment, and they are just following the same precautions as the government follows with secret clearance.
post #22 of 105
Not anything here we didn't already suspect. It's ultra-secretive almost to the point of paranoia and it basically moves based on Steve's whims. It's a cult that can do things that are amazingly good and amazingly bad,
post #23 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

Sounds pretty good to me. Personally I'd find working in a corporate environment to be extremely boring unless the people at the top instilled everyone with a sense excitement and vision. Sounds like Apple does quite well in that department. I think all those trivial perks that some companies offer, like free gyms and snacks, are incredibly silly.

Given what they do and the nature of their business, Apple does not seem to me to be overly draconian.
post #24 of 105
I thought I'd toss in my 2 cents since I have a relative who works there, and I've visited him several times (I made an anonymous account to post this just in case I say anything that would get him in trouble).

First of all "Steve wants" projects are definitely given top priority. But the fact is that EVERY product needs to be approved by Steve before it gets announced/goes on sale. The exception being minor updates or updates that don't change the form/function (like new processors in an existing product).

The "something bigger" mindset is pretty true. Most people don't really have a problem keeping their NDA. The example of not telling your spouse what you're working on isn't that big of a deal - especially since most engineer's wives don't want a detailed description of what their husbands do.

I have been in this relative's office, he's in one of the Infinite Loop buildings. The process to enter the building (as a visitor) is pretty simple. You put in your name, the name of the employee that will be your "escort", what you're there for, and who you're representing on a computer in the entrance area. The employee that you are there to see will tap their badge on a card reader like the ones on the electronic locks. This tells the computer to print out your visitor badge. We then go through the glass doors, up a set of stairs, and then down a hallway to this person's office. That's it, nothing insane. He has shown me the DOOR (not the inside) of the lab he works in. The door goes into the lab, there aren't multiple doors to get in there, but you do have to badge in. I could, however, believe the multiple doors/locks being present in certain parts of the iPhone group's real estate as well as Johnny Ive's Industrial Design lab.

There are security cameras, but not in the labs/secretive areas. The security guys are some of the lowest paid people there - do you think they're going to let them see everything that's being worked on? There are motion detectors in the labs that allow security to know how many people are in the room, but not what they're doing.

The black cloth thing is true - but only if there is someone in the room that isn't authorized to see what you're doing.

One thing about the company gym - it's not exactly in a convenient location. It's a couple blocks away from the Infinite Loop buildings. However there is a basketball court at Infinite Loop. There is also a nice big grassy area in the center (there are even squirrels that live there) and there is a group that gets together and plays volleyball during lunch. I find it amusing that it's actually possible to be trapped in this central area and unable to leave. You can't get through any doors without a security badge except an emergency exit in the basketball court.

Yes there is an underground area...it's a parking garage.

Oh, and Cafe Macs is definitely awesome. They have a fantastic selection and it's all really good.
post #25 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by maccherry View Post

Steve Jobs=Christ the lord
Apple Inc=THE CHURCH!

Not that I want to add to this, much, but wouldnt Apple equate to the religion, Cupertino to Mecca, Vatican, et al., and Apple Stores to the church, synagogue, temple, et. al?

Also, If Audous Huxley would have written A Brave New World today would he have still used a letter T?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

Sounds pretty good to me. Personally I'd find working in a corporate environment to be extremely boring unless the people at the top instilled everyone with a sense excitement and vision.

Me too. You want to feel your division, job and work is important and nothing says job security than CEO taking a direct interest in what you are doing. But, if your goal is to skate by working as little as possible then that sort of scrutiny wouldnt be appealing.


Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Totally agree. Behavioral scientists have long studied these things, and have found that job-related factors fall into two categories: "motivating" factors (e.g., job content, a sense of purpose) and "hygiene" factors (e.g., salary/perks, size of office etc). Those studies show that what truly motivates people and earns the commitment of employees is the former. As you say, the latter is what is considered "cool' in the public realm, and yet buys little by way of motivation or commitment.

Interesting post, I cant say Ive ever heard the word hygiene used in that sense.
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post #26 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

Sounds pretty good to me. Personally I'd find working in a corporate environment to be extremely boring unless the people at the top instilled everyone with a sense excitement and vision. Sounds like Apple does quite well in that department. I think all those trivial perks that some companies offer, like free gyms and snacks, are incredibly silly.

I agree which is what has made working at NASA the past few years incredibly depressing (aside from them supporting me in my apple product habit). Though the trivial perks are a nice bonus as long as the work is good
post #27 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

I think you forget that Awful is AAPL trading under $20/share. Awful is Michael Spindler or Gil Amelio being unable to generate relevant or exciting products, or even release a proper successor to Mac OS Classic. Awful was Apple slipping into irrelevance instead of leading the pack.

Steve Jobs is right. When it comes to what is important, it's not free snacks that matter: it's competent leadership focused on making Apple successful.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #28 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Not that I want to add to this, much, but wouldnt Apple equate to the religion, Cupertino to Mecca, Vatican, et al., and Apple Stores to the church, synagogue, temple, et. al?

