Apple’s machine learning director quits over return to office policy

Director of machine learning Ian Goodfellow announced his resignation last week, telling colleagues that the company’s return-to-work in the office for three days per week was the reason he was leaving.

Apple Park in Cupertino, California
Apple Park in Cupertino, California

Theo Wayt for The New York Post:

The news comes as Apple orders all corporate employees to return to the office for three days per week — a stricter policy than Big Tech competitors like Meta, Google and Amazon, which are allowing at least some employees to work remotely forever.

“I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” Goodfellow wrote in a goodbye note… One Apple employee quoted Goodfellow as saying, “I’m leaving for many reasons… but Apple’s return to office policy is the biggest single reason.”

Apple is requiring employees to work in-person on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Employees are also allowed to work fully remotely for up to four weeks per year…

The Post previously reported in April that Cook’s return-to-office push was driving some corporate employees out the door, with one staffer ranting, “I don’t give a single f—k about ever coming back to work here.”

MacDailyNews Take: Interestingly, Goodfellow leaves just after hitting the three year mark with Apple, a nice round number, which leads us to wonder what his stock option vesting schedule looked like.

Was Goodfellow planning all along to leave at this time anyway, but – hey, what the heck; no skin off my nose – decided to leave a parting gift to the relative handful of lazy “Apple Together” employees who dream of “working” (as in: not much) from home indefinitely?

As we wrote last month:

Puleeze. Can the crap.

The only people who complain of having to go into the office to actually work for three whole days are, to use the scientific parlance: lazy assholes.

So, Apple’s management should collectively grow a pair and promptly extend a parting cordiality to the “Apple Together” wannabe layabouts: Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

As we wrote nearly a year ago (!):

Employees who don’t want to return to work in person should pound sand either of their own volition or via pink slip.

“The inclusivity that flexibility brings?” Bullshit nonsense.

Returning to offices in early September is already ridiculously late.

There are literally millions of qualified, talented, driven people who would gladly work five – gasp! – whole days a week in the office for Apple.

Get back to work or get lost.

Successful companies like Apple don’t run on layabouts who’ve already enjoyed a very lengthy year-plus extended vacation and who are now ruined.

If these employees don’t quickly wake and wise up, cut them loose, Apple. Swing the axe, don’t coddle them.

• I do not adopt softness towards others because I want to make them better. — Steve Jobs

• Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. — Steve Jobs

• “A” players attract “A” players. “B” players attract “C” players. — Steve Jobs

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  1. Machine learning, huh? The contributions he and his team might have made, I doubt would have been much recongnizable by any of Apple’s consumers anyway.

  2. I have a number of friends who are software engineers who say, “I will never work in an office again” — There is an abundance of remote jobs in the field, so there is no need to resort to an office job . . . Given this trend, the industry needs to develop the next generation of collaboration tools beyond Zoom, Slack, or Microsoft Teams (I consider these all to be “first generation,” and not sufficient for full online collaboration). . . On the other hand, I understand Apple has a number of projects that require secrecy, and need people on site — the reality is that Apple will have a smaller pool of talent to choose from than in past decades.

    1. There is no substitute for in person collaboration. Apple is being very reasonablein by only requiring 24 hours a week in the office, but those 24 hours are critical to cross pollination of thoughts.

      I doubt Apple has many “code monkeys” that only write software to a pre defined sp that is extremely detailed and must t be followed explicitly or else. Someone like that could be remote 100% of the time — if and only if they produce a significant amount of viable code each and every work day.

      Personally, I don’t believe in hiring “code monkeys” at all. Every team member is expected to innovate and make suggestions to better the systems and the end products.

      1. First, Apple employees are likely working more than 8 hours a day, but even so, a bay-area commute probably adds at least an hour each way, bringing this up to a minimum of 30 hours for only 24 hours of work. Any benefits of in-office work accrue almost exclusively to the employer, but the employee bears almost all of the cost—the main cost being a frustrating, lengthy commute. I’m no longer willing to bear that cost.

        While there’s no substitute for in-person collaboration for CERTAIN goals, the majority of my work benefits from longer, uninterrupted periods of focus that—based on two decades in the workforce—DO NOT HAPPEN in an office. My overall work product is better when I’m not going into an office, and my work relationships are stronger when I’m not spending all day managing petty perception issues that ought not but inevitably do matter.

        As for cross-pollination, you just have to make an active effort to solicit feedback from your colleagues. “Do you have 15 minutes sometime this afternoon?” is far less intrusive and interruptive over Slack compared to someone standing over you at your desk.

        MDN’s cynical takes on this are really over-the-top. Most of Apple’s employees are salary, meaning they have a set slate of responsibilities that either ARE or AREN’T getting done. If someone’s work isn’t getting done, forcing everyone else into the office isn’t going to fix it. Put the underperformer on probation, and leave the rest of us alone.

  3. Quitting a decent job simply because they have to go into the office seems a bit overboard. The person must be some sort of diva or something. Surely, the person must have worked in an office before, yet now they feel no need to do so. Oh, well. That’s their choice so that’s that. I suppose a talented employee can negotiate any sort of arrangement that’s suits them. I wasn’t that fortunate. When I was working it was essential to come into the office as it was the norm. I don’t ever remember hearing anyone demanding they wanted to work from home.

  4. Being in one place (office) seems like an odd requirement for an AI focus position at this level. Impt for in-office collaboration? Yes…but mostly for face-to-face collaboration at points of project confirmation, imo. In some ways this should/could and seemingly would be a position where complete remote operation would be entirely consistent with an AI Dept?

    Only 3 yrs at a such a professional level seems more indicative of a prob…esp after hearing there were other reasons marking the departure. Apple’s employee flux seem more regular than past yrs…which is more problematic, if true (?).

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