Why I passed up the chance to work at Apple
~ 21 February 2006 ~
I’ve oft quoted Michael Porter’s strategy maxim in recent months:
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
Never did I expect those words to hit so close to home.
Only recently was all of this — “this” being the chance to work at Apple — laid to rest, ending several months of talks and bringing a close to the toughest challenge, by far, of my career to date. Following is an account of how it started, and yes, how it ended.
For years I’ve literally dreamed of working at Apple. Who hasn’t? For a designer, it’s the holy grail of aesthetic accolade. Through a series of related events, a recruiter at Apple contacted a certain high-level person in the industry. This person then asked me if I wanted my name in the collective applicant hat, which eventually produced a call from the recruiter.
To ALA’s credit, this all happened shortly after “Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign” was published; the article in which I extol the virtues of redesigning based on need rather than want, with a pinch of Apple iLife branding thrown in to support my arguments. The timing couldn’t have been better given the position they were looking to fill. (The article was mentioned on several occasions in our discussions.)
And what was the position for, you ask? Well, to protect Apple’s right to secrecy, I won’t disclose too many details. But suffice it say I would have been managing the design of a certain place within their site where they showcase a lot of product.
On the heels of a few successful phone conversations, I was flown out on a cold November evening. Interviews with several members of the team were to be held the next morning. And yet here I was in a lush hotel room, almost pinching myself to be certain this was really happening. “Am I really here in Cupertino? Am I really about to interview with Apple tomorrow? No way.” Yes way.
The following morning I endured 6.5 hours — yes, I said 6.5 hours — of interviews. Straight through. Even lunch was an interview. The only breaks I enjoyed were spent in the men’s room.
Interviewing with several members on a team isn’t unusual these days, especially at the likes of Google, Yahoo, and a host of other tech companies. Needless to say, however, fielding questions and selling yourself for nearly a full day is quite exhausting. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the team members were both fascinating and brilliant. Two of the designers I would have been working closely with were particularly savvy.
The interviews concluded, I returned home, and in the ensuing weeks Suzanne and I discussed it at length. And I mean at length. The pros. The cons. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The sacrifices.
Let it be said that the chance to work at Apple, the prestige that comes from doing so, and the challenge of working with a highly talented team was undeniably attractive. But regrettably, it was the other parts of the equation that weren’t, well, quite as attractive.
Weighing Pros and Cons
Amidst a sea of pros and cons, two factors weighed heavily on the decision we’d end up making: cost of living and flexibility of schedule.
Having grown up in the Bay Area and still in touch with family and friends, it came as no surprise that housing is ridiculously expensive. One can talk all day about the economics of supply and demand and how the market is merely working towards equilibrium, but when the same humble home I have now in Utah is priced at five times the cost in Cupertino — nearly a million dollar home — I’m left only to wonder where the buck will stop. Or in this case, where it doesn’t.
Further, housing in the area isn’t kind to a 6-member family. Being a sole provider of income for that same 6-member family isn’t a kind proposal either. On top of all this, we were considering scenarios which reduced commute time, limiting ourselves to homes closer to Apple headquarters, and therefore driving the overall cost of living even higher.
But enough about money. How about the intangible pros and cons? Flexibility of schedule? Time with family? Freedom to speak at conferences, author articles, and the like on the clock instead of off?
Knowing I’d have to dedicate myself 100% at Apple, this would have resulted in nearly a total reduction in blogging, conference speaking, and the like. I did the work-a-long-day-go-home-to-hours-of-side-work thing for years before going solo, and the daily grind took its toll on me physically and mentally. And the family, too. Needless to say, I’m done robbing hours from the wife and kids.
While work is going quite well and showing no signs of slowing, I don’t know that I’ll bring in more revenue freelancing this year than I would have at Apple. But increased time to be with family, pursue hobbies, and live a life a bit less hectic isn’t exactly something you can pin a dollar amount to.
Don’t get me wrong — Suzanne and I both agreed at the outset of making the leap to full-time freelancing that we’d probably be back on the clock at some point. It seems inevitable and probably welcomed if the right opportunity comes along. But we felt it was too early to resume a corporate lifestyle right now.
The final decision? Well, it’s obvious at this point. You probably won’t see me gracing the streets of Cupertino tomorrow or even dining with Paul Nixon or Dunstan Orchard at Caffé Macs.
Also, it’s only fair to state that there was never a formal offer on the table. But it’s probably safe to say that was because we couldn’t come to an agreement on a few key terms of the deal, most notably those mentioned here. Call it a “mutual parting of ways” that occurred just a couple of weeks ago.
Funny thing is, I’m still not 100% certain I made the right decision by not making myself more available. I don’t know that I’ll ever be. Yet Suzanne and I said the very same thing back when we made the leap to full-time self-employment, and somehow it turned out to prove we were wiser than we thought.
Thus, with fingers crossed, I suppose all I can say is this: Here’s to low cost of living and flexibility of schedule.
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thanks for your insight.
it could be sometimes it’s wise to chose time and familly instead of a rewarding job or enterprise like Apple.
I’m on the opposite side of the fence. I had a chance at a promising freelance career, but chose (due to my four children) the safe route. I sold out long ago, and now I’m left wondering what might have been. Not that I don’t enjoy my work now, or that I’d be any better off working for myself. But the PAF (pain in the A factor) while working for a corporate giant, is enormous. Plus, at least for me, my work has really suffered as a result. I’m am now fully committed to designing boring websites with only a marketing goal and brand guidelines as my inspiration.
While you may not be, I’m pretty sure you made the right decision. Good luck!
