It has not been a secret– finally– I left Apple after 7 years. I waited until my last day to publish the news to lots of my friends and coworkers. Most of them were shocked. But personally, I am happy that I made this decision, as what I did to join this company.
In 2009, I just gruaduated from university and was converted from a part time animator to full time production assistant as soon as I get out the door of the school. Lot of my classmates were still worrying about their job hunting, whike I was on my way to Xinjiang Province to shoot my forth documentary.
However, on my second trip to Xinjiang, 5th July, I encountered a bloody riot, in which hundreds innoncents were killed under day light. The crew hid in our hostel aNSO the production was stalled. Communication to outside world was cut, so I could not contact my family to tell them I was alive. Sitting alone in my room, as a fresh undergraduate who has little experience with such thing, I, for the first time, felt fear, a feeling that emphasizes the other feelings in your mind, such as sadness, regret and anger. I was angry that I might not make it in such a young age, and that dreams that I had had since a kid might not come true. At that time, I was seeing someone, he was my first, even though, from what I see now, it is almost nothing, but the possible relationship was my only purpose to survive in such an environment filled with terror. I literally said, “how can I die before I finish this relationship?”
Fortunately, I got back to Beijing with the rest of the crew, but this event changed my view about job: it should not be the alpha of my life, it should be part of my behavior, my value and myself. Then I left the crew in which I spent most of my weekend during college.
With my connection to creative industry, I could found jobs pretty quick, but still I send out a lot of application to the company that I like. Apple was one of them.
At that time, Apple just started to grow in China. Chinese iPhone still did not have wifi module and Apple Store Sanlitun was the only store in the entire country. The recruiter called at the end of 2009 and invited me to an interview. Soon, in early 2010, I got the offer.
One day I called one of my aunt to consult her whether taking the offer is reasonable, since it meant to give up what I had built in media industry. I presumed that she might have more intelligence about the development of the industry of media or high tech, since she works with a lot of high profile people in Beijing. I tried to explain my logic, cons and pros, but even before I can finish my words, she cut me off and gave me a “lesson” with her bearucretic voice and claimed that this offer would waste my time and I should stay in media in which I didn’t see my future, even if she does not have any experience with media and high tech industry. I hanged up the phone politely, but then have never talked with her ever since. In March 2010, I joined Apple.
In a new environment, mistakes are inevitable, but they should not be the break points to determin whether you are in the right company for you. I was waiting, too, for a sign to show me that this company is a place for me.
In 2011, a summer night, it was almost the end of my shift. I was waiting for the last reservation assigned to me at Genius Bar. A family, parents with a boy and a girl, came up. The issue was an iPod. It just won’t turn on. After probing, I tried every way to restore it, but none worked.
So I explained that there were 2 solution for them. One was to swap an iPod with the same model. This would roughly take 700RMB. The other one was to recycle this iPod so that we can give a 10% discount for them to buy a new iPod with newer model.
The kids looked appealed with the 2nd solution, but the mother insisted to repair. Of course, I followed the mother’s decision and started to work on the repair authorization. The kids, naturally, were not happy, so the father took them to check out our products. Then the mother started to explain why she chose to go for repair.
She said, “these are 2 kids, if I buy a new iPod for one, how can I not buy the same for another? However, the father was diagnosed with leukemia and is receiving treatment, which is quite expensive. The kids are not mature enough to understand the situation.” Growing up in a blended family with my step brother whose father died of Hepatitis, I strongly resonated with her words.
After she signed the repair authorization, which suggested 700RMB cost, I said, “I am almost done. I am really sorry for what happened to her husband and I will do really quick so that you can head home and have some rest.” After excusing myself with the mother, I talked with my Senior Manager, Eddy at that time, gave him a brief about the situation. He asked what I suggested to do. I said, “I came from a family like that, it might not be too much, but would definitely give the family strength, if I can apply a customer service code, so that they would be exempt from charge. I believe this is a right situation to use the code.”
Eventually Eddy supported, joking, “please tell her kids, when they grow up, come to work for us.”
With the code, I prepared a new repair authorization for the mother to sign. When she put down the pen, I helped them check out the new iPod and said it was all done. She asked where to pay. I said, “No need for this time, both Apple and myself know it is not much, but we both hope the situation can get better. Have a good night.”
Then I headed back to the Back of House to get ready for home. When I exited the door of the store, I saw that they were still waiting for me to say thank you. That night, I felt I had found the right thing to do.
During the 7 years with Apple, I realized a lot of my dreams and values within my work. However, as the company evolved, I more and more felt it is a barrier for me. I am not saying that I did not enjoy working with the team, I still do. Eventually, when I left, the saddest part was leaving my coworker/friends. But I want to do more in my list. Lots of people told me that a job is just a job, I thought so but I don’t now. In such an impasse, I got pushed to my limit by one change in my team. I’m not going to specify it, but it reminded how important the alignment between my personal value and the value of my work. So I left the company I loved in April 2017.
Yes it was scary and tough, but, as the time passes, I feel relived. Once the pressure is off, I get more done with my own businesses and projects which I value and is on my list.
What is my takeaway here,
1, Value yourself. You are the owner of your job, not the employer. Look for signs in your first serveral months to prove that the culture and mission of company align with yours, not the other way around.
2, Be honest to yourself. Everything we see was surrounded by halo, which most likely misguides us. When you see or hear things that break your bottom line, research, find and honor the truth for yourself with a right decision.
3, Think thoroughly about you. The answer might sometimes be so obvious that you might not see it or might just ignore it. Ask people who you trust and who would tell truth about what they see in you, what you do better than others, what you do worse than others, what you have done. All these answers can help you figure out what you really love to do. That passion point should be what you look for in your next job.
Check out more about my adventure, list and projects at http://renechen.me.