It’s All About Your Perspective

Jordan Price loves Apple and landed a job there, but his experience was shitty:

I tried to tough it out and look at the bright side of things. I was working at Apple with world-class designers on a world-class product. My coworkers had super sharp eyes for design, better than I had ever encountered before. I loved the attention to detail that Apple put into its design process. Every single pixel, screen, feature, and interaction is considered and then reconsidered. The food in the cafe was great, and I liked my new iPad Air. But the jokes, insults, and negativity from my boss started distracting me from getting work done. My coworkers that stood their ground and set boundaries seemed to end up on a shit list of sorts and were out of the inner circle of people that kissed the producer’s ass. I started to become one of those people that desperately wanted Friday evening to arrive, and I dreaded Sunday nights. Few of my friends or family wanted to hear that working at Apple actually wasn’t so great. They loved to say, “Just do it for your resume.” or “You have to be the bigger man.” or “You just started. You can’t leave yet.”
As Price points out, he was a contractor, not a full-time employee. They shouldnt, but sometimes contractors have a shittier experience than salaried employees. Sometimes they have a better experience. Sometimes salaried employees who aren’t in the inner “cool” circle have a shittier experience than those inside the circle.
Your perception of a company all depends on who you are and what you do in relation to that company.
I had a great experience at the last company I worked at. I look back happily at the 5.5 years I worked there. It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows every single day, but shit, that’s why it’s called work.
Once while I was still working there I decided to look it up on and see what people were (anonymously) saying about it. What i found was a huge discrepancy between reviews. Generally speaking, the lower someone was in the pecking order, the more negative their comments and perception were for their company. Given I was an associate creative director and part of management, the negative comments were foreign to my experience.
This is why I think sometimes it’s better for designers to work at smaller companies earlier in their career and move to bigger companies as they gain experience and grow their portfolios. Junior-level designers typically end up doing a lot more production (read: non-creative) work at large companies than at smaller companies.
Sometimes you work with assholes. Sometimes you’re an asshole. Sometimes you join a company on the downslope and people are leaving in droves and everything sucks and you find out from the people leaving that last year was the awesome year where management flew everyone out to the headquarters and paid for open bars and hotel rooms and gave away prizes.
It all depends. Everyone’s perspective is different.
The older I get the more a realize, even if you do land a job at a truly great company, there are very few jobs that are as glamorous or cool as they look. Once you get an inside peek at a company or an industry and you see how the sausage gets made, your perspective changes. There were tons of design agencies in New York City I wanted to work at when I began my career but then I worked for a few years and I found out that beneath the amazing website, portfolio and client list a lot of places were chop shops with a designers being worked like dogs and not staying for more than a few months (no, it ain’t working in a coal mine, but you can get burnt out staring at a computer screen for 18 hours a day).
When my wife and I moved to San Francisco last year, she immediately thought I was dying to work for Apple, given our proximity to Cupertino. I told her no, I’d rather enjoy Apple from a distance. Using an iPad and being one of the many Apple teams responsible for designing, marketing and producing an iPad are two completely different things.
Apple is full of incredibly creative people, but Apple is also a machine. A huge, well-oiled, multi-billion dollar machine. Some people are driving the machine and many others are cogs inside the machine being driven.
Does Apple suck to work for? Sure, probably.
Is Apple great to work for? Sure, probably.
Now give me back my iPad, I have some reading to do.