Lots of people have asked me why I left my post as Lead Mac Genius at our local Apple Store. I have three major reasons:
1. Apple’s Shift to Consumer Devices and the Thinning of Resources
The iPod has always been part of Apple Retail, but the iPhone has changed everything. I have nothing against the iPhone. I own one, and use it all the time. I almost can’t imagine life without it. But since the first launch, the company has been focused on those customers. From opening early for iPhone-only sales to giving iPhone customers priority at the Genius Bar, the Apple stores are bending over backwards for the iPhone. And it’s showing. Across the chain, older retail employees (and by that I mean, those who have been with the company for some time) are frustrated. Mac Specialists are spending hours on the phone with AT&T trying to get customers up and running with their new iPhone 3Gs instead of selling Macs (not to mention trying to meet the company’s sales metrics).
With this shift, the thinning within Apple are starting to show. It started with Leopard’s delay for Apple to complete the iPhone. Then a year later, the simultaneous launch of iPhone 3G, the App Store and MobileMe ended up being a massive failure. I worked the launch, I can tell you first-hand that it was a train wreck. Activations failed. The EasyPay (Apple’s mobile cash-wraps) system failed, but the “classic” POS systems are unable to process iPhone transactions. AT&T blamed Apple, and vice-versa all day long. Weeks later, Apple owned up with an email from Steve… and even then, the apology was just over MobileMe and ignored the thousands of people that spent hours outside in lines that weren’t moving.
Even with July 11 behind the company, the focus is still on mobile devices, not the Macintosh. The Mac is why I went to work for Apple, but sadly, it is not where Apple is putting their time and money. The argument that “Snow Leopard” will fix it is just sad. Apple shouldn’t have to release a whole OS to fix the last one. OS X is great, but it is facing more and more challenges as it gets older, and Apple has to address that 10.5 (and 10.5 Server) have lots of bugs.
2. Local Management
Without going into too much detail, the local management in our Store was difficult to work with. As Lead Genius, I was supposed to grow my team and develop them into better Geniuses. However hard I tried, my managers were unwilling (or unable) to help me do that. I had to fight for everything down to getting ink pens for the Bar. It wore me out.
3. The Hardships of Being a Genius
Being a Mac Genius seems like an awesome job,and in many ways, it is. You get to be hands-on with some of the best and coolest technology on the planet. You get to help and educate people. It can be very rewarding, but for every great interaction at the Bar or successful repair, there are 5 angry people yelling about their 4-year-old iPod having poor battery life. Limited appointment length doesn’t help. And the Genius Bar is only half of it. Behind closed doors is the ever-secret Genius Room, where Geniuses work on hardware and software repairs. With more and more Macs being sold (and getting pulled to the Bar to help with iPhone standbys), it’s harder and harder for local stores to stay on top of the repairs. I know that was the case in my Genius Room. It gets frustrating, especially when the company is pushing for better repair turn around times each year. It simply gets to a point where Geniuses get burned out.
I have heard a rumor that 18 months is the average lifespan of a Mac Genius. When I started, most of the team had been there over two years, and when I left, no one had been there longer than 6 months, besides me. While my team was great (and I count them all as dear friends even now), the younger Genius teams become, the less strong they are. Which is scary.
With Apple in my rearview mirror, I feel good about working in the professional Mac support world. I learned a lot in my time there, but my frustrations got to be too much to handle, and I’m not alone.