Other articles about my Apple career:
- How I ended up at Apple (1999)
- My first job at Apple: AppleCare (1999-2000)
- >>>>> Interviewing for the Mail team (2000)
- Mail team: Technical support (2000-2004)
- Mail team: QA (2000-2004)
- Aperture: Senior QA (2004-2005)
- Eye Candy QA (2005-2011)
Sometime in the summer of 2000, I interviewed with the Mail team.
I never intended to work in software engineering but I desperately wanted to work on Mac OS X, which was working on releasing the Public Beta within a few months. So a bunch of interviews with the Mail team.
The short summary is I sweated and laughed a lot. I alternated between being certain I was getting the job to being sure I wasn’t.
My most intimidating interview was with Scott Forstall, who was then was the head of applications and frameworks and the manager of the Mail team reported to him. This is what the entire interview was like:
Scott: It’s your first day in your new job, what are you going to do?
Me: Uh, let me make up some stuff on the fly while I sweat and write things on the whiteboard
Scott (expressionless and not acknowledging what I said): Ok, then what would you do?
Me: See above
Scott: See above
What made it extra fun was that the job description was fairly generic and I’d never held a position like this before in my life. I seem to recall this was my first interview so I was not feeling great out of the gate!
Another uncomfortable interview was with Julie Zelenski, who, like Scott, was a master of the expressionless face. Although Julie was even harder to read and had an almost bored expression on her face. I don’t remember what she asked.
An interview with Ben Haller also made me sweat. His expression always seemed to be communicating that what I was saying was not exactly what he was looking for.
My interview with Paul Marcos was a blast and I recall it stretched out for more than an hour. We were in his office and he was actively working on the preferences panel for Mail that they were redoing. Since I was peering over at it, he talked about it a bit and then started asking for my opinions on things.
I was also interviewed by Kwok Lau, head of Software Engineering Operations and thought she was a wonderful person (and she was!). Finally, I was interviewed by Bertrand Serlet, head of the Mac OS X engineering team. His French accent was quite tricky even though I knew French. I liked his energy and enthusiasm for the technology. I don’t remember much other than he didn’t make me sweat too much. 🙂
How do you think this should be worded? Should we have a preference for this? How does this look visually? Could this be organized better?
I was not expecting that I could ever contribute to a software product in such a way. That I could propose things or criticize things and effect change on a product. Amazing. My whole career up to that point had been in technical support style positions where you are basically cleaning up the mess after a product ships and no one ever asks for your input.
After the interviews, I was definitely interested but felt that more of them went poorly than went well. As an aside, I was also interviewing for another position in a newly created group called Customer Seeding.
Amazingly, I was offered both positions. The Mail team was exciting to me, but intimidating and I worried I was in over my head. The Customer Seeding team was more support-like and so it was more in my comfort zone. Plus, being only the second hire on the team after the manager was an opportunity to shape things.
Scott Forstall was relentless in trying to convince me. He would contact me often and I visited the Mail team a couple times as I was deciding. He would see me there and pull me aside to pressure me more. I’ll write more about Scott later, but one of his greatest qualities was that he took recruiting very seriously and if he liked someone, he would do everything to get them.
I can’t deny that it was flattering to me. I didn’t know how much I would interact with Scott day-to-day (turns out it was a lot!), but I liked him and it weighed into my decision. A small aside is that an unnamed person told me before I was hired that I should never trust what Scott says. Intrigue.
Paul Marcos was a big factor in my decision. I got along with him instantly and thoroughly enjoyed debating various technical topics with him during the interview. I learned a lot in the interview and he later revealed himself to be the best mentor I could ever have hoped for.
Mail was always my first choice but I wanted to be sure so I thought about it quite awhile before I accepted the job. The next four years would prove that I made one of my best career decisions ever.