Apple's Director of Machine Learning exits over return-to-office policy

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Apple's director of machine learning, Ian Goodfellow, has resigned from the company after three years, in part due to the iPhone maker's policies about returning to work in offices.




The machine learning lead is leaving over three years after he joined Apple, as part of Apple's bid to increase its existing AI and machine learning technologies development. In an email to staff, Goodfellow confirmed the imminent departure.

While the official reasons for leaving are unknown, Goodfellow did let on that the policy change by Apple to get more people working from its offices was an issue. "I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team," Goodfellow wrote in the note according to Zoe Schiffer of The Verge.

Goodfellow joined Apple in March 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile, as the "Director of Machine Learning in the Special Projects Group." The profile has yet to be updated with the departure.

Previously, Goodfellow worked for Google as a senior staff research scientist. He is also known for his work on Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs, which put two competing neural networks against each other, so as to improve the accuracy of the systems.

The policy at issue had Apple setting staff to work at its various offices from April 11 onward, starting with a hybrid work schedule of one day per week in the office and gradually increasing the in-office days over time.

Not all Apple employees are keen to proceed with the plan. One survey of a small number of employees found a high proportion were actively looking for employment elsewhere, with the return-to-office policy, the possibility of COVID infections, a toxic company culture, and a lack of a work-life balance cited as reasons for the need to move on.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    Did the AI he created advise him to leave? :-)
    mwhiteentropysJFPottsfotoformatAlex1NdewmeOctoMonkeyramanpfaffMisterKitbyronl
  • Reply 2 of 63
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 980member
    What a great time for apple to turn this into a win for itself, it’s employees and the general workforce. Apple should say, “hey, losing all these good employees bcoz we can’t budge on our RTW Policy isn’t worth it, so maybe we can compromise…”

    seems to me perhaps apple (and business in general) doesn’t trust their employees integrity much. Maybe it’s time to let go of that extremely outdated work ethic. I think we’re seeing the American workforce has had a taste of what a real “work/life balance,” actually looks like and they really like it. Good for company moral and good for employee production and ultimately good for the company. 
    OferAlex1Nmuthuk_vanalingamtwokatmewgodofbiscuitstyler82byronldarkvader
  • Reply 3 of 63
    viclauyycviclauyyc Posts: 829member
    People work in retail/manufacturing: this guy must look down on me. 
    williamlondonBeatszeus423danox
  • Reply 4 of 63
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,998member
    While the pace at which Apple is returning to work seems too fast given the uptick in covid*, Goodfellow certainly had another job offer that he liked better and where he negotiated for more WFH. Any company trying to recruit top talent can use WFH as an enticement. For anyone who cares heavily about their work and legacy, though, the decision will almost always come down to the nature of the work itself.

    *I believe Apple will soon need to respond more fluidly/pragmatically to the rise in covid. In just a few days perhaps, Goodfellow's WFH rationale may be moot.
    zeus423OferAlex1Nbyronl
  • Reply 5 of 63
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,068member
    It doesn't make a lot of sense to us who aren't Apple employees, but I am aware that most of the appealing jobs are at the Cupertino headquarters, where the cost of living is absolutely insane.  It would be great to work at Apple while being able to live in an area with more reasonable rent and living expenses, which would only be possible if most work was done remotely.
    Oferravnorodomtwokatmewbyronlhammeroftruth
  • Reply 6 of 63
    KTRKTR Posts: 240member
    I think its a matter of security and privacy.  Cant monitor someone if they are working from home to keep things private and NDA secret  

    williamlondonentropysBeatsdanoxbyronl
  • Reply 7 of 63
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,379member
    mac_dog said:
    What a great time for apple to turn this into a win for itself, it’s employees and the general workforce. Apple should say, “hey, losing all these good employees bcoz we can’t budge on our RTW Policy isn’t worth it, so maybe we can compromise…”

    seems to me perhaps apple (and business in general) doesn’t trust their employees integrity much. Maybe it’s time to let go of that extremely outdated work ethic. I think we’re seeing the American workforce has had a taste of what a real “work/life balance,” actually looks like and they really like it. Good for company moral and good for employee production and ultimately good for the company. 
    Or better yet promote one of his Lieutenants to his position with a healthy bonus and swiftly move them into his office. Have someone box his stuff for pickup the same day of his letter, lockout and check his accounts for unusual downloads and data access over the previous few months. 

