Apple’s “we do it ourselves” orientation extends to even their executive hiring where they’ve created a talented in-house team to build ties and evaluate potential upper-level hires. At one point during my YouTube tenure they reached out to see if I was interested in meeting (I’d been referred in by some friends who worked at Apple). I was skeptical – despite respecting many of their recent innovations, I wasn’t an Apple fanboy and my guess was my style of product development wouldn’t fly in Cupertino. Namely, I was used to web speed: iterative, launch before perfection, leverage your community. After sharing this context, they still thought it would be interesting to meet so one afternoon I drove south to spend ~60 minutes or so with two of their team.
The conversation went as I expected. We spoke a bit about my background and ambitions, then shifted to my work at Second Life, AdSense and, mostly, YouTube. Assuming my favored position (at white board, a bit manic, hands waving), I walked them through my opinion of how technology was changing media and creating open, global platforms. I spoke about trying to create conditions for experimentation – at YouTube we emphasized that engineers and designers didn’t need management approval to run 1% tests of new concepts. And finally I defended some of YouTube’s UX elements by demonstrating how it needed to feel like the community’s fingerprints were on the site, not just some experience they lean back and watch but don’t touch. They took some notes during this chat but by the end, were agreeing with my initial assumption about my nature and the Apple way.
Despite knowing going in that this wasn’t likely going to lead to anything, I’m still glad I took the time – you learn a lot by observing how companies hire. Driving away from their HQ I left thinking how difficult consumer services were going to continue to be for them if they insisted on perfection before release. I still think of this every time I use Dropbox instead of iCloud, Sunrise instead of Calendar, Mailbox instead of Mail and so on. Even when I look at iMessage and wonder why the fastest growing apps are chat-related (don’t tell me it’s just cross platform, I think Apple could have been way more aggressive with evolving and opening iMessage up).
I’m writing this from my latest gen macbook air. And I have a 5S coming (goldie baby). Apple still is a huge part of my life. But I wonder if this software and services component will evolve. And how they’ll need to change the questions they ask of potential senior execs in order to bring in some of the mentality required to iterate towards excellence in public as opposed to behind closed doors.
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