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'Cultish' secrecy, 'iBuddy' system & paid lunches all part of Apple's HQ

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
A new look at Apple's corporate headquarters offers an idea of what it's like for employees to work there, including the legendary emphasis on secrecy, and the fact that there are no free lunches provided after an employee's first-day orientation.

The details come from the new book by Fortune writer Adam Lashinsky, which will go on sale Jan. 25. An excerpt from the book was published on Wednesday, offering readers a taste of what the title will offer.

Lashinsky's take details Apple's well-known obsession with privacy, which he describes as a "cultish" atmosphere at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. New employees initially encounter this on their first day, when they attend a half-day of orientation always on a Monday, unless Monday is a holiday.

That first day is often when new employees learn what their actual job will be. New workers are often hired into "dummy positions," and employees don't learn the details of their job until after they join Apple.

Still other employees do know what they were hired to work on, but they can't tell anyone else. That complicates icebreaking sessions with other new hires, as some don't know with absolute certainty what they were hired to do, and others are simply not allowed to say.

That secrecy and paranoia even extends outside of Apple's campus. Employees jokingly refer to a nearby restaurant, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, as "IL-7," or "Infinite Loop 7," a building that doesn't exist.

"Company lore holds that plainclothes Apple security agents lurk near the bar at BJ's and that employees have been fired for loose talk there," Lashinsky wrote. "It doesn't matter if the yarn is true or apocryphal. The fact that employees repeat it serves the purpose."

Sources who contributed details to the book said that Apple's corporate culture isn't particularly nice, nor is it relaxed. One anonymous person said that fighting between employees "can get personal and ugly."



The culture at Apple is described as "the polar opposite of Google's," and one small but noteworthy difference between the two rival companies lies in lunch. Unlike at Google, where lunch is free, Apple employees must pay for their "quite good and reasonably priced" lunch at the company cafeteria. There is one exception: New employees are given free lunch during their first-day orientation.

New employees can also gain a helping hand with Apple's informal "iBuddy" system, where they're paired up with an existing employee outside of their primary team. The new hire can have their integration into Apple eased having a person who can answer questions.

"Many have said they met with their iBuddy once or twice at the beginning of their tenure -- before they became too busy to meet again," the book reads.

Other details from Lashinsky's book include claims that Apple's iOS chief, Scott Forstall, is viewed as the company's "CEO-in-waiting, while the head of Internet software, Eddy Cue, is portrayed as a "dealmaker" crucial to the company's negotiations with outside partners like content providers and wireless carriers. "Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired -- and Secretive -- Company Really Works" is available for preorder from Amazon , as well as a digital and an unabridged .
post #2 of 52
In other words, Apple is exactly like almost every other company out there. Pairing new employees is common practice. Most companies call this shadowing. In fact, that is probably what Apple calls it. I have a hard time believing that they actually call them "iBuddies". A certain level of secrecy is necessary for all companies for competitive reasons. These are not the qualities that make Apple special.
post #3 of 52
Apple secrecy has lead to many rumours and much excitement and speculation, but...

IIRC, the company behind the Kinect technology had first approached Apple and was in talks/negotiations with Apple for months before becoming frustrated having to deal with this infamous secrecy and Apple's way of doing things.

The company decided to move on and then approached Microsoft which accepted and developed what is now Kinect... and the rest is history. Kinect has proven to be quite successful for MS with new potential uses continually cropping up.

IMO, one of the few (known) missteps and lost opportunities by Apple in recent memory.
post #4 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

One anonymous person said that fighting between employees "can get personal and ugly."

Wow, I'll bet that never happens anywhere else...

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post #5 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacCanuck View Post

Apple secrecy has lead to many rumours and much excitement and speculation, but...

IIRC, the company behind the Kinect technology had first approached Apple and was in talks/negotiations with Apple for months before becoming frustrated having to deal with this infamous secrecy and Apple's way of doing things.

The company decided to move on and then approached Microsoft which accepted and developed what is now Kinect... and the rest is history. Kinect has proven to be quite successful for MS with new potential uses continually cropping up.

IMO, one of the few (known) missteps and lost opportunities by Apple in recent memory.

