When we think of Apple what usually comes to mind is cutting-edge products like the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone, Macbooks, and a slew of other well known artifacts. With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, we’ve also heard quite a bit about him, but what we don’t hear about is operations at Apple itself. Why is that?
In an effort to uncover what the environment that maintains all this secrecy is like, Fortune Magazine’s senior editor, Adam Lashinsky interviewed several past and present Apple employees. What he found was a family oriented environment, hell-bent on letting newbies find their own way, with a cult-like value for secrecy.
To begin with, new hires are seldom told about the projects they’ll be working on for Apple. Sometimes a “dummy project” is discussed as a way to screen applicants before they are hired. Once you arrive at your new position, you are issued a computer however; the surprise is, in many cases you will be the one hooking it up. Also, you will be expected to get connected to this network on your own, both technically speaking and socially. Apparently, the idea here is that you would have to be tech savvy to be hired at Apple to begin with.
It is common for new hires to be assigned an “iBuddy”, someone outside your work group who can answer questions and get you up to speed on the norms and values of the organization. Next comes the privacy and security briefing. In this meeting new hires are explained the trust the company has placed on them to maintain secrecy about all new products, services, and proprietary information at Apple. Leaking details about critical items, they are told, will result in immediate termination.
Employees will not need to be informed of new projects however, as they will see the workspaces around them being transformed. Construction crews work diligently erecting new walls, installing privacy glass, and closing off areas inside the facility. Yes, it seems secrecy is a foundation of Apples value system.
As institutional as all this may seem, the physical workspace conveys a much different picture. Inside the network of office spaces and work areas lies a bright, sunny courtyard filled with green grass and trees. It surrounds special food stations selling everything from sushi and salads to meat and desserts. But these lunches are not free. As one employee recounts, “There is only one free lunch at Apple, and it’s on your first day”. Though food is fresh and reasonably priced.
Apple may be one of the world’s most revered companies, but we know very little about what goes on there or how operations are run on a day to day basis. Steve Jobs was once quoted, saying of the organization, ” I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t say it’s the most fulfilling experience in their lives, People love it…”.[Source: Fortune Magazine]