Ap­ple’s new tool in tal­ent wars

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TECHNOLOGY - By JU­LIA LOVE

FROM Ap­ple’s ear­li­est days, ex­ec­u­tives in­sisted that em­ploy­ees work from its head­quar­ters in sleepy sub­ur­ban Cu­per­tino, Cal­i­for­nia.

The think­ing, cham­pi­oned by Steve Jobs, was that a cen­tralised cam­pus would put the CEO “within walk­ing dis­tance of ev­ery­one”, said Steve Woz­niak, who founded the com­pany with Jobs.

That stance may fi­nally be soft­en­ing as Ap­ple pre­pares to open chic new of­fices in San Fran­cisco’s high- rent South of Mar­ket neigh­bour­hood, which has spawned scores of promis­ing star­tups.

Ap­ple’s de­ci­sion to plant a flag in San Fran­cisco, 74 traf­fic- choked kilo­me­tres north of its head­quar­ters, comes years af­ter sim­i­lar moves from ri­val tech firms such as Google and LinkedIn and marks a turn­ing point in Ap­ple’s will­ing­ness to ac­com­mo­date work­ers, ac­cord­ing to re­cruiters and for­mer em­ploy­ees.

The move is one sign of the in­ten­si­fy­ing war for tech tal­ent – and of the over­whelm­ing pref­er­ence of younger tech work­ers to live and work in the city, with its vi­brant nightlife and pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

The two floors Ap­ple has leased in a build­ing mostly oc­cu­pied by CBS In­ter­ac­tive of­fer abun­dant open space and ex­posed ceil­ings, the pre­ferred tech aes­thetic.

As Ap­ple’s Sil­i­con Val­ley ri­vals dan­gled perks to woo work­ers in the lat­est tech boom, the iPhone maker mostly held firm – the com­pany still does not of­fer free lunch, and it was among the last com­pa­nies to op­er­ate shut­tles to and from the city.

Those com­pany- paid char­ter buses to the val­ley ap­peased work­ers for a time, but the nov­elty has faded, said re­cruiter Andy Price of ex­ec­u­tive search firm SPMB.

With ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion for tal­ent from a new wave of pri­vate com­pa­nies with sky­high val­u­a­tions – such as Uber and Airbnb – Ap­ple must do more, re­cruiters and for­mer em­ploy­ees say.

“Ap­ple’s at­ti­tude has al­ways been that you have the priv­i­lege of work­ing for Ap­ple, and if you don’t want to do it, there’s some­one around the cor­ner who does,” said Matt MacIn­nis, a for­mer Ap­ple em­ployee who worked on the com­pany’s education busi­ness and is now CEO of Inkling, an en­ter­prise tech­nol­ogy com­pany.

Now, MacIn­nis said, “they have to com­pete”. Ap­ple spokesman Colin John­son de­clined to com­ment.

Ap­ple’s foot­print in San Fran­cisco un­til now has come largely through ac­qui­si­tions of com­pa­nies al­ready based there, in­clud­ing Beats Mu­sic and Topsy Labs, a so­cial me­dia an­a­lyt­ics firm.

Af­ter Ap­ple ac­quired Topsy in 2013, work­ers were sur­prised that the com­pany did not move those em­ploy­ees to the val­ley, a for­mer Ap­ple em­ployee said. Topsy’s space was large enough for about 75 work­ers, but other Ap­ple em­ploy­ees soon be­gan drop­ping in to work from the city, crowd­ing the of­fice.

The iPhone maker’s new of­fice will be in about 7,060sq m of rented space at 235 Se­cond St. Ap­ple’s pres­ence in San Fran­cisco will re­main mod­est, es­pe­cially com­pared to ri­val Sil­i­con Val­ley firms such as Google and LinkedIn. The new of­fice is big enough for about 500 work­ers.

Ap­ple has said that it had more than 25,000 em­ploy­ees in the Santa Clara Val­ley, where it is head­quar­tered. 76

Ap­ple could opt to move some em­ploy­ees al­ready in San Fran­cisco into the new space, such as those from Topsy or Beats.

The com­pany has ad­ver­tised for a va­ri­ety of jobs in the city for work­ers in ma­chine learn­ing and big data – two of Topsy’s spe­cial­ties – and dig­i­tal mu­sic, Beats’ do­main.