Or it could simply be that they didn't get along or the deal didn't work out and IIRC used that as an excuse.
post #6 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by esummers View Post

In other words, Apple is exactly like almost every other company out there. Pairing new employees is common practice. Most companies call this shadowing. In fact, that is probably what Apple calls it. I have a hard time believing that they actually call them "iBuddies". A certain level of secrecy is necessary for all companies for competitive reasons. These are not the qualities that make Apple special.

Certain level? If what Lashinsky's book is saying is true, Apple takes secrecy to the max as in CIA NSA level..
post #7 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacCanuck View Post

...

IMO, one of the few (known) missteps and lost opportunities by Apple in recent memory.

That fact that Apple didn't have a game console and Microsoft did had nothing to do with it?
post #8 of 52
I'm betting anyone who ever worked as a defense department contractor just laughs at Apple's "security". Or anyone who's ever worked on a movie, or any number of competitive fields. Record companies were sending out sample albums in portable CD players that had been glued shut. I don't think Apple's ever done anything that paranoid.

As for the iBuddies, I imagine the program has an official corporate buzz word name, like Employee Integration Liaison or some such derp (referred to by it's initials, of course), but after the first sarcastic prick uttered the term iBuddy, that's what stuck.

Apple isn't perfect, but as seen from the outside, their corporate culture looks as healthy as anybodys
post #9 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Me View Post

That fact that Apple didn't have a game console and Microsoft did had nothing to do with it?

You really think Kinect can ONLY be used for game consoles?
post #10 of 52
From what I've read Google seems a fun place to work. I'm not sure I'd like to work for Apple though. They must be like robots, working really hard whilst trying to avoid talking to anyone outside their team in case they reveal something they shouldn't. Must be quite stressful. I'm sure there are lots good things about working for Apple that we never hear about.
post #11 of 52
People should be allowed to get drunk and blab their employers secrets. Come on, its all good fun!
post #12 of 52
Are you really saying this book will not be available from iBook Store? Oh, The Humanity.
post #13 of 52
so had no interest in motion technology.

As Tallest Skil mentioned, it could have uses other than game consoles as (recent) various Apple patents have shown with it's own motion detection technology ideas (ie, motion interaction with an iPad or Mac screen).

If Kinect technology successfully finds it's way into other markets (ie health field/surgery) it could be a missed golden opportunity that Apple let slip away and MS had fall into it's lap.

The fact is, Apple is now showing interest in similar tech with which it could have had a head start (like it seems to have with Siri using Nuance).
post #14 of 52
WHAT?!! Apple is not a utopian nirvana? You have to pay directly for your lunch?! I thought those days ended when the barbarian hordes were beaten back in the dark ages. Well then, only Android products for me.
post #15 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post

Are you really saying this book will not be available from iBook Store? Oh, The Humanity.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/insi...44015286?mt=11
post #16 of 52
Apple has been posting bogus jobs since the 80's the practice never stopped there.

I applies to one of those bogus posting, got turned down sent a really nasty letter at the time to the HR person who sent the reject letter and pointed out the error of their ways. Got an interview after all said, got hired, same thing never knew what I go hired to do and never interviewed for the original job posting as far as I could tell. Turns out doing something completely different than the job posting which was fine with me. Then years later when I volunteered to do on campus interview, I was handed a list of jobs they were filling and the one I applied for was in the packet. I asked the HR person if that position was still available since I was still interested. Was told oh those are not real we do not hire for specific jobs we look for pure talent not someone just interested in doing a job.

Everyone act like this all new with apple or at least when jobs came back, It always been that way and I am not sure if these practices were Jobs doing of it just came out of how they did business.
post #17 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Conrail View Post

I'm betting anyone who ever worked as a defense department contractor just laughs at Apple's "security". Or anyone who's ever worked on a movie, ...

Right because movies are never leaked.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Conrail View Post

... Record companies were sending out sample albums in portable CD players that had been glued shut. I don't think Apple's ever done anything that paranoid.

You'd be quite wrong about that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Conrail View Post

... but after the first sarcastic prick uttered the term iBuddy, that's what stuck. ...

You need an anger management class me thinks.
post #18 of 52
Oh no! No free lunches!

