Former employees shed light on Apple's internal corporate culture

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 104
    dewindjdewindj Posts: 31member
    Sounds awful.
  • Reply 2 of 104
    anakin1992anakin1992 Posts: 283member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dewindj View Post


    Sounds awful.



    yep, what if steve...
  • Reply 3 of 104
    bfuldabfulda Posts: 37member
    This is really no big deal, try working for the Government in a SAP environment. Just as bad if not worse...
  • Reply 4 of 104
    formerarsgmformerarsgm Posts: 191member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 104
    maccherrymaccherry Posts: 924member
    Steve Jobs=Christ the lord

    Apple Inc=THE CHURCH!
  • Reply 6 of 104
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 905member
    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?
  • Reply 7 of 104
    dewindjdewindj Posts: 31member
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 104
    dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 104
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,456member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 104
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,456member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 104
    8corewhore8corewhore Posts: 833member
    A cross between the pentagon and Scientology. \ but seriously, think of any company developing new technologies. Cars, etc.
  • Reply 12 of 104
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,541member
    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?
  • Reply 13 of 104
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,258member
    Gee, I don't get free meals, snacks, or gym access at my company either. I guess I should feel pretty oppressed.
  • Reply 14 of 104
    irelandireland Posts: 17,095member
    And they say users are in a cult. Pity those employees.



    But that's how good products get made I suppose.
  • Reply 15 of 104
    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.

  • Reply 16 of 104
    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.)
  • Reply 17 of 104
    newbeenewbee Posts: 2,055member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 104
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,558member
    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?
  • Reply 19 of 104
    aduzikaduzik Posts: 94member
    I work for an insurance company. This sounds wonderful.
  • Reply 20 of 104
    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.
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