The space is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion, sug­gest­ing Ap­ple might be ready to move in late sum­mer, real es­tate ex­perts say.

De­mand for desks there could be in­tense. Af­ter es­tab­lished tech firms open up shop in San Fran­cisco, they of­ten have more work­ers want­ing space there than they can ac­com­mo­date, said bro­ker John Lew­erenz of real es­tate firm Cush­man & Wake­field.

Google has strug­gled to keep work­ers from swarm­ing its San Fran­cisco of­fice, par­tic­u­larly on Fri­days. The com­pany quickly leases ad­di­tional floors in its main San Fran­cisco build­ing when they are va­cated by other ten­ants, Lew­erenz said.

Ap­ple’s new San Fran­cisco of­fice ap­pears to be “just a small adap­ta­tion” to some tech work­ers’ dis­dain for the com­mute of at least 90 min­utes to the South Bay, said for­mer com­pany ex­ec­u­tive Jean- Louis Gassee.

But some for­mer em­ploy­ees say an of­fi­cial Ap­ple of­fice of any size in San Fran­cisco was once un­think­able – even though the city is home to 14% of its work­force, se­cond only to San Jose, ac­cord­ing to a 2013 com­pany re­port.

Ap­ple’s stance on cen­tral­i­sa­tion turns off some job seek­ers, said re­cruiter Amish Shah, founder of Mil­len­nium Search, who has run across some can­di­dates who rule out the com­pany be­cause of the com­mute. Younger tech work­ers, he said, put a high pre­mium on qual­ity of life.

San Fran­cisco res­i­dents now have more op­tions to dodge the com­mute with a grow­ing num­ber of tech com­pa­nies in the city, re­cruiters say.

“If com­pa­nies want to stay com­pet­i­tive and have a shot at hir­ing the best avail­able tal­ent, they’re go­ing to have to be flex­i­ble,” said Jose Ben­itez Cong, a for­mer Ap­ple re­cruiter who is now launch­ing a startup.

Be­fore leav­ing Ap­ple in 2009, MacIn­nis spent three hours a day com­mut­ing from San Fran­cisco to Ap­ple head­quar­ters. Now he uses Inkling’s lo­ca­tion in the city to his ad­van­tage, sys­tem­at­i­cally re­cruit­ing San Fran­cisco res­i­dents tired of long com­mutes to the val­ley.

Russ Hed­dle­ston, co- founder and CEO of doc­u­ment shar­ing com­pany DocSend, says he has also found an edge by plant­ing his startup in San Fran­cisco. He pre­vi­ously com­muted to the val­ley to work for Face­book, a no­table ex­cep­tion to the trend to­ward satel­lite of­fices in San Fran­cisco.

“They have the so­cial clout to get peo­ple to com­mute,” he said. “But if they weren’t as cool, could they af­ford to have their of­fice in San Jose and get tal­ent to come in? It’s a real prob­lem.”

An­other fac­tor may be that the com­pany has lit­tle room left to grow in Cu­per­tino – it oc­cu­pies about 70% of the of­fice space in the city of about 60,000, said An­gela Tsui, the city’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment man­ager.

The sheer size of Ap­ple’s work force has prompted the com­pany to grab space in neigh­bour­ing towns such as Sunnyvale and North San Jose.

The dif­fuse of­fice struc­ture has dimmed the al­lure of com­mut­ing to the South Bay, said one for­mer em­ployee, who re­quested anonymity to pro­tect pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ships.

“The old ap­peal was if you were an en­gi­neer at the mother ship, you could go to the cafe­te­ria, and there’s Steve Jobs order­ing sushi,” he said. “Those days are gone now.”

In Woz­niak’s view, spread­ing out the teams could in­fuse new cre­ativ­ity into the com­pany. In a re­cent in­ter­view, he re­called be­ing a lonely voice of dis­sent on the com­pany’s phi­los­o­phy of cen­tral­i­sa­tion.

“I was the ex­ec­u­tive who al­ways op­posed that,” he said. “I felt that you should dis­trib­ute your divi­sions and let the teams think more in­de­pen­dently.” – Reuters

Ap­ple may fi­nally be soft­en­ing its prior stance that all em­ploy­ees work at the moth­er­ship in Cu­per­tino by open­ing new of­fices in San Fran­cisco’s high­rent South of Mar­ket neigh­bour­hood. — Reuters

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