It's the best damn bistro/restaurante you'll ever see at any corporation. Damn fine food. A local hit was the homemade salsa that the staff would sell you to take home and put on your omelettes.

The Paninis are awesome, not to mention every other choice of cuisine.
post #19 of 52
"New employees are given free lunch during their first-day orientation."

As long as we're spreading unsubstantiated rumors and gossip, that first lunch consists of bread, water and all the gruel that new hires want to eat - just to break them in to the culture. Oops - have I revealed a secret??

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post #20 of 52
I have to say, I doubt Apple would be able to execute as well as they do if it was a dysfunctional environment (which is how this article makes it sound)...they're doing something right.
post #21 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

From what I've read Google seems a fun place to work. I'm not sure I'd like to work for Apple though. They must be like robots, working really hard whilst trying to avoid talking to anyone outside their team in case they reveal something they shouldn't. Must be quite stressful. I'm sure there are lots good things about working for Apple that we never hear about.

Having worked for Apple from 2001-2003, I can say with certainty that no one there is a robot, nor is the secrecy that onerous (and I have worked for a defense contractor in the past as well, so I know something about working on secret stuff...).

I think it's neither more nor less stressful to work at Apple than at any other tech company with high expectations from its employees. Don't kid yourself about Google: yes there are great perks, but they also have high expectations from their employees, and I'm certain that many things are secret there, also.
post #22 of 52
I guess all Apple hit pieces have to include the word "cult" now. Cultists and their sheeple seem to be the talking points these days. How else could the nerds explain Apple's success and dominaton of the tech industry.
post #23 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

From what I've read Google seems a fun place to work. I'm not sure I'd like to work for Apple though. They must be like robots, working really hard whilst trying to avoid talking to anyone outside their team in case they reveal something they shouldn't. Must be quite stressful. I'm sure there are lots good things about working for Apple that we never hear about.

I met an engineer that had 7 years at Apple and 5 years at Google. He said they are two very different places to work. Apple really is a pressure cooker but you always get this amazing feeling of having accomplished things when a product ships. You learn new things very fast and skills sets jump up very fast. The company runs very lean and you are expected to produce.

Google is much more laid back and is great if you have no family since they have activities to keep you there 14+ hours/day. Not all of it working but "on campus". But after 5 years, he could not look at anything that felt like accomplishment. Lower stress but lower accomplishment level. He was also convinced Google could lay off 9 of 10 engineers and not impact current or future earnings potential.
post #24 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Conrail View Post

I'm betting anyone who ever worked as a defense department contractor just laughs at Apple's "security". Or anyone who's ever worked on a movie, or any number of competitive fields. Record companies were sending out sample albums in portable CD players that had been glued shut. I don't think Apple's ever done anything that paranoid.

As for the iBuddies, I imagine the program has an official corporate buzz word name, like Employee Integration Liaison or some such derp (referred to by it's initials, of course), but after the first sarcastic prick uttered the term iBuddy, that's what stuck.

Apple isn't perfect, but as seen from the outside, their corporate culture looks as healthy as anybodys

Point well taken. Blab about what you work on at Apple, and you may be fired.

Work for the DOD as a contractor and Blab, you WILL be fired, your co-workers may find themselves without a contract, and you might go to jail, and you mgiht find yourself fined to the tune of several thousands of dollars. That Security Clearance you are required to have, has some pretty harsh penalties.
post #25 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"Company lore holds that plainclothes Apple security agents lurk near the bar at BJ's and that employees have been fired for loose talk there," Lashinsky wrote. "It doesn't matter if the yarn is true or apocryphal. The fact that employees repeat it serves the purpose."


It doesn't matter if the yarn is true?? Isn't that the entire point of book like this? To separate the myths from fact?

Unfortunately, because of Apple's position in the tech industry, we will see a lot books and articles written about them because publishers know that even crap sells. I don't know if this book is crap or not, but judging by the statement above it would seem to be missing the one thing you would look for in a book like this, facts.