Cameron, my company (which is really just me and another guy) turned down a huge contract job because it would’ve required a three hour commute two days a week. Having just left that sort of job, I didn’t want to do that to my family again so I said no. I think it was the right decision but I’m not sure so it was a smart decision - if that makes any sense…
You definitely are brave, as mentioned. Freelancing is tough, and if it weren’t for you having to support your family I’m sure you, and many others would quickly have taken the job. Who wouldn’t?
But these are the times where you define who you are and where you want to go with your career and life in general.
Wow, what an incredibly difficult decision that must have been. Congrats on keeping perspective on your priorities.
As a freelance (or free-lance, depending on certain obnoxious and unsolicited writing advice) writer, programmer and designer with a wife and two young kids who has passed on some decent jobs in Boston, I can fully relate (well, not fully; I mean, it was Apple, for god’s sake!), all I can say is: You made the right choice. I truly believe I’d have come to the same exact conclusion.
I think you’re a very wise man, and your dedication to your family shows. I had a similar decision (on a much, much smaller scale) when I quit my job to be a consultant full-time. It was scary, but I wasn’t going to be one of those fathers who just saw their kids on the weekends… and then worked half of those. I worked out of a home office for 2 years, until my daughter (then 2) made it impossible. I still work from home several hours of my work day, so I can see the kids and my wife.
Sometimes it’s not about the job, or the money. I’m sure you would have loved the job at Apple, but I don’t think any one thing should consume too much of your life. You should live a balanced life, and I’m not sure how many employers understand that. Every employer I’ve ever worked for just pushed and pushed us to work harder, longer and be “more dedicated” to the needs of the company, even at the expense of our family and personal lives.
You made the right call as long as it’s something you can live with and it allows you to live your life the way you want. Entrepreneurship and contracting isn’t for everyone, and neither is a J.O.B.
Best of luck with freelancing. You’re a very talented designer and I am certain you will leave your mark on this industry as other greats like Zeldman and Meyer have. Even a job at the creative giant Apple would have likely surpressed your true innovation and skill.
Not to be cheesey, but sometimes you just have to “follow your heart.” You’ll be fine without Apple. ;)
I really respect the fact that time with wife and fam was one of the strongest factors influencing your decision. It’s not all that common these days. Congrats and God bless with the freelancing.
Let me applaud you on your decision. Sometimes in life we have to make some VERY tough decisions - some of which are related to our career, and, ultimately - money.
The fact that you made the decision for family shows you have great character and wisdom. It is good to see that you are doing what is BEST for you and your family (even though you may WANT that job).
Keep up the great work, and enjoy life!
As much as I would love to work for Apple, it’s not as important as my family. I won’t be looking back, 30 years from now, and neither will you, and wondering about what might have been with Apple.
You made the right choice, Cameron. Time with your kids is number one. No questions about it.
Cameron: Your article comes at a very opportune time for me. I’m currently wrestling with a few tough decisions myself, and am being recruited by a big ‘net related company (starts with a Y). My wife and I are contented and happy where we’re at, but just the thought of working for this company is flattering.
Anyway, thanks for the good, level-headed advice.
I just went through a 4-step interview process for a major design (product, experience, branding) firm from November - January. It would have required a move to Palo Alto. And last I checked, median house price there was in the high 700k’s. A lot different than my great house here in Nashville.
I found myself not even giving my all in the interviews as the process went along. Crazy, as this was one of those dream positions for a completely creative company.
But, being home with my wife and new puppy and creating my own schedule made sense to me. Also, not having to even worry about living costs here was huge. I miss Northern California (only been here two years) but not that much.
Hard decision for you, but your family will thank you.
It is quite refreshing to see someone decide to follow their dream, instead of following the siren. At the end of your days, you’ll always wish you had spent another minute with your wife and kids … not work. I admire you for making that huge sacrifice and hope I have the guts to make the same decision.
Thanks for sharing.
When I started reading this I was thinking “turn down Apple? what a chump!” but I know exactly what you’re talking about.
I’ve done the long hours + side projects schedule too, and I can’t imagine living that way with a family, let alone one as big as yours.
There still seems to be a “creative culture” of putting in the long hours and sacrificing home and personal life because we’re passionate about what we do. But there’s also a culture of balance, which I think is taking hold in my generation (I’m 25).
We’re not doctors. It’s just the Internet. Some things are more important. Congratulations on making a tough call.
Geez, maybe I need to start blogging about Apple products…
Please, oh please, let me have a dilemma like this in my career. And please let me have the ability to see the pros and cons as clearly as you did.
Having Apple on your resume would ultimately bring you more credibility and therefore more money as a freelancer. I think you are thinking about it too permanently, as if you will always be working for Apple. I think you should try it out, and if you find that it’s too expensive and not as rewarding, then call it a day and move back to Utah.
You may have to put in some “extra” hours around here to maintain traffic for a little while, but is blogging really going to stop you from taking the plunge as a designer? Don’t forget that people read your blog because you are a well-known designer.
The family concerns seem to be the only valid ones here, and I don’t have a huge family to relocate so I can’t even begin to fathom the effort necessary to move them and get them adjusted. That being said, thinking in their interest might be taking the job at Apple so you give yourself the best chance to support them later as a freelancer.
Not to mention, IT’S APPLE.
Cameron, I know how difficult this was for you. Just let Nix work the hard, awkward hours and use his phat employee discount when have a hankering for Apple hardware. Yoink!
I totally identfy with your dilemma! Not that I’ve had any offers from Apple, but I left a comfy position at the area’s largest ad agency to work part time from home and be a mom to my kids, then two and four. (Much more physically and emotionally challenging; a lot less intellectually stimulating!)
