Having only fairly recently completed its massive Apple Park campus in Cupertino, Apple’s now “ramping up” efforts to decentralize its workforce, says Mark Gurman in his latest “Power On” column for Bloomberg.
This means reluctantly embracing the idea that not everyone wants to live and work in Silicon Valley. While Apple execs have supposedly fought against this way of thinking for years, recruitment challenges are now causing them to reassess the situation.
The push beyond Silicon Valley
Gurman writes that:
“Apple realizes it can no longer wait for the best designers and engineers to gravitate toward its spaceship. It needs to go where those people live today. Apple no longer has the same scrappy feel it had in the early days of the iPhone. It’s now the world’s most valuable company, under the watchful eye of antitrust regulators on multiple continents, and competing for talent with Amazon.com Inc., Google and Netflix Inc.”
Insisting on everyone — or as many people as possible — working in Cupertino could also adversely affect Apple in other ways. For one thing, it may hurt the company’s ability to build a diverse workforce. This is something Apple has talked about (and made progress in) for some time. But getting more people from underrepresented communities to work at Apple means not assuming that everyone is going to want to live in the ultra-pricey San Francisco Bay Area.
More cynically, having a decentralized workforce means Apple can get more employees at lower salaries by recruiting in less expensive areas to live. In other cases, more focus on decentralization could mean hiring top talent who have the option of going anywhere, and may let geography sway their decision-making.
Who’s driving this?
Gurman writes that:
“Johny Srouji, Apple’s head of custom silicon, was one of the strongest proponents of such a shift, I’m told. His group opened up offices in Florida, Massachusetts, Texas, Israel and parts of Asia years ago. It has since expanded in Germany, Oregon and San Diego.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s online services chief, has also pushed for decentralization, investing in multiple Los Angeles offices and a location in Nashville. The chief operating officer, Jeff Williams, has internally discussed the cost benefits of a more global workforce, and Deirdre O’Brien, the retail and HR chief, has evangelized for the diversity benefits.”
Designed by Apple in California
To be clear, Apple — despite its “Designed by Apple in California” mantra — has never been entirely Silicon Valley-centric. Right from the earliest days of the company, there were offices in other markets like Singapore and Ireland. Over time, Apple has added more and more regional offices.
But scaling up its decentralized US operations seems newer. Gurman writes that the initiative to do this is in “full swing” right now. There is currently an expansion “from the sunny coasts of LA and San Diego to the Pacific Northwest of Oregon and Washington, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Iowa’s Midwest, the Eastern Seaboard of Massachusetts, Miami and New York.”
On top of this, it is building big new campuses in Austin, Texas, and North Carolina. In total, this expansion could add “tens of thousands of jobs” not located in Silicon Valley. Even in Cupertino, however, the classic centralized model may be breaking down. Post-COVID, Tim Cook has announced a hybrid office and remote work arrangement. Under those rules, staff would work three days a week in the office. The other two could be spent working from home. But not everyone is happy about being asked to return to the office.