-kpluck

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post #26 of 52
The secrecy is important to their success as innovators, not just to marketing. The biggest impediment to innovation is internal. Look at Microsoft. There are endless stories about one team in Microsoft doing their best to destroy a project because they find it threatening (this happened, for example, between the Windows team and the .NET team and led to all the problems with Vista; the Windows team didn't want the standard Windows API to be something developed outside their team). The easiest way to make sure this doesn't happen? Develop new products in secret. The iPod team couldn't feel threatened by the iPhone team because they didn't know a damned thing about it. The Mac team couldn't feel threatened by the iPad team because they didn't know a damned thing about it. Secrecy is how Apple manages to disrupt themselves and stay ahead of the game.
post #27 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by esummers View Post

In other words, Apple is exactly like almost every other company out there. Pairing new employees is common practice. Most companies call this shadowing. In fact, that is probably what Apple calls it. I have a hard time believing that they actually call them "iBuddies". A certain level of secrecy is necessary for all companies for competitive reasons. These are not the qualities that make Apple special.

Yes, I was about to say the same thing. Nearly any services or product-based business is concerned about security and proprietary information and the training is just one part of a corporate culture.

Nothing to see (or read) here.

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post #28 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by John.B View Post

Wow, I'll bet that never happens anywhere else...

No joke. It happens everywhere. Same with no free lunches, etc

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #29 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by kpluck View Post

It doesn't matter if the yarn is true?? Isn't that the entire point of book like this? To separate the myths from fact?

Thy say. But half their info is also myth, hearsay etc.

The only book that will really tell the truth doesn't exist because not even Apple will tell the truth. Well not the whole truth

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #30 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacCanuck View Post

Apple secrecy has lead to many rumours and much excitement and speculation, but...

IIRC, the company behind the Kinect technology had first approached Apple and was in talks/negotiations with Apple for months before becoming frustrated having to deal with this infamous secrecy and Apple's way of doing things.

The company decided to move on and then approached Microsoft which accepted and developed what is now Kinect... and the rest is history. Kinect has proven to be quite successful for MS with new potential uses continually cropping up.

IMO, one of the few (known) missteps and lost opportunities by Apple in recent memory.

Perhaps Apple decided against in spite of the technology being good. Apple is famously good at staying focussed and saying no. I am sure Kinect technology has any applications beyond gaming but perhaps none that fits within Apple's roadmap?
post #31 of 52
of the author being "poor me, being left out in the cold with no official standing".

It's bullshit, with just enough "truth" in it to be the worst kind of lying.
post #32 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by God of Biscuits View Post

of the author being "poor me, being left out in the cold with no official standing".

It's bullshit, with just enough "truth" in it to be the worst kind of lying.

While that might be true- why do we have to assume that? Because its anti Apple?

Quote:
Fortune conducted dozens of interviews over several months with former Apple employees and others in the Apple orbit to try to explain the phenomenon of life inside Apple. Few agreed to speak on the record; the fear of retribution persists for years. Once they get talking, however, the former Appleites paint a picture of a company that time and again thumbs its nose at modern corporate conventions in ways that let it behave more like a cutting-edge startup than the consumer-electronics behemoth it is.

At least research has been done and interviews have been conducted by a credible organization. Who did you interview and what research have you (or anyone) done to debunk this?

Is there going to be some fallacy? Sure. The vast majority of people thought Jose Canseco's book was ludicrous and full of lies. Then it all ended up being true. I can't resist saying it.... don't judge a book by its cover.

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post #33 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

One anonymous person said that fighting between employees "can get personal and ugly."


<sarcasm>
Boy, that sure has never happened at every single company I ever worked for!
</sarcasm>


post #34 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaun, UK View Post

From what I've read Google seems a fun place to work. I'm not sure I'd like to work for Apple though. They must be like robots, working really hard whilst trying to avoid talking to anyone outside their team in case they reveal something they shouldn't. Must be quite stressful. I'm sure there are lots good things about working for Apple that we never hear about.

I worked at Apple from late 1979 through 1985 and what's described in the article doesn't sound much different from working there back then, if a good deal better organized.

I have to say that my time there was just about the most fun I had in 30 years in computer product engineering. And I never worked around any "robots", either.
post #35 of 52
Glad I'm not the only one who fails to see the uniqueness here.

Am curious what is cultish about any of this. Even when I was younger a lot of retail stores I worked at worked like this. Probably not to the same level but still.
post #36 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hodar View Post

Point well taken. Blab about what you work on at Apple, and you may be fired.