Well, in Christianity, at least, The Church means the people more so than the building, so, technically, the customers would be The Church.
post #29 of 105
IMHO food at the Cupertino campus cafeteria is excellent, the prices are very reasonable, and no employee should be complaining about that.
post #30 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by BenRoethig View Post

Not anything here we didn't already suspect. It's ultra-secretive almost to the point of paranoia and it basically moves based on Steve's whims. It's a cult that can do things that are amazingly good and amazingly bad,

See, where you see things like paranoia, whims and cult .... I see strong leadership, being a visionary and having a passion for excellence. We do agree on amazingly good 'tho and on balance I think Apple has been "amazingly good" many time more than they have been amazingly bad. .... just my 2¢.
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See, in the record business, you can show someone your song, and they don’t copy it. In the tech business, you show somebody your idea, and they steal it. (Jimmy Iovine)
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post #31 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Sounds fascinating. Not many companies can evoke that type of commitment and sense of purpose. Most companies would kill for it.

To those who think it is all a bit draconian or pale at the thought that things happen only when the boss snaps his/her fingers, well, you are either naive or have never worked in a real company. It's not a democracy. Things are done by fiat.

And, if someone has a problem with it, they can always leave.

Blindness is a condition as well as a state of mind.

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post #32 of 105
I'd work there for nothing just for the experience.
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post #33 of 105
The culture I experienced during my 8 year tenure at Apple was wonderful and highlighted by the product announcements. I will never forget the original iPod coming out. It was a very big deal but no one had an idea of the huge global impact it would have. I made a lot of money off that little device since I was in sales (HighEd). Previous to Apple I spent 3 years on the phones at Dell which I found to be a good experience as well but those were the golden years at Dell. The culture at Dell was very high pressure which was good for me, bad for some others but the top sales people loved it both inbound and outbound. I was only outbound at Apple and when the iMac first appeared, then the blue G3 with it's side door. Things are not as easy going at Apple anymore but I know dozens of people still there and they like it over and above any present opportunity out there. The huge opportunities in sales aren't what they used to be maybe but that is like any company where you stay in the same division or territory. I miss Apple and the people I worked with. My one complaint is that Steve never had any regard for us in sales. He thought it's all in the marketing. He is a genius marketer but he should have primed the pump with an appearance to one of those sales national sales meetings every 4-5 years... and don't get on the same elevator with him if that ever happens.
post #34 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Who is to say such accomplishments could not be done in a better environment? It is, of course, a personal choice to operate in a firm like that. So I can't fault Apple. But it certainly does not sound appealing.

Then why are so many people willing to sacrifice their first born to get the chance to work for Apple? We fanboys are lampooned for drinking the Kool-aid and being lemmings. What commitment must it take to work for the company then? People proudly post their Appe job application forms, even if they didn't get hired.
post #35 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Underhill View Post

I'd work there for nothing just for the experience.

apply for a position then and tell them your salary requirements are $0.
post #36 of 105
Funny how for a company that is so secretive, we know about how they operate. It comes from various sources of course, but we still know a lot I think. We know when most new products like iMacs are going to be rolled out, we know that every september we get new iPods (although I can't really think what else they could do with them) and we also know how they operate internally when using top secret products. Of course we don't know the in and outs of every detail, but we know enough.
post #37 of 105
My experience at Apple:

The Cafe is a set of gourmet bistros.
The Gym discount for any private club/gym is excellent. Most corporations in the world don't off to cover most of your costs.
The 50% off one system, per year and then up to 3 others for family/friends at 15% is stellar. The best you get at Intel is a CPU discount.
The vending machines? Seriously? I don't pay you to get unhealthy. You're fired.
Coffee is free, including Lattes, espressos, etc. I pay for you to be awake.
The 12 hour shifts were common and I never noticed them. I enjoyed my work.

Left because of a divorce and cost of living was surpassing my pay and it was just a fact of life in the dot.com bubble era. Rates for housing for a 1 bedroom flat in Cupertino was 1400-1600/month and I wasn't living off of 80k.

To complain about the lack of massages, free food and all the lack of an olympic pool and NCAA football level weight training facilities is a joke.

90% of the staff never even went to the gym. There's over 15,000 staff members in Cupertino. You'd need an enormous facility for fitness on-campus to meet the total membership. Golds Gym and [24hr/Oz Fitness] was two blocks from my flat in San Francisco. Volleyball was used by many in engineering. Foosball and more were what we brought over from NeXT.

Go work for a start-up who brings you more food perks. You don't get public stock options.

No other IT company [if you aren't an introverted sod] will let you network internally like Apple.

Go work for Intel, Oracle, the entire Banking/Financial Industries, Boeing, Northrup Grumman and more. You'll wish you never left. I do.
post #38 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by dewindj View Post

Sounds awful.

depends who you ask
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post #39 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by s4mb4 View Post

apply for a position then and tell them your salary requirements are $0.

The position of CEO pays $1.00/year.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #40 of 105
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

Sounds pretty good to me. Personally I'd find working in a corporate environment to be extremely boring unless the people at the top instilled everyone with a sense excitement and vision. Sounds like Apple does quite well in that department.

Agree
Quote:
I think all those trivial perks that some companies offer, like free gyms and snacks, are incredibly silly.

Disagree
Charging for use of a gym when you spend 60+ hours at the office is silly. Coffee and snacks may be different as long as they are charged at cost or nicely subsidized.

Here is a very interesting video related to this subject (motivation): (Steve Jobs is even mentioned as an example)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc&sns=em
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