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Employees offer mixed reactions to Apple corporate life

Employees from Apple Computer, Inc. offered mixed reactions to their experiences working for the company, a recent survey by New York-based research firm Vault revealed.

The survey, which polled employees on corporate culture, compensation, the recruiting/hiring process, and business outlook, aims to give investors and jobseekers insight into the company's business operations.

For the most part, employees were upbeat on Apple's workplace experience, citing corporate diversity and shared passion for the company's products as some of the pluses.

"It was like working for something very special - the spirit was in everyone of us - the jobs differed from one day to the next and this made and makes it still exciting," said one employee who works for the company in Munich, Germany. Another employee, based in Sacremento, said, "A totally awesome team of people working in the Sacramento complex. Everyone is respectful, intelligent, and good at executing. Diversity and dress code are the best parts of the company culture, as well as the emotional energy around the product that drives everyone."

And while most employees enjoyed the leisurely dress code and excitement associated with the company, they cited a lack of compensation and difficulties climbing the corporate ladder.

"I never dressed nicer than sweat pants. I often came in whatever I slept in the night before and walked around the office barefoot. Nobody cared." said a customer solutions specialist who works for Apple in Austin, TX. But the opportunities for advancement were not that great, the employee said. "There were a lot of communications problems. Micro management to the extreme. I had six different supervisors that did not communicate together and gave me six different answers."

Another employee remarked on the lack of consumer focus in the workplace.

"There is a definite lack of emphasis on customers," said the employee, who holds a senior management position. The employee wrote that there is "a significant fear factor perpetuated of the CEO" by "empire building dinosaurs who operate in antiquated modes and only promote their favorites." The same employee said it's a company policy "not to take notes in meetings," which can make it "quite daunting" to try to operate under such "impossible circumstances."

Meanwhile, a product manager stationed at Apple's home-base in Cupertino sums up Apple as the average conservative company, which works its employees "to the bone" without enough compensation. "When I started it felt like Apple knew my name and what I did," the employee wrote, "but now am nothing more than employee XXX."

These sentiments were echoed by several employees responding to questions on salary and incentives. While those employees higher up in Apple's corporate hierarchy seemed pleased or content with their pay, a significant number of other employees complained about a lack of bonuses, raises, and stock options. Said one Apple product manager, "$59k a year with a 60 hour work week minimum. No bonuses. No stock options. No cell phone expense. Not what I would consider industry standard."

Almost all the employees who responded to questions about Apple's hiring process said their interviews were relaxed and short, ranging from 20 minutes to two hours. "The interview questions were basic, as my working knowledge of contract terms and clauses. I was surprised more technical, software related questions were not posed," said one employee now working in Cupertino.

Overall, most employees are bullish on Apple's corporate outlook and feel the company will survive if it continues to innovate in industrial design and develop unique products like the AirPort and iPod.

Said one employee, "Apple has its challenges for market share, and will never compete directly with Dell or HP. Instead, the focus is on creativity and the Digital Hub. Products such as the iPod are keeping us profitable during the economic downturn. If Apple continues to develop innovative and quality products like the iPod, then the long term picture should be secure."

A complete collection of the survey results from Apple employees is available at Vault's Web site.