A few years later, my main client asked me to come on staff. I loved the people, the location, the work; really wrestled with the decision. I talked to my kids about what it would mean for the family: they’d hear less “sorry, we can’t afford that,” but I wouldn’t be there for them right after school, or during summer weekdays. My then-eight-year-old son said, “But Mom, I want you here with me in the summer.” That clinched it! I knew it wouldn’t be that many more years that he’d have that attitude.
Now my kids are 15 and 13, and I don’t regret my choices. Still, it’s often tempting to look for an agency job: someone else to do the paperwork, the production, and worry about the paycheck. But I’ve tried to keep in mind S. Covey’s sage advice: “It’s easy to say ‘no’ when you have a bigger ‘yes’ burning within.”
Family is the bigger “yes,” Cameron. You chose well.
I think you made the right decision. I’m sure if you had taken the job it would have worked out as well, but based on what you’ve got going now and your situation it seems that you did what you should have.
Well, I wasn’t going to say anything since I’d just be a “me too,” but then I read Paul’s comment and had to chime in. Score me on the “Cameron did the right thing” tally. I don’t have a big family either, but the little family I have is important enough to me to see that you did the right thing. Congratulations!
As for Paul’s comment that prompted me, first, I don’t read your blog because you’re Cameron Moll, Apple Guy or Cameron Moll, Well Known Designer. I read it ‘cause you’re Cameron Moll, kickass designer. I don’t know beans from well-known other than you were well-known enough to be linked somewhere that I stumbled across way back when. And secondly, after moving from Texas to the Bay Area to Boston to Hartford, I can definitively say that moving anywhere for just a trial run is insaaaaane if there are more than one of you who have to make the move. Maybe even less than one of you.
So again, good job, great decision and keep up the good work.
Yes, “trial run” takes on new meaning with a family of 6 indeed.
Thanks for the kind words, all.
Way to go Cameron!
You’ll never regret putting the family first. I made the leap to full-time freelancer in 2003 and hope never to go back. There are pros and cons to both sides, but your family will be with you the rest of your life and you need to protect those relationships at the expense of all others. I’m sure you would have loved Apple and done very well, but no doubt, your family would have suffered. When they suffer, you suffer. You know what they say, “happy wife; happy life.”
Best wishes for running your own show…
Cameron, this was really refreshing to read.
I’m sure I would have struggled were I in your shoes but likely would have come to the same conclusion—my quality of life is of utmost importance to me. It’s not a slam against Apple…I’m sure they are infinitely better than other corporations to work for. But when you work for a company, as opposed to for yourself and your clients, there’s a flexibility missing in life. Granted, freelancing comes with its own shares of ups, downs, hectic weekends and stressful moments when the money for the bills isn’t coming in, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I believe the life I lead is one of the best I could lead…now if only I can discpline myself to cut back on some work so I don’t end up a hypocrite ;)
thanks for sharing this.
Cameron. I applaud your courage and ability to see clearly through this opportunity. I hope that your life and work continue to enhance and enrich all those around you.
Thanks for sharing this, Cameron. I’m sure it’s bitter-sweet; it must feel a bit like you’re giving up your dream. But you’re not. For one, the very fact that you were considered and interviewed should bring a certain amount of satisfaction—they wanted you, man!
Secondly, your dream is ultimately for happiness, right? That’s why you would want to work for Apple in the first place. And, based on your writings (and photos), it seems your happiness is rooted in your family—where it should be. And it sounds like working for Apple would have challenged those roots, and placed you in a difficult position (on a daily basis).
Unfortunately there’s no way to weigh the importance of decisions like this, but hopefully someday you will look at your children, and who they became, and smile—then being 100% certain you made the right decision.
Freedom is amazingly important - in my opinion you can’t put a dollar figure on it. Period. I couldn’t even imagine sacrificing time with my wife for the sake of work. I truly repsect your decision.
I come from a family of six (I’m the eldest of 4 girls), so I know exactly what you mean about cost of living and family priorities.
I’ve always respected you and your work, Mr. Moll, but I can’t help but be further impressed. Saying “no” in the face of such an opportunity in favour of your family and lifestyle is very awesome indeed.
Good for you for going with your gut feeling.
However, I think it takes more character to silently let it pass by then to blog about, turning it into an issue of pride.
I am a full on Mac nut, but I’d have to think twice about the idea of working for Jobs… brilliant? yes. Scary? very yes.
How painful is dealing with the Apple HR team?
I say that sarcastically because I know full well how painful they are to deal with.
I think you made the right decision too. It’s always important to remember why your working and who your working for - in this case, your family.
Very nice story. Reminds me of Panic’s story of Audion and how it could have been iTunes…
Eric - Trust me, I debated at length about whether or not to post anything. In fact, I emailed several close designer/developer friends (many of whose names you’d recognize) to get their take on whether or not it’d be wise to post. In the end, I felt my thoughts on the subject might help others in the same position — regardless of which side they lean to. So far, a fair share of the comments seem support that objective.
I admire your courage to do what your heart told you to do. We often make decisions in life without ever consulting with our hearts, which is where the best decisions we will ever make occur. I know this must have been difficult, but I am so happy to hear that you value your family and your sanity more than material things. God bless you and your family. Keep up the great work!!
Oh, it seems I received the same offer at the same time! A recruiter from Apple wrote me that she is looking for a Visual Icon Designer to work in Apple’s Cupertino office…
Unfortunately, they aren’t able to sponsor me to come to work in US. So, they eliminated me without 6.5 hours of interviews.
