Goodbye Messages From Former Apple Employees

I worked for Apple for 14 years. I was permanently remote, but I hated how they treated remote employees. It was nearly impossible to get another position within the company, as it would almost certainly require that you go into the office. Even aside from that, I was passed over for opportunities because I didn’t have as much “visibility” as other candidates.

There were a ton of reasons why I left Apple: bad management, the way they treat their employees, the different sets of rules depending on where you work within the company, the low pay despite the ever-growing profits… Apple’s response to its employees who wanted to continue to work remotely added on to my many reasons for deciding to leave. This didn’t impact me directly since I was already remote, but it showed me how little the executives care about those who work under them.

I thought the pandemic might open up more work from home opportunities at Apple. It seems to have done the opposite. The company that touts itself as being so innovative, so progressive, is effectively moving backwards with its employment policies. Most jobs at Apple can be done remotely. We’ve proven that. Apple is insisting on butts in seats because it doesn’t just have a culture of secrecy, it has a culture of control.

I quit without anything lined up because I could not, emotionally, mentally, or morally, continue to work for Apple. I have since secured a job with a 46% pay increase from what I was making when I left Apple, more RSUs than what I received from Apple in all my years there combined, more paid time off, comparable benefits, and a better culture overall.

I applaud those who leave. For those who decide to stay, unionize. Unionize and don’t listen to their scare tactics. The only way to be a force more powerful than a 3 trillion dollar company is to band together and fight to be treated and paid fairly. Apple has shown that they won’t do this on their own accord.

I loved my team at Apple and worked for the company longer remotely than in person. I was promoted while remote for accomplishments I completed remotely and had my manager’s support to continue remotely. Thus, to be told I couldn’t be remote by the executive team was clearly hypocritical.

I quit Apple only few weeks ago, after finding a full remote opportunity. I truly miss the people and I learned a lot during my time there but, after all the lockdowns and the pandemic period, I realised I didn’t want to live in the place where I had to relocate any longer, especially because it meant to keep being apart from my partner (who couldn’t manage to relocate with me). I wish I had the chance to work from a city of my choice within the EU and I hope that in the future this possibility will be granted to current and new employees.

I worked on the American English Siri TTS voices. I helped ship the three new en-US voices (fully remotely!), and that was probably the highlight of my time at Apple.

I enjoyed the projects that I worked on, and I am proud that my work positively affected the lives of our customers. I am also lucky that I got to put my degree in linguistics to good use! Managers on my team are exceptional, and I’m not expecting to find any near their caliber ever again. My coworkers are amazing people, and I will miss their focus and enthusiasm.

RTO for me meant relocation, an added commute, and putting up with a distracting work environment. People have adjusted to more. Maybe I could have. But I did not want to, and there is no reason I should be required to. I was demonstrably productive and effectively collaborated with my five-plus timezone team while working remotely.

I hope that Apple in the future allows for additional flexibility. Perhaps determined at the team level by managers who interact with their direct reports, rather than SVPs who likely have never even heard of many of the employees in their org, due to the size of this company. There seem to be so many disconnects in the discussions about remote work, and hopefully time and direct conversations will help bridge those gaps.

I really enjoyed working with my team, very inclusive and smart. They are the only reason I felt sad about leaving.

I left for 3 reasons.

  1. Strict Open source policies for personal project even when they are toy repos is virtually impossible. OSPO is improving the policies but the policies are still not in a reasonable state.
  2. RTO relentless push for no reasons and made up BS like serendipity watercoolers with explicit call out that remote is very rare and requires VP approval. Apple Leadership does not value individual needs at all. They are used to having their words be all mighty and employees bowing down.
  3. Lack of transparency. The secretive policy is BS. I hated the idea of everything being closed by default. When leadership like Tim or Eddy took questions they were always editorialized and handpicked. Once they had someone make a question about freaking Ted Lasso.

I can only wish Apple will challenge status quo and not be afraid of change, they are stuck a decade in the past.

I did find my team and org provide psychological safety to express our opinions, I appreciated that a lot and I wish that continues.

I was an employee of Apple from 2013 until 2022. Having the opportunity to work for Apple is a highlight of my career; as a kid I started using computers in the 80s on an Apple //c. This experience primed me for my career as a software developer. I was excited to be part of the Apple story. I appreciated the ethos of Apple then and the quality of their products now.

I was thankful for how aggressive Apple was at the start of the pandemic to move as much work as possible to remote to keep their employees safe. However now I am more disappointed and frustrated in how Apple handled their RTO plans, and how this inflexibility led me to urgently finding new employment.

