Why I retired from Apple
Today is the one year anniversary of my last day at Apple. It’s Sunday now but it was a Friday back then. And that evening I was given a very warm sendoff by my crew and many others at the Fruit Company.
Several folks on the Safari and WebKit teams produced a video in order to more thoroughly embarrass me. Which didn’t work because I’m beyond embarrassment. But the experience was great. I loved it.
My wife and son joined me for the going-away party. I think it was a shock to my son to see how I was regarded at work. Of course, that didn’t mean he started respecting me at home but, hey, a man can dream.
Seeing all those folks that night—that last week, really—was so bittersweet. I still don’t know how many I’ll ever see again. If there’s one thing I miss most about Apple, it’s the people. They were always the best thing about the place.
Not that Apple was some kind of gulag, mind you. You got the chance to change the world there. And you did. Your work mattered. It was interesting and, as they say, challenging. Certainly no shortage of it either.
It’s Sunday night as I publish this. That means it’s a working night for most managers at Apple. Even more so for Director-level personnel like I was.
Why? Our veeps had to be ready for the big status and planning meeting on Monday morning and we had to be available to help them. Steve always had the meeting then. I assume to set the tone and the pace for the week. Good idea, really. I doubt that’s changed now.
It’s not like other folks there weren’t working nights and weekends too. Many of my engineers worked longer and harder than I did. It was a busy place. By our choice.
But I don’t miss any of the work.
What surprised me after I retired was not missing the control and authority I had, such as it was. My ego remained intact. And I didn’t feel diminished. I woke up February 18 without any minions. Of course, I woke up that morning without any obligations either.
Why did I retire? People often ask me that. When I’m feeling boorish I just say, “Because I could.”
The truth is I was done.
I accomplished far more there than I expected. And I had no dreams of greater power and glory, if such a thing were available to me. When I looked inside myself, I didn’t see ambition or even drive to continue. I’m not sure how that happened. Maybe I was just tired.
And when you’re responsible for so many people, you owe them more than that. Better to step aside and let others have their turn. So I did.
It’s not like I wanted to leave and start my own software business. People always assume I have some massive entrepreneurial spirit. But I’m not like that at all. At my core, I’m just a tinkerer who got very lucky.
I refer to myself here as a “recovering programmer.” That simply means I no longer pursue engineering as a primary activity. And that I’m self aware enough to know that I’ll occasionally fall off the wagon and start coding again.
But if there’s anything I do aspire to, it’s being a writer. So far it’s been hit and miss with maintaining that activity. It turns out writing is even harder than engineering. Who knew?
Even though my first month of floundering around, thick-fingered on this blog got me over a half million page views, I’m not vain enough to think it’s my snappy prose that drew the visitors. It was the subject matter.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t ever really leave Apple.