I think you would agree that Apple is one of the most exciting companies to work for – after all, every year it releases luxury products that millions of people buy. I had the opportunity to be part of this company for a year, as a Product Design Engineer working on this beauty:

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2016)

So let me tell you a bit about the experience of working for Apple.


Why I Joined

There are a lot of things you have to consider when making a career decision, but I must confess that most people are just happy to join just because it's Apple. You can get experience as an engineer from a wide array of companies but Apple is special. One, its product releases are the most anticipated in the world. Every major tech journal jumps to the opportunity to report rumours or leaks, and similarly I was very curious to be involved with what lies behind the curtain. Two, Apple deals with hundreds of vendors, and engineers interact with manufacturers across the globe (mostly China), so there is a degree of diversity to the engineer role here that doesn't exist at every company.


My Job

As part of the Mac PD (Product Design) division, I was part of the team that integrates all the different components (display, keyboard, speakers, ports, case) into one coherent product that performs well. I think this is one of the coolest parts of a product to be involved in because you get to see it all coming together, and you solve all the problems that happen only on a system level when the parts interact with each other (e.g. audio from the speakers might make the keyboard rattle, which is something the speaker design team wouldn't know before the product prototypes are put together). This also involves visiting manufacturers in various countries to oversee the prototype builds.


Secrecy

Believe it or not, Apple employees actually go through "Secrecy Training", where you're taught how important it is to keep shush. The company is obsessed with secrets: even employees in one division don't know what anyone else is working on. In fact, you might not even see the product you're working on if your work doesn't depend on it. It's a unique feeling to be developing something that the world wants to see but can't, but on the other hand it can be frustrating not being able to discuss your work beyond "Yep, I do product design at Apple." There's also a certain anxiety associated with keeping these secrets. There are occasions where you can see managers scrambling because somebody leaked something they weren't supposed to talk about. On the whole, it makes the job quite exciting.


Versatility

As the PD team deals with all mechanical parts that go into the product, there's the opportunity to work on various different things. This is where being an intern actually gives you an edge. Over my time at Apple, I worked on motherboards, fans, speakers, batteries and USB ports, all in the course of a year (while full-time hires were responsible for one of those each). Since Apple is such a large company, you inevitably need to interact with other teams too. So at different points in my time there, I worked with the Apple machine shop (called the Product Realisation Lab – one of the coolest places to be for a mechanical engineer), Design Validation, Reliability Lab and various product-level teams. As you get more senior, you get more focused as you take ownership of a single part of the product, and then later in your career your work gets broad again once you're a Product Lead or Manager.


The Perks

These actually vary slightly depending on your role, but most things are common. There are lots of discounts off tech gadgets (specially Apple and Beats), you get free dinner after 7pm, business-class work-related flights, fancy hotels, and free Apple accessories and work phone. Apple also helps you commute with shuttles and bike-purchasing schemes in order to minimize the carbon footprint (although there are still hundreds of cars parked outside the Apple campus everyday). Lastly, not technically a perk but you get this at very few companies, Apple is very well-respected by its vendors because it's their one big source of revenue. This means you get special treatment and super-quick turnarounds from any vendors. Ultimately, you get to spend more of your time addressing the real problems and less time worrying about admin and logistics when communicating with other companies.


Overall

I stayed at Apple for a year between my Bachelors and Masters degrees, and always look back at it as one of my coolest experiences. The thrill of developing a product for thousands of people in an environment where you meet smart people every day is something special, and you learn not only hard technical skills but also get practice in project management. If you're studying a science subject (particuarly engineering) at university, I would highly recommend applying.