When I was working in retail, I had a hard time adjusting to the natural rigors and constraints of the store environment. Even though I eventually realized that my particular strengths and talents did not lend themselves perfectly towards retail, the role taught me loads about perseverance, leadership, and connection. Near the end of my two-year tenure, I wrote two lists: one, of the things I loved about working at retail, and especially working at Apple, and two, of the leadership lessons I learned along the way. They were both shared on Apple's internal blog for the leadership program, and then broadly with my store team. Full text of the first list below.
Ten Things I Love about Working at Apple Retail
As we approach the denouement of our program and figure out what’s next, I took the liberty to list all the things I’m grateful for in my experience so far in Apple Retail. Some of it is serious, and some a little frivolous, some unique to retail, and some unique to Apple. But they’ve all been important to me over the past two years. I hope you can relate to some, most, or all of them! So here it goes:
WE’RE ASKED TO CONNECT. More than anything else about this job, I love how much time I get (paid!) to connect with people as part of my everyday: empathizing with moving stories, teaching away ignorance (what people didn’t know they didn’t know), developing surefire talent, learning from others (a.k.a. the “easy way”!), and listening to (and acting on) phenomenal ideas. Who needs a focus group when everyone has something great to say?
WE ARE NOT ALIEN TO INNOVATION. The SF North Market ASLPs just spent the last five months crafting what we think is the most innovative way of approaching personal development yet! Think HUGE. We’ve launched it in all four market stores the past two weeks, and we’re excited to share with you the impact it has already made and will continue to make in the months to come. SLs have been so inspired that they have been assuring, just short of guaranteeing, us that this will go far. It’s sparked something in them and they can’t wait to jump in and swim the English Channel. But NONE of this would have happened had it not been for our innovation-bent ML Lisa Filippi, demanding and expecting from us excellence and ingenuity, and evidently -- as appraised by market stakeholders -- receiving it.
THE FOGGY, UNPREDICTABLE SCHEDULE. Saying “no” to something you’re just not interested in has never been easier! Sure, you might miss some truly awesome events (like Coachella, or a birthday dinner) if you’re not RTO-savvy and pre-planned enough, but let’s be honest here: our generation is over-indexed in our passion for entertainment versus that for work; in resharing instead of creating. We have so much to contribute to the world; let’s not waste any time overplaying! (And to be clear, I’m not talking about working off the clock for Apple; there are many other causes to throw ourselves towards.) The great thing about creation (unlike hanging out) is that it generally requires NO time frame, and when you’re home when no one else is, no one is distracting or inviting (or more like tempting) you to play -- you’re completely free to work. So work on!
MILLENNIAL RENAISSANCE. Most of my peers work directly with people of a different generation than they are; I’m probably the only one in my circle who’s older than a majority of their coworkers! While Apple is working to change that, and diversify our staff to include all sorts of wild and crazy characters that truly reflect our community, our workplace now is inundated with youthful energy. Even the older ones (my personal favorites!) all happen to stay young at heart (“What?! You’re 30/40/50/60??”). Nothing seems wiser to me than growing old and staying young, spry, and spunky. And while we’re still generationally unified, we have one less barrier to the single most important factor (IMHO) of our work: communication. Feeling entitled to have an awesome, meaningful job? Me too! Obsessed with collaboration? When’s our first meeting!? Tired of the same thing and want to switch things up? I can teach a course on that! And the culminating phenomenon of a Millennial-heavy workplace (when it’s done right) is that everyone leads, and everyone innovates.
SUN-DRENCHED MORNINGS. I’m not a morning person (my ex-SL Larry Verter, the ever-illustrious Flag Leader of San Francisco (a.k.a “the flag that’s got it done right,” says Shannon Gallagher), told me so, with characteristic Larrylike vigor). But I am a late morning person. What I’m talking about is the therapeutic, purgative time from 8am to noon, when the renewing, radiating energy of the sun tells you you’re going to have a great day. Forego the alarm clock, renounce the rat-race rush hour, get your day off on the right start through an experience of equilibrium. Think cathartic jog, a galvanizing breakfast, and/or a transformational reflection. And did I mention running errands without the lines?
FUN IS NOT AN OPTION; IT IS COMPULSORY (AND CONTAGIOUS). I wouldn’t say we’re quirky (like Zappos). Or nerdy (like Microsoft). Or hippie or hipster. But I would say we’re fun. And it’s so fun it can even be distracting! I heard once at our Daily Download (in response to an NPS comment on clumping (or puddling)), “Guys, I know it’s fun, but we’ve got to remember: this is still a job!” Nevertheless, nothing quite lights up my soul like the effect of good-natured humor and sincere laughter in a world that is often too serious, too hostile, and frankly too depressing. It is often quoted that “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people,” and no workplace I’ve seen does it better than Apple Retail.
OUR SOUL IS OUR PEOPLE. Though we’re not perfect at putting this inspired mantra into practice, most all of us here unequivocally believe in this golden standard. And we’re getting better at it. Born in a store where this is at the forefront of our leadership teams’ minds, I’ve seen great strides over the years of human resource investment, and appreciate every step of the way. If there is ONE passion I realized in my career over the past year and a half, it’s unleashing talent. And there’s little more we can do for someone whose talents are being fully harnessed for a cause (and a company) they truly believe in. Just get out of the way and get ready to cheer!
WORKING WITH STAND-OUT TALENT. I’ve been humbled time and again when I work with my fellow ASLPs, Berwick, Carly, and Alli, who’ve taught me that unimaginable success is achievable and it is TEAMS that take you there. Whether it be inspiring, presenting, analyzing, synthesizing, or finalizing, no team I know has done it better than this one. Then there’s my insightful, visionary, and resilient in-store leadership team, who have hired and onboarded seven new managers in the past 18 months. I have never experienced a team dynamic with as much brain and pluck as they have heart (and wit!), and the killer combination of these four traits make for a force to be reckoned with. And is anyone else endlessly fascinated (with all the things you had been unaware of) in your leadership meetings? Bravo! And if we get started on everyone else, I’ll never stop blathering.
STILL NOT A DESK JOB. I’ve made a promise to my own sanity that I would not work in a cube farm, and I’m still thanking myself for it! In my experience, sedentary work usually ushers in a binge of (often unhealthy) snacking or other insalubrious habits to subconsciously compensate for the lack of physical movement in a given day. Sure, with less desk-bound workstyles comes less digital communication, and less paper trails at that. But I love how our profession’s primary mode of communication is in-person, when the body language, the tone of voice, and facial expressions can bring vibrant color to oft-misconstrued written communication.
WORKING IN A HIGH-TECH OASIS. In a world that's largely forgotten that technological innovation has often been the source of economic progress (and instead has relied on such artificially progressive tactics as financial engineering (subprime mortgages, anyone?) or the wanton build up of consumer credit or government debt), Apple leads the pack in staggering feats of true innovation. And what's more? We get to use it, for work! Perhaps my remarkable appreciation of this comes from my past work experience in non-profits and government posts, but most work places (private or public) are not keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to technology. I've worked on all sorts of outdated, Microsoft-ridden equipment, which was probably outdated when it was first purchased and just further outdated by the time I laid my hands on it nearly a half decade later! So not only do we get work for a company that creates new product categories (vs. just new products), we get to use them to fulfill our callings. Imagine that!
This post is dedicated to Kika Castro, from whom I’ve never heard say anything without a tincture of genuine appreciation.