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Apple: responsibility at the heart of innovation

With his UTC diploma and elective specialty Computer Science, Hafid ARRAS started his internship with Apple in 2006. He had in fact hesitated, between accepting a position in an SME which offered more freedom to the young graduate and a major group, with more facilities; at the Apple trademark, he found a perfect ‘balance’.

Apple: responsibility at the heart of innovation

He went to California for 6 months, somewhat apprehensively: a new country, a new experience and a company that at the tile did not have the aura it has today. But Hafid settled in rapidly into the team, the mission of which was to make the geo-localisation of the MacOSx multilingual. « This is a fabulous area for people working in and with Its; you have a concentrate of persons who are dynamic and in charge of cutting edge projects, an environment with extraordinary emulation », says Hafid who has been living in San Francisco and working at the Apple R&D site where the main decisions are made) for the past 7 years.

About 15 UTC undergraduates on internships

They are in fact recruited by another UTC graduate, Jean-Pierre CUIDAD who opens the way for others from UTC-Compiegne. « What we do is review and recommend their CVs and we are now in direct contact with the Manpower Manager of the Software Division at Apple. Some 15 UTC undergraduates have been offered 6 month internships and a few have since been hired », explains Hafid ARRAS. Today he manages a tram of 10 working on design of ‘tools’ to make the voice recognition software multilingual too. The SIRI package allows you to dictate, voice control your phone, etc.? « This application created by an independent start up, was bought by Apple to fully exploit its possibilities. It now is available for i-phones as of the 4S version and also on the latest i-pad model » says Hafid. « The ‘app’ uses artificial intelligence (AI) and comes in English, French and 8 other languages, among which Chinese and Korean recently. « The app is constantly improved like all other projects that require a very large number of data to work optimally. With the latest i0S7, scheduled for the Fall 2013, I hope users will see the difference! »

Less theory and more responsibilities

Apple offers engineers three career paths: progress through management levels, more technical expertise for new products or a combination of both? « These three choices are equally valorised in the company », explains Hafid but he points out the differences between American and French engineers. « The French are better at theory, the Americans have often put together an « app » in parallel to their studies, for example. The America, also know how to present their work better than we do: it’s not self-sufficient to have a good idea, you have to sell it and convince the management. Training an engineer in the USA takes 4 years compared with 5 in France – but our UTC diploma is seen as equivalent to a Master’s degree when we are hired in the USA ». Another difference lies in management. « In the US hi-tech market segment, the inter-personnel relationships are less hierarchy-driven. The manager is more of a coach, an orchestra conductor, than a sergeant-major chief. All the employees have a large degree of freedom, lots of responsibilities and this begins even at intern level. Engineers hold very creative positions and their ideas are taken into account throughout the development stages of a project. To illustrate, one of the UTC interns actually solved the problems related to Arabic language and writing from right to left », adds Hafid. « The onus is on the employees to show they can effectively hold down their jobs and responsibilities. »

Apple fonctionne comme une start-up

What is impressive, in Hafid’s eyes, is that Apple has managed to retain its start-up mode of work, with all the facilities of a major company, thanks to its structure in small teams who each handle and tackle different problems. « There is a phenomenal disproportion in size of teams and the impact of the product on which they are working. It simply is wonderful for an engineer » notes Hafid enthusiastically. So why does he no longer count his time on the job? « I just love working in this mutually confident ambiance where nobody checks when we come or go – in the heart of an organisation where you can learn a lot, from immensely skilled people easily accessible to all ». Thus Hafid is constantly in contact directly with the Vice-presidents, to whom the engineers present their progress reports « The VPs then report directly to the CEO-Chairman. All interns explain their work to the whole department and the Director then chooses those that will do their presentation again, for the VPs. This year, a UTC trainee, Sanaa SQUALLI was selected out of dozens of internship projects to present her work to the entire i0S7 Department! »