Apple has remained obstinate in their goal to bring everyone back to the office, if not full time, at least in a hybrid model. Other companies have taken this opportunity to evolve beyond the in-office model and have seen their workforces blossom to levels of diversity that were impossible before. In a world where flexibility and accommodation is becoming the norm, Apple are now being left behind. Apple is now known for having antiquated and risky office policies while other technology companies are leading the way towards a new, more inclusive work experience.

Returning to the office may be acceptable for individuals who are able bodied but unfortunately a large number of us have lives that cannot allow us to safely return to how it was prior to covid. We may be immunocompromised, have family members who are disabled, or other circumstances that we manage along with our vocation. In my case my disabled wife was not able to be fully vaccinated due to adverse vaccine reactions related to a hematologic condition, so Covid remains as life threatening to her now as it was in 2020.

The process of receiving short term remote extensions was not nearly solid enough to plan a life around and a more permanent request required approvals at the highest levels of management. Whether intentional or not, this actively dissuades individuals from participating. Due to this I was forced to find work elsewhere. Apple made me pick between my wife’s health or my career. My tenure at Apple should not have ended under those circumstances. No one should be forced to make that choice.

More generally, this policy will actively skew the working population to younger folks with fewer challenges in their lives, whether health or socioeconomic. I don’t believe the intent is to change workplace demographics but the consequence will be that Apple has fewer employees with disabilities, disabled family members, or complicated home circumstances that come with age. Not only will they lose high quality senior talent, but they will lose people who may be more mindful of disabilities due to their own personal experiences, making their own products less inclusive. Leaning into these changes speaks to a type of classism and ableism that are against what Apple says they stand for.

Apple and their competitors have seen that remote work does not lead to a reduction in quality or capability. Apple’s own performance during the pandemic shows we were able to succeed with these constraints. While it might feel like the pandemic has moved on to a new phase where it can be ignored, many were not given that luxury. Apple’s insistence on bringing everyone back to the office shows an insensitivity to the real complications many of us are and will be dealing with for the indefinite future. No one should have to choose between safety and employment especially when they have two years of proof that their job can be done remotely.

As excited as I was to join Apple I am angry that my chapter ended as it did. I wish my former colleagues success and hope that Apple recognizes that adapting to these new circumstances is in the best interest of the company’s culture and safety of its employees.

There’s a portion of this essay where Ed Yong captures the dissonance I have had with RTO as the spouse of a healthcare worker.

“Health-care workers sometimes feel as if they are living in a different world from those around them. Through the pandemic, they have wrestled with the gulf between the horrors they saw in their workplaces and the casual attitudes they beheld outside. For many, that cognitive dissonance is greater than ever.” Link

I resigned from my role as a privacy engineer at Apple because I could not reconcile the value my family places on making careful risk decisions about exposing ourselves and others to risk of infection and illness, with the required reoccupation of a normatively maskless office to full capacity.

I am a disabled veteran. I carry on my body the results of years of exposure to occupational hazards as a Marine, including airborne hazards from the burn pits at Camp Bastion. A calculus was made that some ends were worth exposing bodies to those risks, and the human cost obligates us to carefully weigh, in retrospect and in anticipation, the ends against the costs. It also obligates us to compensate people with pay and healthcare in perpetuity for disability resulting from occupational hazards, as the VA does for veterans.

As we have belatedly acknowledged, we have not yet seen the end of this pandemic, nor do we yet understand the long-term disability that we are observing and anticipate among those who have been infected with COVID. But I am also sadly familiar with the feeling of dissonance with a society that so easily turns its eyes away from avoidable suffering - whether the hundreds of thousands of people killed in the two decades of war we have waged as Americans, or the million Americans who have so far died from COVID.

I’m glad we’ve taken a pause on the march to RTO, to recognize and implement masking as a mitigation in our offices and stores, and to offer employees (in some locales, but notably not Austin) the freedom to exempt themselves from the risks inherent to RTO at this time. Hopefully those mitigations will be universal, and employees will have transparency into, and agency over decisions that affect their risk of infection and sickness.

Yet, we can’t pretend that infection rates are just a statistical random walk that we merely respond to with some arbitrarily set thresholds. As Andy Slavitt observes, the metrics we see today are the results of decisions and actions over the last few months. Our choices about risk have consequences in this pandemic. Yes, our leaders are normalizing post-COVID behavior, and our courts undermine public health authorities’ power to enforce public health mitigations. But we as individuals and collectively as an organization remain responsible for the consequences of our actions.