    Dude sounds like he was a spy anyway. 
    williamlondonBeatsred oakthtirwinmauricetmaylongpath
  • Reply 8 of 63
    M68000M68000 Posts: 460member
    mac_dog said:
    What a great time for apple to turn this into a win for itself, it’s employees and the general workforce. Apple should say, “hey, losing all these good employees bcoz we can’t budge on our RTW Policy isn’t worth it, so maybe we can compromise…”

    seems to me perhaps apple (and business in general) doesn’t trust their employees integrity much. Maybe it’s time to let go of that extremely outdated work ethic. I think we’re seeing the American workforce has had a taste of what a real “work/life balance,” actually looks like and they really like it. Good for company moral and good for employee production and ultimately good for the company. 
    “Work/life balance” ?   LOL -  staying at home and not going into the office for the last 2 years is hardly a balance.  More like an imbalance.  There seems to be this work at all crazy hours of the day, now more than ever.  I frequently get up and check company email only to find people sending emails after 8pm and even way later at night.  I find it pretty pathetic to think people are working 12 hour days as being the norm today.  Absolutely pathetic, more to life than staring at work.

    in addition, have seen a number of people who used to work in office are now more out of shape and put on weight. 
    edited May 7 diz_geekstompyred oakravnorodombadmonkthtAlex1Nanantksundaramdewmetmay
  • Reply 9 of 63
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,502member
    There is no one solution, particularly if you are of the laptop class. In fact the Covid has probably improved quality of life for this particular group. The laptop class in my country where we kept international flights out early and over 90% vaccinated means they have had a very good Covid.

    My workplace team has largely RTW by default, but i make it quite easy to WFH whenever necessary or convenient. It works well. But my teams are members of the laptop class. Service industry and retail it never was an option.  Permanent WFH is not a solution, particularly for team building, accountability and training the next generation. It is suboptimal to train someone remotely. It takes three years after graduation for someone to be useful as it is.

    In any workplace, there would be those whose productivity rises with WFH, and those you know are slacking off.  Just the saving from the commute for Type As means more output, and they probably end up working longer too.  But if I am brutally honest, that is not the case for most people, and WFH is harder to track and manage. Overall though I suspect loss of productivity in the long run, after it has already flatlined for years. 

    I guess WFH is a boon for suburban coffee shops.


    edited May 7 baconstangAlex1NdewmeM68000danoxtmaybyronl
  • Reply 10 of 63
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    He didn’t wanna work.

    Nothing lost.

    jdw said:
    It doesn't make a lot of sense to us who aren't Apple employees, but I am aware that most of the appealing jobs are at the Cupertino headquarters, where the cost of living is absolutely insane.  It would be great to work at Apple while being able to live in an area with more reasonable rent and living expenses, which would only be possible if most work was done remotely.

    The solution is simple. Offer rent-free condos and homes close to the office, owned by Apple.

    Surprised they haven’t done this.
    zeus423ravnorodomAlex1Nmuthuk_vanalingam9secondkox2tmaybyronl
  • Reply 11 of 63
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,843member
    cpsro said:
    While the pace at which Apple is returning to work seems too fast given the uptick in covid*, Goodfellow certainly had another job offer that he liked better and where he negotiated for more WFH. Any company trying to recruit top talent can use WFH as an enticement. For anyone who cares heavily about their work and legacy, though, the decision will almost always come down to the nature of the work itself.

    *I believe Apple will soon need to respond more fluidly/pragmatically to the rise in covid. In just a few days perhaps, Goodfellow's WFH rationale may be moot.
    I'm not convinced that Apple is being reckless in asking people return to the office.

    They are not saying that everyone will be chained to their desks 40 hours a week starting from April 11. They are stipulating 1 day per week with an undisclosed schedule that increases required physical presence over time. Nowhere do they state that all employees will be required for in-person office work exclusively.

    Apple's overall approach to the pandemic has actually been closely in step with Santa Clara County (SCC) public health policy which was the very first county in the USA to issue a shelter-in-place order in March 2020 (courtesy of SCC public health officer Dr. Sara Cody). Apple has implemented pretty rigorous testing procedures for those who do show up to work in person, at their corporate campuses as well as their retail locations.