Your story console me :) Thank you! Anyway, job at Apple is a fantastic opportunity, but my own business is my own business…
Cameron, perhaps predictably, I view your latest tale in literary terms. It strikes me as a coming of age story, where dreams of glamour of the inexperienced are gradually replaced by an appreciation for a simpler, more powerful life.
Being a huge fan of all things Apple myself, I can appreciate the temptation you describe. And that’s just it. Your story reads to me as a tale of temptation, and discovery�even though you do not place pronounced importance on the discovery itself.
Bear in mind that this is coming from someone struggling mightily with his own professional ambitions, who is prone to overestimating the power of his own reach. But really, who cares about Apple?
I know, I know. Blasphemy. What I mean to say is, Apple makes great products. I buy them and they change the quality of my life. But that does not mean that working at Apple might be anything more than a job. And the value of a job is only a reflection of your personal values and goals.
Apple has nothing on Cameron Moll. Sure, Apple is a wonderful brand. But where Apple is in the business of design, Cameron strikes me as one in the business of the art of design, and that may appear to be a subtle difference at first glance. But it isn�t.
Here�s where things get interesting in my armchair deconstruction: there are two coming of age stories in �Why I passed up the chance to work at Apple�. The first being Cameron the man, husband, and father. The second, less obvious is Cameron the brand. You reference this in several places, in the form of activities you are unwilling to relinquish. I am unsure whether you left this understated for the sake of good writing, or you haven�t tuned in to it yourself; something so common to writers that it has become proverb.
You have built a brand for and of yourself, and I personally admire your accomplishment. I believe you describe an important self-discovery: you value the Cameron Moll brand more than you value the mighty Apple brand.
And kudos to you for that! You are right to choose yourself, your family, and the ability to continue developing the Cameron Moll brand. You are more than a designer. You are a community leader, a fine writer, and proponent of the intellectual pursuit of design in all its aspects: from the printed page to the art of living.
Cameron. Let the very fact that you were considerate of the potential effects on your family be the evidence you need to know (without a doubt) that you’ve made the right decision. I’m neither a father nor a husband, yet I realize the priority family should hold with respect to career. You do as well.
Never doubt that.
I’ve only just begun my journey as a designer and have often considered situations similar to yours. I find great resolve knowing that no matter how BIG we become in the business world, our purpose (and obligation) lies with those we love.
You know, the many who seek your wisdom in design will find something more today. Good man. Great designer. Even better father and husband.
I’ve never posted on your blog before, but as a long time reader I’ve not felt the need. Today that changed. You made a gutsy decision, that was what you thought was best to your family. Respect to you.
You’ll never be short of work, and your quality of life will be so much higher, remember, just remember, you had the choice - they thought you were good enough.
Only 6.5 hours of interviews? ;-) I interviewed once for a job at Harvard University: they called and asked if I could come in for an interview, and I said “gladly”; then they asked, “can you come for the whole day?” They scheduled me for nine hours of nonstop interviews, including lunch, from 8:30am until 5:30pm. Fortunately I got the job, so it felt worth it…I’m sure I would have been steamed if I hadn’t! Another time I interviewed for a job at a nonprofit where I had 4 hours of interviews followed by a one-hour writing test where I had to compose and type a marketing letter on the spot, in a room full of the people who would later be my colleagues. They listened to me type to make sure I could type fast enough.
I think a full day of interviews is either a sign of a company that really cares what its employees and managers think and wants to give them an opportunity to weigh in, or else an overly cautious company that’s not willing to take risks and chances.
So, who’s going to want to work for Apple now? Ha! For what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone with a nuclear family should.
Like I say, it’s what you do with the time you have. Cheers on the astute decision Mr. Moll, I’m with you all the way on that one, and as always, be gentle with yourself.
First time poster, long time reader:
I seriously doubt that you’ll question your decision to choose your family over a job at Apple on your death bed.
6.5 hours sounds just about right for an interview at a company that size. Yahoo! generally deals with interviews in the same way. The idea is, you gotta know what you say you know. There’s no room for faking it.
I’m not the superstar that you are, but I have turned down a number of tasty long-term contracts with the big boys to continue enjoying my freelancing lifestyle!
Life is too short and family is too precious and my general happiness, sanity, and abundance of choice is far too valuable.
As I say in my Hire Me page on my site, “I’m quite happy with my freelancing lifestyle and I can’t even imagine how sweet the deal would have to be in order for me to consider taking it. ;o)”
Besides … we would miss you!
Cameron, i accept your choice, but think about this: work for Apple and just 6 months. 6 month isn’t too much time and you could gain all those benefits (not talking about money here).
I think your post said it best. It’s the things you cannot put a price on (family) that mean the most. You may never know what could have been unless you get a “George Bailey” moment in life…but I’m confident your wife and boys will look back with unfailing gratitude to a father who sacrificed all for them. I know I do as I look back at the sacrifices my father made for me. Sometimes “good” and ‘best” come on parallel tracks…so keep looking as “best” may just be around the corner.
Regarding the holy grail of aesthetic accolade… “You have chosen… wisely…”
Having worked closely/indirectly/with/at Apple in various incarnations at various points over the last 10 years… I’d say you’re spot-on in your observations.
mini-d - You really think a) I could become proficient at a managerial design position for Apple in under 6 months and b) that’d be fair to Apple to invest a lot in someone in a prominent position who wouldn’t even be on for a year?
Working a corporate job is wack - even at apple or google!
