I was fired from a position at Apple that I had had for nearly nine years.

About a month before hand, I was put on an “Improvement Plan” whereby my manager assigned me to some small, “busywork” project. I had to check in weekly on progress on the project, however it is clear in hindsight that my manager had already made up his mind and was just going through the required motions to cover his (and Apple’s) ass.

The month passed, and I had met all of the criteria that he had laid out for the project. So I believed that I was out of the woods. The next week, I had my normal 1-on-1 with him, and absolutely nothing was mentioned about the Improvement Plan.

The following week (i.e. two weeks after the “Improvement Plan” was over), at the time of my normal 1-on-1 with him, he came to my office with *his* manager. They came in, closed the door behind them and handed me a letter, saying, “read this.”

The letter stated that I was being let go, and that I *hadn’t* met his requirements. Nothing said *which* requirement I hadn’t met. I told him that this was a surprise, and that up until that moment, I thought I was doing well. I asked him what requirement I had failed to meet and he literally said nothing; just stood there blank-faced.

I spend the next few hours, deleting Apple data from my personal laptop (VPN software, source code, etc.) as well as wiping the work-provided machines. I then had to turn in my iPhones, iPads and badge and clear my personal stuff from my office (good thing I took the SUV to work that morning; an office tends to accumulate a lot of junk over nine years 🙂 ). I was not allowed to interact with anyone else for this time; I couldn’t even say good bye. As far as anyone else was concerned, I had simply vanished.

In many ways, I should have seen it coming; my manager had become increasingly rude and hostile; leveling overly harsh criticisms that no other manager had ever had for me, but I had given him the benefit of the doubt (we were all under a lot of pressure leading up to the release of two big products; I naïvely assumed that it would pass once the pressure let up). I interpreted his hostility as a misguided attempt to motivate me (this was his first job as a manager). When eating lunch with the team, or during meetings, he always behaved as if he was our friend; he was careful to only be insulting or hostile when we were alone (going as far as saying that “nobody respects you anymore”).

Having never been fired from a job before, I don’t have any experience to compare this to, so I can’t say if it’s any different from the way firings are handled at smaller companies. Ultimately, it was a blessing in disguise; I treated the following two and a half months of unemployment as a vacation; I had plenty of savings, I went to Mexico for a week with my wife, and I spent a bunch of time at home with my children. After the end of that period, I had a job at another well-known tech company, making nearly $20K/year more.

The lessons I took away from this:

  • Large companies are not people; they do not have feelings and they do not care.
  • Your manager is not your friend.
  • Document *everything*. Even if you think it’s just because someone is “having a bad day”, document *every* time someone is unfair or disrespectful towards you. There may be a pattern that you don’t notice until it is too late.
  • If you save money responsibly, brief periods of unemployment won’t hurt you. (Before the firing, I would have dreaded the thought of being fired as if it was the end of the world).

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