    In fact, their retail store operations probably gives them a fair amount of data about virus transmission and infection rates from a controlled group of identifiable individuals.

    Even in its corporate locations, Apple has always had personnel on the premises throughout the pandemic. From SCC's very first shelter-in-place order, there were always exemptions for "mission critical" staff like corporate IT, network admins in server rooms, plant operations, security, shipping and receiving, maintenance, etc. Again Apple probably has pretty good data on infection rates both before and after vaccines became readily available (May 2021).

    For sure Apple executives and employees have been in countless discussions about in-person attendance concerning their own children in schools. A lot of Apple corporate employees have children who attend private school; those institutions have often taken a different path than the public school system.

    And it's also worth noting that the general attitude of residents of Santa Clara County have taken the pandemic threat quite seriously compared to many other places elsewhere in the USA.

    There are still tons of people who mask up in Santa Clara County to this day, even outdoors where the risk of infection is virtually non-existent. Bob Wachter (chair of the department of medicine at UCSF) says he hasn't worn a mask outdoors since the earliest days of the pandemic; Wachter has however returned to wearing a mask in some indoor public situations with the recent uptick in coronavirus infections (mostly driven by BA.2).

    While no government mask mandate exists for businesses, there are still plenty of workers in the hospitality industry who are wearing masks in SCC. Does the average restaurant server have a better chance dying in an auto accident on US-101? Yes, but the mask hurts no one. And yes, Santa Clara County residents have a very high vaccination rate. 

    My guess is that this Goodfellow chap wasn't happy at Apple regardless and took this opportunity to make a theatrically bombastic exit as wait for more of his RSUs to vest. That's his prerogative, California is an at-will employment state.
    edited May 7 thtAlex1Ndewme9secondkox2tmay
  • Reply 12 of 63
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,998member
    mpantone said:
    cpsro said:
    While the pace at which Apple is returning to work seems too fast given the uptick in covid*, Goodfellow certainly had another job offer that he liked better and where he negotiated for more WFH. Any company trying to recruit top talent can use WFH as an enticement. For anyone who cares heavily about their work and legacy, though, the decision will almost always come down to the nature of the work itself.

    *I believe Apple will soon need to respond more fluidly/pragmatically to the rise in covid. In just a few days perhaps, Goodfellow's WFH rationale may be moot.
    I'm not convinced that Apple is being reckless in asking people return to the office.

    They are not saying that everyone will be chained to their desks 40 hours a week starting from April 11.
    Nobody said Apple is being reckless, but IMHO they are ramping up quite quickly in a rapidly changing environment: minimum 3 days per week in office by May 23rd. I suggested the company may be forced to change their plans within a matter of days. Covid cases have a habit of increasing exponentially with time, with the doubling time shortening with every new variant and sub-variant. It doesn't take long for the case load to get out of control. People just don't have a good feel for exponential growth and it's difficult to assess when a small error in the base of the exponent produces a large effect on the result.
    edited May 7 ronnbaconstangOferAlex1Nbyronlgrandact73darkvader
  • Reply 13 of 63
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,843member
    cpsro said:
    mpantone said:
    cpsro said:
    While the pace at which Apple is returning to work seems too fast given the uptick in covid*, Goodfellow certainly had another job offer that he liked better and where he negotiated for more WFH. Any company trying to recruit top talent can use WFH as an enticement. For anyone who cares heavily about their work and legacy, though, the decision will almost always come down to the nature of the work itself.

    *I believe Apple will soon need to respond more fluidly/pragmatically to the rise in covid. In just a few days perhaps, Goodfellow's WFH rationale may be moot.
    I'm not convinced that Apple is being reckless in asking people return to the office.

    They are not saying that everyone will be chained to their desks 40 hours a week starting from April 11.
    Nobody said Apple is being reckless, but IMHO they are ramping up quite quickly in a rapidly changing environment: minimum 3 days per week in office by May 23rd. I suggested the company may be forced to change their plans within a matter of days. Covid cases have a habit of increasing exponentially with time, with the doubling time shortening with every new variant and sub-variant. It doesn't take long for the case load to get out of control. People just don't have a good feel for exponential growth and it's difficult to assess when a small error in the base of the exponent produces a large effect on the result.
    It's up to Apple executives to figure this out. Employees are free to leave. For sure no one can please everyone all the time and if Goodfellow is one of those people behind, it's probably because Apple deems his opinion to be lacking sufficient merit.