Freelancing fo life! :D
Congratulations on doing what was definitely the right thing. Those niggling doubts you feel are the voices of the Puritans echoing down through the ages, telling you that if you’re not working yourself to death, you’re doing something wrong. But ask your children in 10, 15, 20 years whether they would have wanted you to trade in your time and energy during these all-important formative years just to buy them a bit more stuff. Their answer will tell you that you made the right choice. It’s time with you that your family can’t replace, and you’re absolutely right to place a higher value on that than the extra money or prestige that working for Apple could have brought in. I’m 100% certain of that.
Wow, 50 comments already!
My first thought: No one on their deathbed wishes they’d worked more/harder and seen less of the children.
My other thought: I was quizzed recently that my dream job wasn’t to work for Apple. One of the reasons was that “Apple doesn’t need me”. They have good designers already, and it’s more of challenge to work for someone that really does need good design input - where you can make a difference.
In short, I reckon the right decision. Besides, imagine going though all that, and finding out that they are arses to work for?!
I think you did the right thing as most people I know working for large companies like Apple and Yahoo quickly get subsumed into the collective and drop off the face of the planet. However I can understand the twinge of doubt as you’ve got to wonder what it would be like to work for Apple. Hover boots all around i’d imagine.
Saw that article of yours, Jon. You’re a brave man too :)
Congratulations Cameron on putting your family first. Pity you didn’t join Apple though - you could have signed up with Designers Inhouse!
And re: Jon Hicks
No one on their deathbed wishes they’d worked more/harder and seen less of the children.
Probably depends on who your children are :)
I think you did the right thing, working at Apple might have been great, but if you’re going to end up cream-crackered and miserable, then what’s the point?
You only would have been stuck with whitespace, frutigers, and that brushed metal look interface anyway…
Something I’ve come to realize: I don’t always know when I’ve made the right decision but I always know when I’ve made the wrong one. I imagine you’re sleeping just fine. Best.
I wish I saw this before we talked on the phone. I don’t have a family for myself, but I certainly appreciate the value of family and having time to be with them. I’m sure that increases a million-fold when it comes to your children and your wife.
I’d have to look at it this way - as much as Apple is viewed as the ultimate place to work, the ultimate place to be is right there with your kids so you can influence them to be great people: people that will in turn pass the love you had for them to their kids. I can see you are already doing that, and doing it well.
Kudos on the offer and your decision. I know you’ll have continued success in the years to come on many levels in your life. Thanks for letting me be a small part of that.
Think about it like this: Apple’s offer wasn’t good enough. Well done for not taking it.
This was a very good post. I’m sure it was a difficult decision. For peace of mind I like to think that there is not necessarily a right or wrong decisions. There is just the decision (cause) and the effect. You chose the right cause for the effect you wanted. Kudos to you and your family.
Dude, when I started reading this article, I expected pretentious BS. But what you wrote was, well, really cool. Thanks man.
I want your problems! ;)
Great article. Your site was a huge inspiration in my leaving a pretty cush job to work for myself. Another creative upside - working for more than one client.
Thanks for your eternal awesomeness.
Gotta say that I’m with you. A family of 6 is a lot of work all by itself, but having an employer who demands just as much, if not more, at the expense of your family isn’t worth it.
I’d trade happy wife and kids (complete with the running and leaping hugs when I walk in the door each night) and family life over high-profile job any day. My family’s much more of a priority to me than that. Not that anyone’s ever offered such a job… ;)
Kudos for taking the family road.
I’m glad you’re sharing this and providing your perspective on a significant work/life choice.
I’ve noticed a lot of people seeking more in a new job, making the transition only to find that the grass wasn’t greener for them in the case of family time. And they’re miserable because of it.
It does seem that some thought and careful evaluation are key to anyone with a significant job offer.
I’d like to work somewhere like Apple because I expect the company to push things like Web Standards and do great work, but I don’t even know what a job there would mean until faced with the possibility. It’s easy to want, but there is more to it than that.
I’ve turned down some possible jobs in the past only from a gut feeling and was better off. I am only approaching marriage/family in the coming years but even now I absolutely support putting that first.
The balance of work and life is the way to go. You made your own difficult choice regarding that which is a nice thing to see.
If there was even a doubt in your mind, you did the right thing.
No doubt Apple would have been a great opportunity with possibly lots (more) fame and/or fortune but at what expense?
That stuff is fickle and comes and goes but family is most important. I’m sure it was one of the toughest choices you’ll ever have to make but congratulations on getting to that high point in your career.
Good call. I’m sure many of us went through the same more-money-less-time dilemma whenever we were offered lucrative jobs. Though most dilemmas didn’t involve Apple.
Decisions like this are always fodder for second guessing, but there is no right answer. You win because you clearly identified your priorities and stayed true to them. I’m facing a similar fork in the road, and it is certainly encouraging to hear about your experiences.
Strong values outway any “deals” that come along…regardless of fame and fortune.
I can’t say the allure to the associated fame and glory that typically comes from working for apple isn’t, well… alluring…but I am glad to see that family and wife won out. I believe that is what some might call having the right priorities/values. And in addition, in my opinion whatever gain you would have gotten from a job with apple would have been tainted by the scarified required to yourself and family.
So I applaud you’re decision and admire the example you have set for the readers of you’re website.
Having worked at Apple for a few years, a few years ago, I can tell you that the days are long, and when it comes down to it, family is second to company. I think you made the right decision.
Quality of life wins out every time.
For one thing, only you can say if it was the right decision. If you’re happy, then it was the right move for you and that’s what’s really important.
I’d give my left…well maybe not…to work at Apple but not enough that I’ve actually ever bothered to apply. Speaking from my experience at another Silicon Valley firm, sometimes the wanting is much better than the having. Sometimes not.
Good man. You just said good bye to 60 hour work weeks, and you’ll never regret it when you have the memory of time with your family.
