Former Apple managers discuss hectic work culture: "These people are nuts. They're just there all the time."

Infinite Loop !

On the most recent episode of the Debug podcast (iTunes link here), former Apple managers Don Melton and Nitin Ganatra got together and discussed, amongst a slew of other fascinating topics, the hectic and always-on work schedule that comes with being a manager at Apple.

The entire podcast is a must-listen and is chock full of interesting anecdotes about what it's like to work at Apple, how the culture at Apple shifted once Steve Jobs returned, how Apple executives are 24/7 work machines, and much, much more.

In a particularly interesting excerpt, the two talk about how the work week at Apple, for them, effectively began on Sunday because Apple executives famously get together for a meeting every Monday morning. Melton, who worked under and reported to former Apple executive Scott Forstall, calls Forstall was "the most prepared person I've ever met in my life." And so naturally, working under a guy like that provided little room for relaxation.

Starting at about 23 minutes in to the podcast, the two discuss:

Melton: Because it's, you know, the exec meeting the next day. So you had your phone out there, you were sitting in front of your computer. It didn't matter if your favorite show was on.

This was especially worse after The Sopranos ended because for a while there you could count on the hour that The Sopranos was on that Scott wouldn't bug you 'cause he was watching The Sopranos. And that was your reprieve. You could go to the bathroom, you could have a conversation with your family, you know, whatever.

And Scott was a late-night kind of guy. He was not a morning guy at all. he was a late night guy. You were basically on until, like, 2 o'clock in the morning. How many times were you fielding emails from him at 1:30 or 2:00?

Ganatra: You know, that's the interesting thing. Maybe we can piece together the way Scott actually worked on Sunday from this. But I remember my emails from Scott started at about 11:00 am on Sunday. And if they didn't start at 11:00 on Sunday, then I always kind of felt he must be doing something fun today...

Later on, the two discuss the incredible work ethic one needs not just to thrive at Apple, but to survive. Not surprisingly, Melton says that "there is no way you can cruise through a job at Apple. That just does not happen for anybody I've ever seen."

Melton: And by the way, when you hear the so called apocryphal stories about Tim Cook coming to work at the wee hours and staying late, it's not just some PR person telling you stories to make you think that Apple executives work really hard like that. They really do that. I mean, these people are nuts. They're just, they are there all the time. I know that for Bertrand, certainly when he was there, you would never know what time of the day or night you would get email from that man.

Ganatra: I mean, he didn't really make it a secret, either, that I don't think he slept more than three or four hours a night, right?

Melton: And neither did Steve.

Ganatra: You get an email forwarded to you that's not to you. It's from Scott, but it's a forward from Steve and it's just coming at this crazy hour, right? You just know that there's this firehose of emails that are just going out at 2:45 in the morning and there are VPs or executive VPs who are scrambling to get answers. And that was just week after week, month after month, over the years.


Melton: It's a stressful job, there's a lot of responsibility, and you always have to be on. I mean, it's not that it's not fun, it's not that it's not fulfilling, it's not that you don't get to work around all these brilliant people. The bad side effect is they're all like workaholic, psychotic brilliant people.

And I've also tried to explain to people by using analogy, 'cause they ask, "What's it like being around Steve and Avie [Tevanian] and Bertrand and Scott and Phil and Tim ?"

And I said it's a lot like working in a nuclear power plant but you don't get one of those protective suits. It's a lot of radiation and you either learn to survive it or you die. Because they're not mean people, they're not spiteful people, they're not trying to trip you up, They're just very intense and, you know, things emanate from them, right?

Ganatra: Right, they're intense. They're looking for the answers, you have the answer, and you cannot get the answer to them soon enough.

Melton: That is the best description of that I think I have ever heard, Nitin. That is just so true. That's exactly it.

Again, that's just a small taste of what the entire podcast has to offer. Download it, stream it. Somehow, someway, listen to it!