Why some of the best tech talent is passing on Apple

Some people just want to be yelled at by Steve Jobs.

Why engineers want to don't want to work for Apple
REUTERS /Robert Galbraith

Tim Cook is doing his darnedest to run Apple and become the one successful CEO of the company not named Steve Jobs. But he's got a problem, according to the UK's Guardian: he's not Steve, and that's making it harder for Apple to recruit talent.

Several Silicon Valley talent recruiters told the Guardian that Apple is no longer seen as the best place for engineers to work. Top talent is opting for Facebook, Alphabet, Uber, and Airbnb, say recruiters.

See also: 10 mind-blowing facts about Apple's product design

The reasons? One is Apple's high-stress culture and cult of secrecy, which runs in sharp contrast to other workplaces. Stories about the Area 51-like secrecy are legend. Employees in one group have no idea what another group is working on, and are often unwilling to be seen together at lunch because the Apple Stasi would suspect them of blabbing. Word is that Cook has lightened up on that a bit.

The other problem is the absence of Steve Jobs. The cult of personality is gone with the man.

"Apple's not an engineering culture," said Michael Solomon, the co-founder of 10x, an engineering talent management firm. "Tim Cook's done an amazing job running the company, but [Steve Jobs] was the guy everyone wanted to follow into battle."

So, at Apple, people can't talk about their work (and engineers love to brag), perks fall short in comparison to Facebook and Google, its iconic leader is gone, and it is located much further south from San Francisco, where younger people want to live (despite the $4,200 per month rent). It's a perfect storm of challenges.

That hardly means that Apple is getting the B- students. It's still one of the top places to work, and can get good programmers. It pays engineers well, and the Guardian notes it's the largest corporation in the world, not a venture-backed private company such as Uber or Airbnb, which could easily stumble.

The problem is Apple's changing reputation among young programmers. A company once seen as a disruptor is now seen as boring, merely iterating on the iPhone. And that's going to be a problem for Apple, not just with the young talent it wants to hire, but everyone.

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