I honestly can not believe it has only been a year since I left Apple Inc. It already seems like a distant past life and in that light, I am taking this moment to reflect on how great my time there was and how it has helped further my career tremendously. Before I do so, I should tell you a little bit about my time within Apple. My First Real Job Three days after I graduated college, I helped open Apple’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in NYC. I was hired as a part time Mac Specialist and while the hours were kind of crappy (fifth avenue is open 24 hrs a day), I had a job and that was good. I wasn’t particularly good at sales but I knew my stuff. After one too many late nights of working part-time on the sales floor, I decided I needed to do something with my life. The *Creative* position (now known as a “Trainer”) seemed pretty interesting to me. You were able to work directly with customers and teach them how to use their mac. The really knowledgeable creatives even got to teach pro apps such as Logic and Final Cut Pro to customers. Having a background in Audio, Communications and Broadcasting and a minor in music, I thought I would be a valuable asset to the creative team. I approached one of the managers to tell her about my interest and the fact that well … I sucked at sales … but I was really good at teaching. I used to do the same thing in college for 3 years while working in the Department of Instructional Technology for Manhattanville during college. I spent a lot of time teaching luddites about email and the web so my head was in that space. Of course, the manager I spoke to immediately shot me down and told me I needed to up my sales in order to go anywhere within the company. I realized I had to take matters into my own hands and went over the manager’s head to a more senior manager who really gave me a chance to prove I had what it took to work in that position and was really willing to listen. Needless to say I had the job within a few weeks. Working as a Creative at Apple was probably the most beneficial experienced I’ve gained during my time at Apple and perhaps even in my entire professional career thus far. Here are a few things I took away from that experience:
- Looking over the shoulder of customers using Apple products for 1.5 years will teach you a thing or two about how people interact with software and hardware.
- Working in this position gave me a true sense for how customers make their purchase decisions.
- Customer service is the most important thing in any business. Without it, the business is doomed.
- Spending 8 hours a day doing this type of training will help you grow super thick skin.
I will admit, the job is not as glorious as it may sound. Sometimes the thought of helping another upper east side millionaire sync their blackberry to their Powerbook Titanium made my stomach lurch. After one too many teaching lessons, I decided it was maybe time to move. Did you get the Memo? Coincidentally, in late spring of 2007 I received an email at my Apple address about a corporate internship opportunity that was happening company wide for retail employees. There were numerous positions posted for various departments within Apple. At first glance, I didn’t think much of it and closed the email. Worked a half day and went to lunch without think about that email again. Later that day, a colleague of mine asked: “Did you see that Audio QA position?”. Do which I responded : “What?” - Then I saw it. An Audio QA Engineer internship at Apple. In Cupertino. Next few months were spent convincing my supervisors and managers that I was the ideal candidate for the position and that they should nominate me for the position. Remember, each retail store was to submit their candidate and the hiring manager at apple corporate would be interview candidates across the nation. So after many interviews, I got the QA internship. I was moving to Cupertino for 3 months to work as Audio QA engineer at Apple. Crazy!! While I was there I got the opportunity to work on Leopard as well as few other projects. Back to Reality Unfortunately for myself and for others in the internship program, reality struck at the end of the 3 month internship. Many of the retail employees participating in the internship thought this was their ticket. Some even bought houses, sold their cars, and generally made decisions as if they had already received full-time job offers. I was then faced with the reality of having to return to my Creative job which by then had become the “Trainer” position. This sucked. I had been living the dream and coming off the high of working at Apple corporate was rough. Depression was a real thing. The Dream Continues After a few months of working back in Apple retail. I had the opportunity to interview for a QA position on the iWork team and flew out to Cupertino again. I remember leaving that interview and thinking to myself - “Meh, I don’t really care if I get that job, the people interviewing SUCKED”. Then as if the odds of ever getting a job at Apple corporate again were any tougher: I met my manager from my audio QA position in the parking lot in front of Infinite Loop 1 as I was about to leave campus. Told him about why I was there to which he immediately told me he could offer me a position on his team. Turns out some budgeting stuff needed to happen before any jobs to interns would be offered. A few weeks later, my girlfriend at the time (now wife) and I moved out to California so I could work at Apple. She took a job at a recruiting firm and worked with many of the top startups in Silicon Valley. Mothership I can’t really go into too much detail with my work at Apple but let’s just say I
played with tested a lot of Apple prototypes all the time. It was pretty awesome and most of the people I worked with were great. I learned a lot about the effort, attention to detail, and careful planning Apple puts into any thing they do. If something doesn’t work, they try something else until it is done to perfection. Quitting The time came however, after 2.5 years, to move on again. A lot of the people around me at Apple were older than me and were already settling down. California sucks as a state and San Jose was super boring. I think that was it really, I was bored with my surroundings and was bored with my job. I wanted to do more with my life and decided that I need to do something greater now. Around this time last year, I walked in to my manager’s office and told him of my decision to leave. Life after Apple and starting my own companies Since then I moved back to NYC with the ambition to build something great. I have started my own development agency working on freelance iOS projects. I have also worked with some friends to build a new magazine publishing platform for the iPad. Although, it has only been a year since I left Apple, my time there feels like a distant past life. Running two bootstrapped startups has been like riding the big scary roller coasters at the theme park. It has also really given me a new outlook on pretty much everything I do. I often miss my job(s) at Apple (especially the steady paychecks) but the creative and personal freedoms I’ve gained from leaving Apple have been well worth it. Two words of advice If you ever have the opportunity to work at Apple, you should under no circumstance should you decline the offer. Also, Seriously - Do what you love, everything else will work itself out.