Work for the DOD as a contractor and Blab, you WILL be fired, your co-workers may find themselves without a contract, and you might go to jail, and you mgiht find yourself fined to the tune of several thousands of dollars. That Security Clearance you are required to have, has some pretty harsh penalties.

Ha!

Brings back memories...

I worked for IBM in Las Vegas in the 1960s. I was a system engineer (technical market support) and my "customer: was REECO -- prime contractor for the Atomic Energy Commission (they were doing underground nuclear tests at Jackass Flats).

Anyway I was responsible for doing whatever it took to get the on-order 1410 mainframe computer installed on time.

To do this I was required to get a "Q" Clearance. That's a story in itself -- you document every place you've ever lived and the FBI goes around and asks all the neighbors "everything" about you.

Once I had the "Q" clearance I had free access to the entire facility, including keys -- I was able to go into the facility on the weekend or late at night and work.

You were required to wear a badge, everywhere, that displayed your picture and level of Security Clearance.

New hire programmers who had not, yet, received their clearances had to be escorted everywhere -- from the lobby, to their cubicle, to the meeting room, to the bathroom, etc.

Often, since I had a clearance I (an outside contractor), would escort REECO employees to wherever... seemed a bit odd.

The weirdest thing that happened was: I was working alone in the facility late Saturday night. Early the next morning (Easter Sunday) The front bell rang and I went to see who it was. It was the top executive of REECO in Las Vegas.

He forgot his badge and I wouldn't let him in -- made him go home and get his badge.

I thought I would be fired (by IBM), pulled off the account, or at least catch Hell...

As it turned out, I was commended for playing it straight and enforcing the rules.

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post #37 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Ha!

Brings back memories...

I worked for IBM in Las Vegas in the 1960s. I was a system engineer (technical market support) and my "customer: was REECO -- prime contractor for the Atomic Energy Commission (they were doing underground nuclear tests at Jackass Flats).

Anyway I was responsible for doing whatever it took to get the on-order 1410 mainframe computer installed on time.

To do this I was required to get a "Q" Clearance. That's a story in itself -- you document every place you've ever lived and the FBI goes around and asks all the neighbors "everything" about you.

Once I had the "Q" clearance I had free access to the entire facility, including keys -- I was able to go into the facility on the weekend or late at night and work.

You were required to wear a badge, everywhere, that displayed your picture and level of Security Clearance.

New hire programmers who had not, yet, received their clearances had to be escorted everywhere -- from the lobby, to their cubicle, to the meeting room, to the bathroom, etc.

Often, since I had a clearance I (an outside contractor), would escort REECO employees to wherever... seemed a bit odd.

The weirdest thing that happened was: I was working alone in the facility late Saturday night. Early the next morning (Easter Sunday) The front bell rang and I went to see who it was. It was the top executive of REECO in Las Vegas.

He forgot his badge and I wouldn't let him in -- made him go home and get his badge.

I thought I would be fired (by IBM), pulled off the account, or at least catch Hell...

As it turned out, I was commended for playing it straight and enforcing the rules.


I need stories like THAT. lol
post #38 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by _Rick_V_ View Post

<sarcasm>
Boy, that sure has never happened at every single company I ever worked for!
</sarcasm>


Whenever you get two or more people together, there are bound to be conflicts.

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post #39 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Whenever you get two or more people together, there are bound to be conflicts.

As with children, the tipping point is three -- then they choose sides...

I guess that's why, for a long time, there were an average of 2.5 kids per family
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post #40 of 52
The book excerpt makes working at Apple sound like a nightmare of paranoia and totalitarianism. Yet there are several well known former Apple employees who are active on twitter, have their own blogs etc (Matt Drance, Jean Louis Gassee, Michael Mace pop to mind though there are others) who have talk about their careers at Apple in positive terms and with real deep respect for the company. I've read pieces by Apple employees who acknowledged the secrecy but talked about it in a different context than how the book presents it.

Lets see if armies of former Apple employees (they do let people leave don't they?) come out of the woodwork to reveal their telling times at Apple to the press. Lets see if there's not another side to this story. Perhaps there isn't and my respect for the company is misplaced but so far things (this distopian nightmare of a company) don't add up for me.
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