Sneak peek into Apple’s culture — My first week at Apple

Just before starting this article, I updated my LinkedIn profile with my recent job update. Yes, I have joined Apple and it’s already been a week since. After clicking the “save” button, the page reloaded and I saw the new-job block on my profile with the iconic black-and-white Apple icon on it. With eyes locked on that icon, I slowly let the euphoria sink-in that I am a part of the world’s most valuable company.

Joining your dream company in such dystopian circumstances (read: the year 2020) is like a crazy rollercoaster ride. The constant tussle between the joy of joining and remorse of ‘remote onboarding’ had my senses confused for the first week, but that is not the subject of my writing today.

I entered Apple with a question.

“How is a company of this scale, able to create products of such impeccable quality?” — the Seeker in me asked.

Having spent over 5 years in the software industry, designing, architecting, and shipping softwares to completion, I have a sense of complexity involved in product development. And like others, I solemnly declare to have made my own mistakes during software development. But the question here was, what really happens inside this factory that it creates products which have had us spellbound since forever.

“It has to be the culture” — said the Wise voice inside me.

“Umm … yea. It’s the culture that drives organisations.” — the Seeker agreed.

“And you know what, they’d definitely have an array of profound Nouns (like A for Audacious, etc) embodying the company culture. It’s rad. You just haven’t googled their culture enough …” — the Wise voice started sounding wiser.

“To give you an example, look at Amazon. They have their leadership principles which are an integral part of their functioning. Take ‘Customer Obsession’, I, for one, definitely remember the lengths to which they went to deliver a product …” — Wise added.

That makes sense, the simple Seeker in me thought. Maybe I should just wait until I stumble upon those A.B.C.Ds of Apple’s abbreviated cultural values, and I will have my answers.

Fast forward day 4 and I still didn’t find the consolidated ‘list of values’. Where is it? To be honest, my curiosity had turned into mild frustration and I decided to ask this question to one of the leaders later in the day.

It was supposed to be one of those fireside chats with an Apple veteran who had seen the company grow under Steve Jobs, to how the baton was passed to Tim Cook, everything else in between and beyond.

While the starry eyed engineer in me was rearing to ask my golden question to the respective leader, the mindful in me kept heeding his words.

“ … make the best products and change people’s lives …” said the leader. Somehow it sounded familiar. I wasn’t sure where I’d heard this before but the words rang a sense of familiarity. Ah, yesterday’s meeting where another one of our leaders had said something similar: “ … make the best products and enrich people’s lives by innovation …”. My mind was agile enough to connect very visible dots with recollection of similar conversations with other Apple veterans who have been here for decades. The way it was all making sense was remarkable as if their thoughts aligned perfectly to one common goal: the best products.

Later in the evening, an engineering conversation with my manager strung the beads of my thoughts into a beautiful pearl necklace. In his own words, “… we don’t put hacks into our systems to make things work, and everything we build has to be the best in quality no matter what …”. I was gaining perspective.

“Creating world-class products that enrich people’s lives”.

This statement in itself is so powerful and complete that it does not need any explanation. Maybe Wise was wrong. Cultures and values need not always be posited in a cool, abbreviated way. More importantly, maybe this is Apple’s (not so disguised) mantra for success. Most importantly, maybe this is the answer to my pertinent question, water to my thirsty thoughts.

By now, not only was I in awe of the simplicity of Apple’s vision, but also how every leader carried that same mission in them. Aimed to make the best products in the world that would enrich people’s lives. There is a lot more to it, a lot more to discover, and even more to learn. But for now, my question was answered.

Within the first week itself, I could see how Apple functioned like a giant, super-well oiled machine, taking calm, firm leaps into the future fuelled by innovation and intent.

PS: For readers who got this far, here’s a gift for you. Read into Apple’s culture on HBR: https://hbr.org/2020/11/how-apple-is-organized-for-innovation

Disclaimer: All the above observations are my own (written in a personal capacity) and not sponsored by Apple.