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I Quit: What Really Goes on at Apple

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steve Jobs, June 12, 2005.

I’ve just escaped the Apple institution. I’ve sent in my resignation, and fled down its bright white corridors curated by crass colourful pictures of iPhones past. I handed in my security pass and in return I was able to re-claim my creativity, individuality and free thinking from the secure Apple cloak room.  Finally now, for the first time in two years, I feel light, creative and inspired. I am again an individual with my own creative ideas, perceptions, values and beliefs. It may take me a while, but from what I believe – I’m now able to express such beliefs again. I am no longer part of the collective  iCult machine whose dirty, worn-out, greasy and naive internal mechanisms of bullying, harassment and mind-games push out shiny and polished iPhones every year. I AM FREE. It is ironic that one of the world’s largest companies and one that prides itself on innovation, creativity and ‘breaking the mould’, operates on such soul limiting entrenched dogma. It’s an organised boys club where perception is valued over substance and tenure over talent. I spent two years in the Apple camp managing customer service improvement for their technical support contact centres and out of the fifteen plus years working in this industry I’ve never witnessed so many bizarre and unprofessional things, only some of which I have time to touch on here.

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Apple’s present day mothership

I found Apple to be a sheltered workshop. The common language spoken being passive aggression, sarcasm and Kool-Aid fuelled stories of ‘success’ designed to manipulate and intimidate naive workers who have never experienced corporate life outside the Apple walls. Like the Chinese emperors believed the forbidden city in Beijing was the centre of the universe and constructed their empire around it, I’m sure that some people at Apple feel the same… Is it a coincidence that the new Apple Campus looks like a giant spaceship? Maybe the plan is for everyone to drink poisoned ‘kool-Aid’ before ascending to the mothership… Sounds like I got out just in time.

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The Forbidden City: The centre of the ‘known’ ancient universe
An artist's rendition of the new Apple 'Mothership'
An artist’s rendition of the new Apple ‘Mothership’. Centre of the Apple Universe

Even after-work beers were a strange affair. Drinks with colleagues revolved around the same stories told again and again as drunken management spoke of times when Apple executives made ‘strategic’ decisions to cut jobs and shut down Apple sites so swiftly and carelessly. Like boy-scouts around a campfire, employees eyes would glow and twinkle at this notion of power and embrace these stories with awe but with utter disrespect for the actions Apple has on the broader community of contractors, vendors, resellers and business partners they have bent over a barrel of non-profitability. Remarks such as “… to make a decision that affects so many lives and so many jobs so quickly like that shows the sheer level on which they (Apple executive management) operate… Amazing” were common dialogue around Friday beers. In my opinion a monkey can cut jobs, but at Apple the strangest things are revered.

At Apple HQ - 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California USA
Me at Apple HQ – 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California USA

Sixteen hour days are filled with meetings after meetings followed by more meetings. Whilst this is somewhat standard in most organisations, meetings at Apple wreaked of toxic agendas designed to deliberately trip people up, make fools of the less respected and call people out. Team spirit is non existent as ‘internal customers’ attack individuals and push agendas that satisfy their morning egos. Hours upon hours were wasted in meetings to prepare for meetings in preparation for other meetings to the point where little work actually got done. These rehearsals – called ‘dry runs’ (to me it sounds like something you’d pick up from South East Asian street food) – were meetings to refine impressions and push agendas… how to get the impressions right. How to bend, twist and polish data to tell the story you were instructed to tell… Not the reality the data presents. If a story can’t be forged, the data is excluded.

I had organised a day off recently where all my family were visiting me from interstate. Despite this I had agreed to dial in to one conference call as the audience attending was ‘important’. Well it seems Important but disrespectful, as the audience never even turned up, yet I was still made to ‘dry-run’ the whole meeting from start to finish for an hour and a half as if there was full attendance and interest in what I was saying. So, as the food I had prepared for my family went cold, there I was stuck on the phone role-playing a fake menial meeting to satisfy managements ego.

Sickness, family emergencies, and even weddings are given no respect at Apple. When I started my role I missed one business trip as my wife was pregnant, fell down the stairs and had to be hospitalised – this was listed as a ‘performance issue’ on my record and brought up during a one on one with management as a major ‘miss’ on my behalf. Meetings at midnight were also common place where I was always asked to present something menial (again to be seen), however even then I wasn’t allowed to simply speak to my topic but instead I was fed scripts by management through instant message with countdowns included about how long I had left to speak (“1 min 30 secs left”… “too long…”, “wrap it up”…).

In recent weeks I contracted a nasty incapacitating mosquito born virus and was hospitalised for a short time. However, rather than receiving support, I was emailed a presentation to my hospital bed with a note that it needed to be completed ‘urgently’. Even on the very morning of my wedding I was still being harassed by phone and email to send a report someone had lost. Management were inconsistent, moody and erratic. I’d often receive aggressive chats at all hours, and harassing texts every fifteen minutes asking “are you online? Your status shows you as away – are you there?”. I received rude voicemails on my phone when I was one minute late to a meeting and was harassed about my ‘Australian work ethic’ with management out of Singapore even commenting that Australians are ‘unfriendly’ and that we ‘only like to work with other Australians’.

At this point It all got too much and I was at breaking point. So, I reached out in confidence to an Apple executive. This respected senior manager  told me there was nothing to complain about and to “put on my big boy pants”. I was then threatened if I ever raised such issues again, it would be a “very different conversation” Words like ‘pressure’ kept getting thrown at me in the context of I can’t handle the pressure and “you were told at the interview it’s high pressure”. In reality, Apple is by no means the most pressure I’ve experienced in my career… Not even close.

My response was simple. I used to be a police officer. I’ve walked the beat of Sydney streets and been thrown in to de-escallating many violent situations at a moments notice. Even prior to this I also worked for the Police ‘Triple Zero’ emergency call centre (Australia’s equivalent to ‘911 Emergency’) taking screaming phone calls from victims of crime and swiftly dispatching police units. So my point is; I’m no stranger to pressure and stress. Given my experiences, I’m not going to get too stressed out over call centre customer satisfaction results! Sorry Apple… Yet despite all this, it’s really quite simple.  Raising concerns about management and un-fair treatment has got me nothing but retaliation from all involved.

Disgusting, Apple…. Disgusting.

Before I resigned they were clutching at straws to find reason to performance manage me. However all they could come up with were some missed reporting deadlines (which had been agreed on and communicated with management) and the fact that I had rescheduled some meetings… Seems a little desperate to me. Ironically, looking back – none of these items nor any of the stress and pressure were urgent… Not a single instance. All of it was deliberately manufactured mind games… I was told once that management spent a day deliberately dialling in late to all our conference calls for the whole day to ‘test’ who would ‘take the initiative’ to message them that they were late for a meeting?!? Very, very strange indeed but just another day in the life of Apple mind games that goes on behind the shiny, glossy ‘retina’ public display that Apple presents.

For a company that claims to enhance people’s lives through technology – they know nothing about life. Nothing at all. I’m disheartened as I loved Apple. I loved their products and I’ve been an advocate for what they allegedly stand for. Unfortuntely I’ve seen behind their glossy and polished stainless steel exterior, I’ve walked through their frosted glass doors and seen a toxic culture of manipulation, intimidation, threats and politics that are so incongruent to the values they preach.

As Steve Jobs said – Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Thanks Steve, I choose to follow your advice.

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NEXT: READ WHY I WROTE THIS ARTICLE AND THE RESPONSE I RECEIVED

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