Apple Loses Senior Executive Over Remote Working Policy – Report

Apple has lost the services of its director of machine learning, Ian Goodfellow, after he disagreed with its strict return-to-office work policy.

Bloomberg News, citing people with knowledge of the matter, reported that Goodfellow is joining Alphabet’s DeepMind division.

Goodfellow oversaw machine learning and artificial intelligence at Apple, but he reportedly left the iPhone maker in recent weeks, citing the lack of flexibility in its work policies.

Machine learning director

But Apple’s loss is Google’s gain, with Goodfellow joining DeepMind as an individual contributor.

Ian Goodfellow is known as one of the foremost machine learning researchers, and the move is a reunion of sorts, Bloomberg noted, as he worked as a senior researcher at Google until 2019.

DeepMind declined to comment on the hire, Bloomberg reported, but it is understood that he has not yet started his role at Google.

During his time at Apple, Goodfellow was the director of machine learning within Apple’s Special Projects Group and supervised engineers working on autonomous technology.

The director level is one of the most senior at Apple, Bloomberg noted. The company has about 1,000 directors of a total of 170,000 employees – a figure that includes retail workers.

Goodfellow is the most senior employee known to leave over the company’s return-to-office policy, but more departures are expected as the rules go into effect.

When Goodfellow departed Apple, he cited the policy in an internal memo to staff. He reportedly wrote that he strongly believes that “more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” referring to Apple’s policies that are mostly against working from home.

Return-to-office

Earlier this week Apple again delayed its three day, return-to office mandate.

Apple had previously ordered all corporate staff to back-to-the office at least one day per week, beginning on 11 April.

Then from 2 May, staff were expected to spend two days per week in the office, rising to three days per week on 23 May.

That led to multiple Apple staff taking to corporate message boards to pushback against the above deadline.

Some said they will resign over the matter.

And it seems that Apple’s mandate is stricter than other big name tech giants in Silicon Valley, such as Meta, Google, Twitter or Amazon, all of which allow some employees to work remotely forever if approved by local management.

Google has certainly has a less strict return-to-office policy, and while it is asking staff to return to the office, it is also approving exemptions for most staff seeking to work from home.

Apple however has a more conservative approach to remote working, and is well known for discouraging working from home prior to Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

In June 2021 Tim Cook wrote a memo, stating most staff would be asked to come in to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, with the option of working remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Cook’s recall notice last year prompted internal resistance from employees, with an internal letter from Apple staff in June 2021 being made public, in which the Apple employees demanded more flexibility.

The staff letter in June 2021 also stated Apple’s return-to-office policy had “already forced some of our colleagues to quit”.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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