Apple Pay – 2021

I received a LinkedIn message from a recruiter:

Ever wondered what life would be like if you could actually fly?

I recently qualified a Software Engineer role with major impact to our company and all of our customers. I believe that with your experience coupled with your background working at Indeed and Mozilla, Apple can be your wings to help you fly in your career.

Hope to have the opportunity to tell you more about this!


Recruiting Backend Software Engineers to join the Apple Pay Team 🍎!

I like Apple Pay. A lot. I especially like paying with my watch. I double click the side button and hold it over the payment terminal, and magic happens.

I was pretty sure the back-end was done in Java and was a lot like the work I was already doing.

So, at this point, why would I talk to Apple?

I had been at Indeed almost 5 years at this point, and although it’s a fabulous place to work, one thing had been bothering me for a while. In those 5 years, I had not received one raise.

Indeed tries to be extremely fair with its compensation system, but I think that they hired me into a level in the software engineering individual contributor ladder which was probably too high for my actual programming experience. Aside from a few months here and there, I had essentially taken a 14 year break from programming, doing things like management, QA, automation, release engineering, and project management. I had never worked on a commercial website, and I barely knew Java. The first two years at Indeed, I felt that I had the proverbial firehose pointed at me. Often, I would get done with work in a given day feeling completely drained as I tried to learn yet something else hard that day.

That being said, I thought I had really started progressing after 18-24 months. But it was taking forever to move to the next level, and my progress through those requirements had not caught up to what I had being paid in my level.

So I was frustrated.

My simple philosophy about interviewing is:

  • There are a handful of famous tech companies that I will listen to if the job opening is doing something I am interested in. At the time, the list included Apple and Tesla.
  • There are small companies that have great tech, and which I am deploy interested in or am a customer of.
  • There are research areas of tech that I have always been interested in. If a company is doing that, and they want to talk, I will talk.

Apple is one of the companies I follow and I really enjoyed working there the first time. And Apple Pay is a technology I am very interested in.

But first, I had to ask if this were full-time or contract/contract-to-hire, and whether this was remote or not (post-COVID, obviously).

The recruiter responded that it was a full-time position. It was remote for now, but working in the Austin Apple office would be an option eventually. So I sent him my current resume. In response, he asked me to schedule a phone conversation on a site called Calendly. This is a pretty cool site, actually. It allows people to collaborate on events asynchronously. First time I had seen it.

The only wrinkle is that this particular week the State of Texas was hit with the worst winter storm in its history. Our house was fortunate; we kept power, gas, internet, cell service, and water the entire week, and had no burst pipes. So I could keep my appointment.

I hadn’t seen snow like this where I lived since 1973 in Lubbock. And this was Austin. Low of 7º F.

The phone screen with the recruiter went well; don’t remember much, but in these calls, the recruiter usually tries to sell me the job. I did not need to be sold, as long as I was qualified. Apple was a known quantity for me, and the actual programming languages and environments were what I was currently working on.

After a few days, he gave me good news:

Great news 🤗

The hiring team would like to speak with you! Could you provide me with several dates and times of availability for a 1-hour technical phone interview?

We scheduled a time. Of course, with the year it was, I had to reschedule. We had been trying to prepare our house to sell, and the day I was supposed to interview was the day we listed the house. It was a hectic time! I had to delay a couple of more times because of the absolute chaos of listing a house and trying to sell it.

I did eventually meet with an Apple person for a phone call, and it went well:

Great news! It looks like the interviewer and you had a wonderful conversation and we would like to proceed onto the 2nd phone interview stage.

Could you provide me some dates and times of availability for a 1-hour 2nd phone interview?

I did.

When I did the one hour initial interview, it was a typical coding interview with a very nice gentlemen. The programming problem was not trivial, but was not particularly difficult. Unfortunately, I got stuck, and did not do particularly well. So, it was not a surprise at all when I got this message:

Thank you for taking the time to Phone interview with the team. The team member(s) enjoyed speaking with you and hope that you had a good interviewing experience.

After serious consideration, the team has concluded that they do not have a fit for this particular position. However, if you are still interested in working at Apple, we encourage you to apply for other positions on the Apple jobs page (, and wish you the very best with all future interviews.