I just accepted a mew position as a senior developer at an Los Angeles-based media company. Big name clients and all. I’m very pumped by it all I must admit. But I’m still relatively young and have no kids of my own yet, so I can still afford myself to take such risks and chances. If I had a family by now, I would probably have done the same as you. Too many variables to consider… more trouble than it’s worth. That said, I just try to take all the money I can until the kids come home :)
That said, there are so many relevant things to your life that you just can’t put a cost on… and money can’t buy. Cliched, yes, but oh so true.
As someone who also desires to work for apple over any other company(save a couple), I never took into account your reasons for turning it down, and I have to agree that it was the right decision. Baring Apple or Google however, I would absolutely love to be self employed. I think you made the right decision and will probably enjoy working solo as much as if not more than working for Apple. Good luck!
Cameron - great write-up. I enjoyed hearing the ups and downs. Though not with Apple - or any company THAT cool - I’ve been in a very similar situation. It just seems to boil down to the time with your family.
In my very humble opinion, it’d have to be a RIDICULOUS dollar amount to put a price on the significant time away from wife & kids.
When you’re old, and you look back at the early years of your kids with fond MEMORIES, I’m sure you’ll know for yourself that you made a wise decision.
On the flipside - DANG, Apple Computer! ;) very cool either way. Congrats.
I completely respect your decision, but.
Since you already knew what it is like on one side of the fence, you have the ability to compare that of the other side. I am afraid you might always wonder “what if…”
I truly wish there was a way for you to have tried working at Apple. That way, you could have experienced, first hand, what the actual environment would have been. Who knows, it may have been much more tolerable than imagined? Yes, some sacrifice would have been made, but would it have been as bad? (also, sacrifice typically necessary for progress or advancement, no?)
But yeah, I see, it is no simple task to just jump over to Apple then bail if it’s not what you want.
Ahh! damn yo. I can feel the frustration that must have plagued the Moll residence from here!
The right decission is not always the best decission but its still the right decission ….
A difficult choice: yes; a wise decision: indeed.
Your family are lucky indeed for you seem to be a man with the right values.
You may question yourself today, but tomorrow’s tomorrow will reward you with a life where you are part of a grateful family.
On the day you die what will you regret?
The fancy job at Apple or not spending quality time with your family and friends?
The family is the right choice.
Cameron…I respect the decision simply because it was yours & yours alone to make. But dude, you live in Utah, right? Utah! Get the eff out for a little while! You can always come back to where you’ve been…but only after you’ve been somewhere else. Just my three cents.
I’m with you man…I’m loving my freedom to do whatever comes to mind, to work whenever and however I want, and to not shave for days. It may not be the most logical thing to do, but at least you know that you are in charge of your own destiny. See you at SXSW! Looking forward to the conferance.
Utah’s awesome, but I’m also a BYU grad. :-p
I wonder if the choice is not between the fast lane vs. the slow lane with family considerations, but an issue of short term pain vs. long term gain? Might a few years at apple put one in the position of being a freelancer extraordinaire? The go-to guy for conferences and lucrative consulting projects? Maybe 3 years out after going solo again, you’d be providing even better for your family with even more free time? It also depends on future goals which you didn’t lay out. Will your six kids be attending Stanford, or U. of Utah? If Stanford, tell the apple people to call back in 10 years when tuition bills start coming in. :-)
You did make the right choice. This is the sort of decision that will make your future work better. Without a doubt.
You’ll never get that time back with your kids if you miss it. A job is a job, Apple will always be there (at least I hope it will be - I love my Mac). If later the kids are older and a chance like that comes around, you may be able to make a different decision. It’s one thing to have a good company on your resume, but you have to like the job and what you do too. I’ll bet the stress and guilt on the family would have eaten at you. I know it would have eaten me alive. You can always do cool things without Apple.
Glad to hear you have your priorities in order.
There is only one job worth swapping the life of a freelancer for (despite having to live with the fact that next month may be a bad one) and that is the top job. I was amazed to read that you thought that one day you would go “back on the clock”. No way - once free of “Dilbert world” no sane persone would go back.
Relax - it’s nice to be asked and if Steve Jobs decides to retire then his job might be fun but a cubicle - no way!
What’s next? You are going to sign up for the Army, but won’t want to kill people.
Apple is what it is, like all other entities, it has a life and a history, so you should have known what it would take, and thank God you did not go for it! Because they don’t need indecisive weaklings.
Can I get a witness?!
Wow, an in-person interview? 6.5 hours? Since 1990 I’ve submitted at least two hundred resumes to Apple (many different positions), and even though I’ve always had friends working there, I had only ever received one phone interview. Having lived in the Sunnyvale/Cupertino/Mountain View/San Jose locations all my life, a job at Apple would be ideal due to the short commute. Congrats on the long-ass interview, and I commend you on making such a tough decision to not commit (a choice I don’t think I would be capable of).
-he who stacks pork
I left a job other people would sell their grandmother to get and went back to school. I’m now studying law and haven’t regretted my choice even once.
Life is too short not to follow your instincts.
Thanks for putting your family first.
It’s not bad to step out in faith from time to time, however. My wife & 3 kids & I left Denver for Kenya, Africa for 2 years. It has been hugely stretching but also has vastly expanded our idea of life.
And I don’t miss design. Most days.
I have avoided working at Apple for precisely the same reasons — great company, great design, but damn if I don’t value my own free time. And at the end of the day, it’s just a company that makes stuff that ends up in the landfill, as will we some day. Have fun!!!
You made the right call. With fifteen years of a brilliant software career behind me, my oldest son being diagnosed with cancer opened my eyes to where the true values of life are to be found.
