Apple Director of Machine Learning resigned over company’s hybrid return-to-office policy

Almost after two years, Apple corporate staff returned to offices in April with its new return-to-office policy. However, unhappy with the new hybrid policy, the company’s Director of Machine Learning (ML), Ian Goodfellow has resigned after three years.

Prior to joining Apple in 2019, Goodfellow worked at Google as a senior staff research scientist. He is recognized for his work on the development of GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks) which put two competing neural networks against each other to improve the system’s accuracy.

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When the hybrid return-to-work policy was announced in 2021, the company faced considerable pushback from employees who demanded more flexibility like Google and Facebook. But concerned with leaks, the tech giant told its employees that remote work is not as effective as face-to-face collaboration and all staff members will be returning to offices, eventually.  Deirdre O’Brien, senior vice president of retail and people said:

“We believe that in-person collaboration is essential to our culture and our future. If we take a moment to reflect on our unbelievable product launches this past year, the products and the launch execution were built upon the base of years of work that we did when we were all together in-person.”

Apple’s ML director gave lack of flexibility in the new return-to-office policy as the reason for departure

As per the hybrid return-to-work policy, corporate employees will come to the office twice a week till May 20, and from May 23 onwards, employees will have to work from the office thrice a week, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

However, this arrangement is not acceptable for Goodfellow who said it was not flexible enough for his team. According to Zoë Schiffer from The Verge, Goodfellow wrote:

Ian Goodfellow, Apple’s director of machine learning, is leaving the company due to its return to work policy. In a note to staff, he said “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team.” He was likely the company’s most cited ML expert.

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Goodfellow’s departure comes at a time when Apple is already facing a talent drain issue. In the past few months, the Apple Car team lost Doug Field, who joined Ford Motors, former global head of battery development Soonho Ahn who joined Volkswagen, Micheal Schwekutsch who joined Archer and three engineers have left Apple to join electric aviation startups.

The company is also planning to decentralize Silicon Valley in search of new valuable talent because of Silicon Valley’s high living cost. And to retain engineers, Apple awarded the second round of bonuses to select software, and hardware engineers in restricted stock units worth up to $200,000 called the “special retention grants” internally. Previously, the company gave stock bonuses to 10% to 20% of engineers in silicon design, hardware, and select software and operations groups, ranging from $50,000 to $180,000, to stop them from defecting to Meta in December 2021.

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Addicted to social media and in love with iPhone, started blogging as a hobby. And now it's my passion for every day is a new learning experience. Hopefully, manufacturers will continue to use innovative solutions and we will keep on letting you know about them.