Our actions define our values, in demonstrating what we are willing to sacrifice for what ends. Apple has an opportunity for moral leadership in the face of normalization of risk. It did, in 2020, with cautious closures of stores and workplaces. It remains a leader in many important issues. Yet it is today a leader in accepting spread of infection for the sake of RTO.

There remains a looming reconciliation between Apple’s goal of fully reoccupying our offices, with the uncertainty of what lies ahead in this pandemic. Flexible work arrangements were a core part of our COVID mitigations in the past 2 years. We have rushed to discard it, at great cost to many employees.

I am using the agency I have to remove myself from a risk calculus that is not aligned with my values. If you value agency over decisions that affect the health of you and your community, I urge you to organize with your colleagues at https://appletogether.org.

Goodbye, Apple. I enjoyed working with you, my colleagues, on three different teams over the years. You’re some of the smartest and most hard-working coworkers I’ve had. I’m leaving for the same reason I left my first Apple contract: the commute. Three extra hours a day of sitting. Giving up my guitar lessons, because I couldn’t get home on time in the evenings. The absurdity of “in-person” meetings with people in another building. As a contractor, not even being able to use the gym during that long day away from home. And finally, the executive team’s indifference in imposing this awful quality of life on so many people.

I took this step because as soon as Apple announced it would be shutting down any remote advancement opportunities, I was checked out. I did try pleading to leadership and having it bubbled up, we signed the #AppleToo stuff, it just seems like they don’t care. I wanted to work somewhere that allowed me to work fully remote and advance remotely as well. I had two companies give me offers, both meeting my needs AND paying more. I have called Apple my home and loved it for the many years I put in, but it’s time to move onto a company that is moving towards the future and not stuck in the past.

I have enjoyed working at Apple and regret having to put in my notice. The lack of advancement and ability to work from home fully were what drove me to my decision.

I started at Apple in 2017 when I was at a crossroads in my life. I didn’t know what to do next or where to go. I had a friend refer me to work at Apple Retail. Little did I know at that time that this would be a place that changed me. During the course of my time there, I learned a lot, grew a lot, and I made great friends. I started as a specialist, worked Genius Bar, and then joined the business team.

The business team was where I spent most of my career with Apple. I wanted to be part of the business team, because I truly believed that our products impact people’s lives, and by helping a business, I was in turn, impacting communities, not just individuals. That meant the world to me. When I joined Apple, I knew that the company shared the same values that I hold close to me. All of this was great.

Then, the pandemic hit. I, as a business pro, was expected to go work from home when the rest of the store team was not. I was left to my own devices, but I had no emotional support. No manager felt the need or desire to even check in. If it wasn’t for the fact that the business teams across the market were working closely with each other, that would have really hurt me mentally. Even still, I felt so isolated and alone. Yet, despite that, I did my best work, but I received no accolades or kudos. Throughout the pandemic, the stores would reopen and close multiple times, but the business teams were constant in our resolve. We all worked hard, generated a lot of revenue for Apple, and there wasn’t even a sense of appreciation. In fact, when it was time to go back, many didn’t even get a decent notice, just expected to shift almost two year’s worth of adjustments at the drop of a hat. Why not? We’re expendable, right? That’s how I felt. I had friends who couldn’t send their children to daycare because of the pandemic, so they had the kids at home, and then were expected to go back to the store within 48 hours, and leadership didn’t care that they couldn’t find any sort of childcare. Then, when we came back, leadership didn’t check in on us, and the rest of the team were angry that we got to work from home for as long as we did. But the reality is, we did great work from home. Why couldn’t the business teams work from home or have a hybrid schedule with three days at home and two days in store? When these questions were posed, no answer was given, except that we need to be back in store. There wasn’t a rhyme or reason. During inclement weather situations, I was expected to work from home when the rest of the team wasn’t. So there really wasn’t a break for us. Because we can work from home, they used it to their advantage, but they wouldn’t let us work from home any time we requested.

Today, I’m at a different company where I feel so valued and appreciated. They respect and love and accept people equally, regardless of skin color, gender, orientation, etc. This is literally engrained into this company’s culture. At Apple, it feels like all of this was just empty words. I’m being paid way more than I was at Apple, and I generated more revenue for Apple than I am for this company.

Apple, thank you for the great technology, for the values instilled within me, and for the presence you have in this world. But it’s time to say goodbye, because you’ve gotten to big to care about the people who have been part of this journey to get you to where you are today.

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