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What is it really like to work for Apple

Lucy Hattersley | Oct. 20, 2016
The work culture is definitely effective compared to others.

We've heard from multiple sources that Apple engineers, even senior engineers, have no idea what a final Apple product will look like until it is launched. The people who work on the software have no idea what the hardware is like, and the hardware guys have no idea of the software. Says Lashinsky: "They weren't on the UI team, and that was none of their business."

What is it really like to work for Apple: Internal culture, from openness to secrecy

This policy of absolute secrecy, oddly enough, was preceded by a surprisingly open internal culture in the beginning.

Ken Rosen, a partner at Performance Works, explains on Quora: "In the early days, everything was open to everyone. There was even a binder in the CFO's office with everyone's salary. We were told we could go check it out any time. Few cared to. Steve told us, 'Inside NeXT, everything is open. Outside NeXT, we say nothing.' In wonderful Steve fashion, he added, 'This will continue until the first leak. As soon as we prove we can't keep a secret, we go back to being like every other company.' No one wanted to be the one to kill the open goose."

This culture changed when Jobs returned to Apple, and many employees from this period tell a different story. "We were asked to just sort of disappear," says Robert Bowdidge, developer tools engineer, when selected for a new project. "The phrase I often use to describe it was 'make people think you've picked up a drug habit and aren't coming in regularly.' I wasn't even allowed to tell my manager; all he knew is that I'd been borrowed for a secret project."

This secrecy doesn't just affect employees, but also their friends and spouses. Kim Scheinberg, an angel investor, tells a story about how her partner (JK) was involved with the project to port Mac OS X from the IBM PC platform to Intel. She recalls the day that she was told "to forget everything I know, and he will not be allowed to speak to me about it again until it is publicly announced."

What is it really like to work for Apple: Think different

The culture at Apple isn't typical of a computer company. "In my opinion this is different from any other company I've witnessed," says Lashinsky. "It's more like a security agency, and I have had people as I've gone around talking about this comparison - I've met a former employee of the NSA who said that it sounded a lot to him like the way the NSA operates."

There are real upsides to this internal communication: many Apple employees have talked about the lack of internal politics.

 

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