I left the industry altogether and relocated to reduce our cost of living. I now write and homeschool my children, and I nor my family would go back for anything in the world.
The simple principle of “first things first” has served me well once I grasped its meaning—-sounds like you’re a subscriber too.
You made the choice. Don’t second guess yourself. Pursue that choice now with everything you’ve got, firm in the knowledge that your decision was based on the priority to put the people in your life first—-where they belong.
Man, I honestly envy those that can pull off the full time freelance career. I am hoping to be there myself within a few years. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed taking personal days off to get other projects done and enjoyed being able to go to a local coffee shop to plug in the lap top and so work from there.The whol felxible schedule idea is one of the most appealing things ever. I think you truly have a great thing man. Cherish it!! Family is way more important than working for anybody.
nice to read. I’ve been working at Apple for one and a half years, in the Tech Support division at Apple Europe. It was a great time, and I really don’t want to miss it, but I quit the job in fall of 2005.
I’m now back in Munich, working as a freelancer in the design branch and couldn’t be more happier. Of course, money is shorter than it was during my time at Apple, but it doesn’t weigh the amount of freedom I got for it.
Good decision you took, especially as you are responsible for a family - I was on my own, so it was easier for me to decide.
Nice, it is nice to see a someone of your caliber give a nod to family and the external things that matter more than a paycheck.
As for 6.5 hours, I feel you man, did a combined 13+ hours of interviewing and negotiating, not to mention the time spent emailing, phone calls, phone interviews, etc. for another reputable tech giant - for a position in web development/design management.
I think everyone has had to make tough decisions in life that ultimately could leave you wondering “what if”. I think, or hope, everyone is familiar with the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost - the last few lines always keep me working towards what I love and believe in -
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
I certainly would imagine this would be true for you as well. I must say you now have seem to have a pretty big following - look how many of us responded to you! You’re definitely an inspiration!
Life is only one. The time you loose cannot be bought back. If you are lucky enough to have a wife and kids that you love (and that love you) you don’t really need anything else. It will all work out for the best.
It was undoubtedly one of the most honest and touchy post/article/story from someone from tech world. I am at loss of words here, indeed.
What you missed by this opportunity is what you once loved and liked but what you now have is what you love now and will always - your family, your place and your work. I think Apple must have lost this great opportunity to have you on board as well but that loss might not be as big as all of us seeing you less on your blog, conferences and around your family and kids like old times.
It all reminds me of what my sister used to say that when we make tough decisions without a clue of our wisdom, leave them as is just to let them settle down and good days’ll roll in.
And just like the sentiments of your family and other readers, I’d say the same: It’s good to have you with us, Cameron.
I think you made the right decision. I spent the fifteen years at Apple, and can confirm that the biggest regret that I had is that I devoted so much time and effort to the company and so little time to my life and family. Yes, Apple can be a great place to work, but at the end of the day it is just another company, employing you to make more money for it than it pays out to you. Anything more you get out of it is up to the people who are your managers, and there are good and bad managers within Apple (like any large company). Some will take all you are willing to give and still demand more. You could have been lucky; you could have been unlucky. Working with people who you can trust and they trust you is more important than the name of the company, regardless of who it is. But above this is your family, and I applaud your being able to make this decision.
Thank you for sharing this. As a mother and freelance web designer I’ve been faced with a similar decision lately, though not for someone as cool as Apple. It’s tough being the mother, the nurturer, the one your child needs on a daily basis and knowing we also won’t make it without a larger second income. I’ve had to face leaving my daughter to go back to “the corporate world” and I’m terrified somehow. It helps to hear there are real pros out there who value their family as much as I do. God bless the 8 of you! :)
Thank you all again for the kind words and support. I’m honestly a bit surprised at how many of us side with family much more than work or anything else. Of course I’d hope it would be that way for all, but too often it’s easy to get caught up in high salaries and prestigious opportunities.
Here’s to family.
If you’d taken that job than this ‘authentic worn wisdom’ you’re passing on to us, web juniors, would be pacing a great impact. In one hand I’m glad that there are people who actually side with life instead of opportunity. This world lacks such ones.
I’ve recently ordered your CSS book. I must say I’m having high hopes since I’m ‘the web junior’ (at the age of 18) seeking knowledge. Although I would accept that Apple job, due to my age and extensive free time, I completely concur with your decision.
Good job - this blog, your articles, pieces… Could you find time for a second ALA article? I really enjoyed the previous one.
Well, all the best, to you and the family.
I’d have to congratulate you. There are far more important things than working at a company, even as great as Apple. Family, and time spent with them, and the quality of your family life are among those things of importance.
I left the rat race after I learned the hard way, what was most important to me.
My husband just took a job with Apple, but they let us stay where we were, which is a long way from Cupertino. I’d rather have a sharp stick in the eye than move anywhere in California. I live in fear that they are going to change their mind and ask us to move. Much as I love having someone else clean my house, something we couldn’t afford before, I could get over it.
Right on, Cameron.
It’s too bad that our culture forces us to make choices between work and home. It’s an indication of how far the modern world takes us away from being human.
When one is young and relatively unattached, it might make sense to “give it all” to the company—but the choice soon becomes one of work vs. parenting, work vs. a healthy relationship with one’s partner/spouse, work vs. free time for contemplation, rest, art, play…
I have always believed that we need not only to work to earn our bread, but we need to work “for the world”, so to speak: whether that work involves caring for children and parents, doing something for the earth, or participating in the life of our communities.
Look around most communities, and see how much gets done by retirees and others who have the time, skills, and love to accomplish all the things that corporations cannot.