Oh, well.

Earbug – 2019

Earbug logo
Nice logo – only public facing asset to date

I received an intriguing email from the former general manager at Spawn Labs one day:

Hi Syd – Hope all is well with you these days! I’m writing you because I’ve formed a new startup company. It’s a really strong concept with a very high ceiling, and I think we can launch our first app in about 6 months. I have 4 engineers working on it now, and I am planning to add 6 more guys (on a side gig basis, 10 hours per week) to get things done quickly, while keeping the load reasonable on everyone as a side gig. I sincerely believe this will be big, and at the same time it’s very manageable in scope. I enjoyed working with you on Spawn Labs so I wanted to reach out to see if you’d be interested in learning more about what we are doing. I am allocating solid equity chunks to our core engineering team members. Please let me know if you’re interested. If not, no worries, and I hope you’ve had a great 2019!

I really enjoyed working for him at Spawn. He was as honest as he was allowed to be when the wheels start falling off; in May of 2012, he called me into his office and told me that I should probably start looking for another position, as things did not look great. Turns out I actually resigned a few months later before they laid me off, but still… Those last few months were very strange, as they paid me not to work.

I met with him at a local barbeque joint and he gave me the pitch. I can’t talk about what the company was going to do (I signed an NDA), but basically, the gist was exactly as he said. People were already working a few hours a week. No pay at this point. Significant equity instead. They needed server engineers and mobile engineers. They all worked from home. They were all independent contractors.

This sounded to me like a good opportunity to keep up my IOS skills. I said yes.

It took a few weeks to finalize the paperwork, but in January of 2020, I signed everything, and was given keys to the kingdom.

He had hired a mobile lead and another engineer to work on IOS, and he had hired out an initial design of the application. I met with the lead, and we initially hit it off. He assigned me to work on logging in via social media, as that was initially the only way the app was going to have users.

I started trying to figure out how to login using Facebook. I banged at it for a few weeks, but was unsuccessful. I really only had time to work on it on Sunday mornings, and when I ran into trouble, I had nobody to talk to at Facebook. If I were in an office five days/week, I could have found somebody to help out.

In the meantime, I discovered that I had a fundamental disagreement with the mobile lead. I was under the impression that we were trying to get a proof of concept app out into the world as fast as possible, so we would put together something with a very small feature set, ship it, and then replace it with a richer and more robust code base over time. And I thought we were going to be agile about it, doing one feature at a time, and refactoring and overhauling as needed.

The mobile lead did not want to do it that way. He wanted to develop a robust application framework that addressed the weaknesses of the classic IOS application up-front, and he wanted to use a technology framework that helped achieve that, called RxSwift.

There is nothing at all wrong with RxSwift; it is a tool that solves a fundamental problem with writing user-facing applications, namely, communicating data between the various pieces of the application in an automatic way. The mobile lead wrote a huge amount of code based on RxSwift, and as a result, there was a skeleton application.

My problem was that I had never used RxSwift before. I also disagreed that this was the way to go; I thought that if we were going to buy into a declarative framework, that we should be using SwiftUI, Apple’s own reactive framework. While it still needed some more work, to me, clearly it was the future.

I did not have time to learn RxSwift. Once again, if I were full time, and saw this everyday, the investment would be worth it. But it was going to take me weeks if not months to learn it.

On a personal level, we had challenges going on at home, and we made the decision to sell our house.

And in March, the world shutdown.

So, I talked to the president. I outlined the fundamental disagreement in the approach that the mobile lead and I had. I still though that shipping something small and fast and iterating was the better approach. I disagreed with the underlying technology we were going to use.

We agreed that the mobile lead and I were not going to resolve this, so we agreed that I would be let go.

I have not heard anything from them since; the website is still up, but it has no content except a logo. It is not even encrypted (accessed via http: instead of https:). I guess that they have never bought a certificate to do so.

I got to keep the equity had accumulated so far, but I don’t expect that I’ll ever see a penny from it at this point.

I have absolutely no hard feelings about this; I learned a lot, and would try it again. But it has to be an approach I can get onboard with, and I don’t need to be learning entirely new paradigms at 8-10 hours/week.