Dear Steve,

November 20, 2006

Steve-JobsThanks for the week off from work! It couldn’t have come at a better time, because I have a lot of stress I need to release. I’m afraid my job just isn’t working out well. You see, I am the only one on my team working from Cupertino! And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself in the past year, it’s that I am not suited for remote working.

I suppose that for an introverted geek, I’m pretty sociable. I place a high value on face-to-face relationships at work for two reasons: a) it’s more efficient, and b) it’s more fun.

Working at Claris, my first job here in the valley, I learned the efficiency of face-to-face interaction. When I thought I had found a solution to a problem, before submitting my changes, I would grab the person who had reported the problem, sit them down at my computer, and have them verify that the problem was in fact resolved. If it wasn’t, the person could explain and show me right away. This is a lot faster (and far less frustrating) than playing “bug database ping-pong” where we send written descriptions and rebuttals back and forth.

Then at Adobe, I learned the value of friendships in the workplace. When things got tough—and they always do—we trusted each other and looked out for each other, not just for our own interests. Sharing food and laughter made successful times a joy, and challenging times tolerable. Years later, I still count my coworkers from that time as some of my dearest friends.

At Adobe I also learned the value of random hallway interactions. If a problem stumped me, I could vent about it to a coworker in the hallway who would suggest, “You should go talk with such-and-so.” Or I might be discussing a problem with one person when a third person walking by would chime in with helpful information. Unplanned face-to-face interactions open the way for efficiency through serendipity.

In my time at Apple, with me in Cupertino and the rest of my team elsewhere,I have had none of these benefits. You know how a strength in one context can become a weakness in another? I’m afraid that learning to center my work around face-to-face relationships has made me a poor remote worker. It has been extremely frustrating. I have been unhappy with my reduced productivity, and at the same time I’ve been really lonely.

So my manager and I have agreed that I need a change by the year’s end. He said he will be supportive if I can find a different position at Apple. Steve, I would love to continue working for Apple if I can! But I will be exploring all of my options. I’d be particularly interested in any group that is open to test-driven development and other extreme programming practices. But I will be happy as long as I can find a team that is actually here. Wish me luck.

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

10 responses to Dear Steve,

  1. Good Luck!!!!!
    I know what you mean about human interaction at work. One of the best things about my job is that everyone in my department is friends with everyone else. We’re constantly popping in and out of each others’ offices. We even IM after work! You spend too much of your life at work to feel isolated there.
    Good, good, good, good luck!

  2. Thank you so much, Iris! “You spend too much of your life at work to feel isolated there.” Good words.

  3. Hope it all works out for the best Jon. I always tought that it would be great working at home, but you mention some very hard truths about the negative impact of home working. Ever since I got my new job working at Citrix Online, I have loved it more than any other job I have had largely because of the people. I get to interact with people more, make friends, and hang out outside of work. Thanks for this reminder.

  4. I would be curious to know what reply Steve gives to your message 😉

  5. Jon,
    You have like 50-60 years left. Make ’em good. Ditch all the suck that you can in your life. You go!
    N

  6. Ryan,
    What’s strange is that I generally work from my office at Apple headquarters! It’s the others who aren’t there. This isolation isn’t what I expected or signed up for.

  7. Noelle,
    “Ditch all the suck that you can”! Ha ha, I love it!
    Thanks for being such a good friend.

  8. Ahh you are not the only one unhappy with your position. Jor is unhappy as well and looking. I know how hard it can be when the thing you spend the most time on isn’t satisfying. I agree with the others, go for it!