Disclaimer: My experience is unique and not reflective of all experiences in the employment of Apple, Inc. I’m sure others in different departments or even the same department had experiences that differ from mine.
I worked for Apple for two years doing Battery Performance Testing. It is an understatement to say that it has been the career defining experience for me. I’m sure recruiters and managers take note of my resume when they otherwise would see nothing of value. When challenges confront me, I draw the bulk of my wisdom from what I learned in the “hyperbolic time chamber”. But I left California, that covetous job, and that entire career behind because I really came to hate it. A lot of that was separation from my friends and family in Maryland. A lot of it was also the environment and culture that I was surrounded by, which normalized the extraordinary and turned what would be incredible into something that was to expected.
It’s a tech company, it’s in silicon valley. You already know. Free insurance premiums, double digit percentage contribution to employee stock program, 401k match. Thanksgiving week off. Christmas week off. Health clinic on site, cafeteria on site, gym on site. Snacks and drinks upon request. Weekly happy hour events with free food and alcohol. Free apple products if you had a business justification (we all got over the ear headphones because we worked in an open office environment). There was a fleet of buses that would pick you up wherever you lived, SF, Santa Cruz, Oakland, etc. This kind of treatment makes you feel like a king and it’s what you came to expect every day.
Getting treated like shit
The feelings you get from the perks are immediately juxtaposed by how you’re treated in the work place. There wasn’t a specific person who gave me a hard time. Rather, it was encouraged to get the job done by any means necessary. So yelling became the first option in the tool kit. If you weren’t available in person, you were called out on an email which was CC’d all the way up the management chain. It was effective at getting things done and the technique was adopted by the general majority. It was a culture that fed itself. Stressed people would yell at other people and create more stressed people who continued yelling. No one took responsibility for mistakes which created finger pointing and blaming.
Very quick turnaround
All work was results based with very strict deadlines. Getting things done early wouldn’t really give you any brownie points but delivering it a day late was unacceptable. At my current job, I get task requests for delivery in a week. The same kind of requests at Apple would ask for delivery in a few hours. The amount of work was endless. Apple gave you every resource to work late (overtime), work remotely (laptop with VPN access), or both. They even paid for an international phone plan when you went on vacation so they would have every right to call you even if you weren’t in the country.
Working with very little information
Delivering information or products to other teams was always referred to as “delivering to the customer”. The environment was set up in a way where the internal departments treated each other like different companies entirely. When there was work to do, they gave us the information they wanted to provide and there was very little room to ask additional questions. Everything was need to know. Many times, our team tested batteries that did not have products associated with them. We had no idea what the batteries we were handling would be used for. If you look at the iPhone X battery, it’s an L shape. So we joked that Apple would be releasing an iGun or Apple Gun. Nah, was just for another iPhone.
At the time, Apple was only the second company I had ever worked for. I didn’t realize how differently it did things and how challenging it would be to work for them. Leaving that company was one of the best decisions I ever made. But I would also say that working for Apple was one of the best decisions I ever made. It showed me what the top looked like. It showed me how much work it took to stay at the top. And it showed me I had no interest in doing so on their terms.