I grew up in a generation that prided itself on the work-obsessed (and thus largely absent) father. I’m very, very heartened that you (and apparently many of your contemporaries) are not willing to live that way.
wow. I have to say, it really takes a wisdom to make the decision you have made and I would like to say that I think you have made the right one. will it be the best or not - who knows, and “what if” will probably stay with you for the rest of your life, but family is really what should be taken into an account in the first place, and I congratulate you on that one!
I’m getting married next month just to be with the person I love and care, and will be leaving corporate world to spend more time with her, so I know what it is all about! take care!
I would hope after reading all of these comments that your mind would rest at ease that you made the right decision. I, too, am proud of you putting your family at the front of your equation.
I have to deal with family vs. work every week at my daily grind. Fortunately, I can just say “no.” Family comes first in my book. You don’t want to be like those guys in the movie constantly calling from the office apologizing to your youngin’s about why you missed their soccer game 9 times in a row.
Keep up the fine work and livin’ the good life!
Thanks for sharing this “choice”.
What I learned, with your pros and cons, is that Apple is loosing a lot of great brains because of a stupid real estat factor. I understand working in a team, but in your case, would your presence be significant at the Apple campus? Why not offering tools and online tools to let pœple like you working from anywhere? Or why not build a separate campus somewhere else? The idea here is to drag the best brainers, not only the single brainers.
Guess big compagnies will have to deal with your objectives conclusions and not just offer compensation (when they can offord to do it).
The Kabbalah says that man receives The Light through his woman. Meaning that if a man makes his woman happy he’ll be lucky and have success and all kinds of good things from the world.
It’s not just a fortune cookie crap wisdom � it’s a mechanism of the world. I’m sure that if you’ll look at your life you’ll agree with this. So don’t worry about the �missed� opportunity. If your woman and your family is happy then the opportunities are still to come. Big time!
Money and prestige are certainly not the most important parts of the equation of a balanced and happy life.
Hats off to you Cameron for following your heart.
I wish you the very best. You deserve it.
Amazing to find this. I went through the same process at Apple in Sweden for a technical position. Interview after interview after interview…and did the same thing. Can’t explain how hard it was to not take the job. But I understand what you mean. Apple is an amazing oportunity, but one that must be wayed very seriously.
How do you guys do it? Its really hard to go freelancing (hats off to you guys :o) when you have commitments. I have being working as a contractor (which is kind of like freelancing) on various projects as J2EE developer however my passion is in web design and I have tried to give this ago. My wife is very supportive and she is alway 100% with me. I believe you and your wife made the right choice. Good luck and hope one day there will be a wealth of talented designer who can form a company which would be far bigger and greater than Apple or some of the other big fish.
Come August, I’m giving up a pretty cushy, high-paying job in Redmond to move up to Vancouver and pursue my own dreams. It’s a really tough call to make. My first jobs up north will almost assuredly not make me nearly as much money as I make now, but there’s a lot to be said about pursuing peace and happiness in life. In that sense, I think that you made the right decision in that you recognised that it’s not about money as much as it is about making sure your life is a happy one.
I’ve been working cushy, corporate jobs all my adult life, and I would trade all that in a heartbeat to get the chance to do the sorts of things you get to do as a freelancer. To illustrate my point: if you asked if I’m going to get to see you speak at SXSW this year? My answer is the tired old “Sorry, I have to work.” For all the money I make, I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities.
Besides, freelancing isn’t easy, but people like you give people who want to try it hope, and that’s worth more than all the money in Cupertino. :)
Thank you for sharing your decision making process, Cameron. I’ve been on both sides of that equation (although not with Apple), and agree that we’ll never know the answer to “what if” questions.
Years ago, as a poor artist on a borrowed dime, I lived and painted on Nantucket. One day, while working on location, a very influential man confided in me that he wished he had chosen the path I was walking. When I asked how he would cope with the poverty he said that his spending increased with his earning, but he hated every minute of his work, even with all the money. This man was a captain of industry, but quite unhappy. Without enough money that day for lunch at the local sandwich shop, I didn’t agree with him.
Years later I resigned a dream job in the ski industry in order follow the needs of the heart. I moved back to the Boston area to be available to elderly parents and to get married to my fiance, who couldn’t cope with the “all-or-nothing” mentality of an ambitious corporation. Since then my career has few bragging rights, but when I look across the table at my wife and our nine year old son, all regrets fade.
Bravo. What about targeting Chiat Day? They do all the hip high-profile stuff for Apple anyway.
I’d love to see the brand manual Apple received from them back in ‘84. Apple people are savvy, but the ad agencies are the source.
You made a good call. The higher profile the design work, the more likely it’s an independant ad agency doing the creative anyway.
I think you have the clarity of mind and the guts to do what you think is right. And there are very few people in the world who would be able to do what you did. Now, there would always be the fanatically ambitious who would consider you to be an imbecile, but look at it this way… twenty years from now when you see your kids having grown up to better individuals because of the few extra hours that you had given them, then let me see who has the last laugh!
No regrets in life. Thats how it should be!
Authentic Boredom is the platitudinous web home of Cameron Moll, freelance new media designer, author, and speaker. More…
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1 Simon Kitson ~ 21 February 2006 at 07:55 AM
You’re a braver man than I - kudos to you and your wife. There are not many people who know what they truely want in life. Even fewer (in our industry) who would pass up the chance to work at Apple.
As someone thinking about taking the plunge into full-time freelance work it’s nice to hear from my peers that they believe they made the right decision. I hope it all works out for you, and that when (if) you ever return to the daily-grind there are no compromises to be made.