Apple exec quits after being made to come back to the office two days
Apple’s head of machine learning becomes the most senior figure to quit in protest after being forced to go back to the office three days a week
- Ian Goodfellow, director of machine learning at Apple, has resigned in protest at the company forcing staff back to the office three days a week
- Goodfellow is believed to be the most senior employee to quit so far, amid widespread dissatisfaction at Apple’s policy
- Google requires most employees back three days a week, but staff can request exceptions: Twitter, Slack and Facebook all welcome remote working if possible
- Apple staff surveyed from April 13-19 were overwhelmingly against their policy, with 67 percent dissatisfied with the return to the office plan
A senior director at Apple has quit his job in protest at the company demanding staff return to the office three days a week.
Ian Goodfellow, the director of machine learning, is believed to be the most senior employee to resign so far as a result of the plan.
On April 11, the company began mandating one day a week in the office – a requirement that rose to two days on May 2. By May 23, all staff had to be at their desks three days a week.
A survey of Apple workers from April 13-19 found 67 percent saying they were dissatisfied with the return-to-office policy, Fortune reported.
And Goodfellow, in his resignation note, said he would not do it.
‘I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,’ he said, according to The Verge.
Ian Goodfellow, Apple’s director of machine learning, has quit in protest at their policies forcing people back to their offices three days a week
Apples’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, are pictured
One Apple staffer speculated that Goodfellow’s departure comes ahead of a potential announcement that the company will increase the in-person work requirement up to five days per week.
‘Everyone and their grandma knows Apple is using the pilot as a stepping stone to 5 days back in office,’ the Apple employee wrote on Blind, which verifies employment through corporate email addresses.
‘Ian probably got inside scoop that this is coming and left.’
The tech news site described Goodfellow as the most-cited expert in machine learning – a type of artificial intelligence, which involves the study of computer algorithms that can improve automatically both through experience and by the use of data. As a result, the applications become better at predicting outcomes.
Goodfellow joined Apple in March 2019, and describes himself on LinkedIn as ‘an industry leader in machine learning.’
The tech analyst is referred to as ‘the father of general adversarial networks, or GANs,’ according to the website 9to5Mac – pioneering technology which can be used generate fake media content.
His salary is unclear, but he is likely to earn in excess of $270,000 a year according to Insider and Glassdoor.com, given his director status and high profile within the tech world.
After graduating from Stanford in 2009 with a degree in computer science, Goodfellow studied for a PhD in machine learning at the University of Montreal.
He worked at Google on their ‘Google Brain’ team, then joined OpenAI, a research institute founded in 2015 by Elon Musk and several others.
Goodfellow returned to Google, then joined Apple.
At the time he joined Apple, he was 34 and described by The Verge as ‘young to be an AI researcher with so much clout.’
They described his hiring as a coup for Apple.
He is likely to be in high demand following his resignation from the Cupertino-based company.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is seen at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has been adamant about the return to office of his employees – unlike other Silicon Valley firms.
In early March, he wrote to staff saying they needed to prepare to return.
‘In the coming weeks and months, we have an opportunity to combine the best of what we have learned about working remotely with the irreplaceable benefits of in-person collaboration,’ Cook said in the memo, according to Bloomberg.
‘It is as important as ever that we support each other through this transition, through the challenges we face as a team and around the world.’
Cook acknowledged that not everyone was excited at the prospect.
‘For many of you, I know that returning to the office represents a long-awaited milestone and a positive sign that we can engage more fully with the colleagues who play such an important role in our lives,’ Cook said.
‘For others, it may also be an unsettling change.’
After the announcement, employees in internal forums vowed to quit.
‘I don’t give a single f*** about ever coming back to work here,’ one Apple employee ranted on corporate message board Blind, according to The New York Post.
‘I’m going to go in to say hello and meet everyone since I haven’t since I started and then sending in my resignation when I get home.
‘I already know I won’t be able to deal with the commute and sitting around for 8 hours.’
Another Apple employee responded with a laughing emoji and wrote: ‘I’m gonna do the same.’
A third replied: ‘Hell YEAH my man let’s do this! F*** RTO.’
Twitter, by contrast, decided to allow staff to work remotely forever, if they choose – although that may change under Musk’s new ownership.
In March, Parag Agrawal, the CEO, told staff that the policy of his predecessor Jack Dorsey, allowing staff to work remotely forever, would remain.
Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal (left) and co-founder Jack Dorsey (right) have both been supportive of remote working
Elon Musk, who has agreed a deal to buy Twitter, has mocked the company’s policy of allowing staffers to work remotely forever, and some believe he may reverse it when he takes over
‘As we open back up, our approach remains the same,’ Agrawal said.
‘Wherever you feel most productive and creative is where you will work and that includes working from home full-time forever.
‘Office every day? That works too. Some days in office, some days from home? Of course.’
Slack has followed suit, allowing remote working permanently.
At Facebook, the parent company Meta announced in the summer of 2020 that all full-time employees could apply to work from home if their jobs allowed it.
Facebook’s executives have been making the most of the arrangement, The Wall Street Journal reported, with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg spending significant amounts of time away from the Menlo Park headquarters and more time in Hawaii.
Alex Schultz, chief marketing officer, plans to move to the United Kingdom, according to a company spokesperson, while Guy Rosen, the company’s vice president of integrity, will be moving to Israel.
Naomi Gleit, Meta’s head of product and one of its longest-tenured employees, has relocated to New York, while Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has been working remotely from locations including Hawaii, Los Angeles and Cape Cod, the paper said.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is demanding a return to the office of all staff three days a week
Apple and Google are the outliers, with Google also demanding in March that workers had to come back into the office three days a week from April 4.
The offer includes the caveat that employees could take pay cuts if they leave the San Francisco Bay Area or New York City for less expensive parts of the country.
An open letter signed by more than 1,050 Apple employees past and present urged leaders at the company to rethink their plans.
‘You have characterized the decision for the Hybrid Working Pilot as being about combining the ‘need to commune in-person’ and the value of flexible work,’ the letter states.
‘But in reality, it does not recognize flexible work and is only driven by fear. Fear of the future of work, fear of worker autonomy, fear of losing control.’
They write that working remotely allows them to engage with colleagues in Europe and Asia effortlessly, and argue that allowing remote work encourages diversity in the workforce. They also complain about the commute to the office, and the frustration at the waste of time.
‘We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, yet, we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely?’ they write.
‘How can we expect our customers to take that seriously? How can we understand what problems of remote work need solving in our products if we don’t live it?’
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