    SCC publishes the updated 7-day rolling average of new infections on weekdays somewhere between 2-4pm Pacific Time.

    https://www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/home.aspx

    Yes, infections have increased but not at a crazy rate. However, the SCC data is mostly restricted to PCR results from labs and there's less official testing happening. A lot of analysis is being done at wastewater treatment plants looking for increases in community infection that is only being tested at home. The wastewater treatment plant in Palo Alto is probably a good barometer for infection trends for Apple corporate employees compared to a plant that serves more lower income neighborhoods.

    It's worth pointing out that vaccine rates (by ZIP code) in West Valley (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Saratoga) are considerably higher than lower income ZIP codes in the same county. Likewise infection rates, hospitalizations and fatalities are also much lower. And always have been since the pandemic started.

    Apple isn't going to make their Apple Park return-to-work decisions based on statewide or nationwide statistics.
    edited May 7 retrogustoAlex1N
  • Reply 14 of 63
    mr. kmr. k Posts: 115member
    Beats said:
    The solution is simple. Offer rent-free condos and homes close to the office, owned by Apple.

    Surprised they haven’t done this.
    It’s one solution. Mildly dystopic though; there’s no reason to worship one’s work or have it own something as fundamental as your family’s housing. That’s a level of lock-in that makes iMessage look lackadaisical.

    For people whose work strongly benefits from in-person sessions, regular office time is valuable. For myself, now, I hate soulless open plan offices, yet my company loves them. Every meeting I have is with people who are based in corporate offices in other cities, countries, and frequently different time zones. For us, prior to Covid, we were already effectively working remotely; we just also had a commute to a lousy environment to do it. Turns out that dropping the commute just meant we all got more time for sleep, hobbies, spouses, and family. The nature of the work remained unchanged.
    edited May 7 OferAlex1NdewmeBeatsmuthuk_vanalingam9secondkox2tyler82byronldarkvader
  • Reply 15 of 63
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,843member
    Beats said:
    He didn’t wanna work.

    The solution is simple. Offer rent-free condos and homes close to the office, owned by Apple.

    Surprised they haven’t done this.
    LOL, you clearly have an interesting understanding of residential real estate in Santa Clara County in 2022.

     :p 

    And how will they do this? Maybe they should raze Apple Park and build a bunch of 1 BD/1 BA 700 sq. ft. condos? And then consolidate the headquarters into one 50,000 sq. ft. building in Barstow. Well they better hurry before Alphabet, Meta, Intel, Nvidia, AMD get the same idea.

    But I'm eager to hear what sort of "solutions" you have to offer.

     :) 
    edited May 7 9secondkox2tyler82byronlgrandact73darkvader
  • Reply 16 of 63
    Fred257Fred257 Posts: 190member
    Interesting. I became homeless during the first of the pandemic and I kept working 2 months into the pandemic directly with my clients all the way until today. I made about 28k per year. I was living in my car for months and still went into work. All I have to say is each one of us has our priorities and I’m not going to crap on someone else’s needs or wants.
    williamlondonOferthtfotoformatAlex1NOnPartyBusinessgatorguytyler82byronl
  • Reply 17 of 63
    looplessloopless Posts: 254member
    The guy probably was on a 500K-600K+ salary - don't feel to bad for him.
    zeus423tht9secondkox2danox
  • Reply 18 of 63
    zeus423zeus423 Posts: 153member
    Don't let the door hit you on the way out!
    9secondkox2
  • Reply 19 of 63
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,991member
    If he can legitimately do good work from home, he can legitimately work from another US state where Apple has offices. Did he say no to this idea, or did Apple? Since he didn't report it, I'm thinking it wasn't Apple that stopped him from re-locating.
    fotoformatfelix01
  • Reply 20 of 63
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 708member
    A few days a week actually at the building is a deal breaker? Culling the workforce of the losers. 
    applesauce007retrogustoAlex1Nmike1anantksundaram9secondkox2netroxOctoMonkeybyronl
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