Egg Freckles
Notes from my Newton

January 2012 | Today’s Mac Genius

Today’s Mac Genius

Even at training (Early 2009) our instructor warned us about ‘Old School vs. New School’ Geniuses. His emphasis was that the needs of the business change.

Today’s Mac Genius are no longer required to have the same deep understanding of the Mac OS, its UNIX roots, or classic past. They can no longer troubleshoot the same impossible set of hardware symptoms with ease while working with multiple customers bar side. Their lack of knowledge into the depths of Apple history and lore is embarrassing for anyone who grew up with Clarus the Dogcow, HyperCard, and the 1.44MB SuperDrive. The Mac Genius who knew all these things have either moved on, or burned out. Replaced by a new generation of Mac Genius every who are eager to take their place every 18 months.

Tasks like replacing a display, swapping a phone, or updating software don’t require the same skills that isolating a failed video card or manually recreating a user in OS X do. As iPhones and iPads continue to fly out the door, the role of a Genius shifts.

The Mac Genius that work the bar today are different from the Mac Genius of the past. They see more iOS than Mac OS X. Their customers are delivered one by one using a reservation system while an assistant holding an iPad keeps order. Their troubleshooting techniques are predetermined, and the proper diagnosis codes must be achieved before parts can be ordered. Today’s Mac Genius work at a faster pace with more monotony, and less time for conversation.

“These customers don’t want to ‘hang out with a genius’ — they want their phone to work. NOW.

Today’s Mac Genius are replacements, excited to fill the role I once coveted until I we all burn out in the end. There is no path of advancement for a Mac Genius. For a long time I was angry Apple couldn’t find a place for more of the great Mac Genius from the past. But after reading the “The New Genius Bar” on Stephen Hackett’s 512 Pixels I began to understand that today’s Mac Genius are just as good at their jobs as my generation was at ours.

The Genius Bar has changed, and by letting the older Genius go, Apple was doing us all a favor. No matter how much we love the company, no one wants to be a Mac Genius forever.

Most Geniuses are emotionally invested in their jobs. Their ability to assess and react to any situation with skill, tact, and empathy keeps customers ranking Apple support so high, year after year.

There are better jobs out their with double the pay, better hours, and working behind the bar at an Apple Store is a great way to start a career.

I always saw the Genius role as a stepping stone into other IT jobs.

When you see a Genius complain about the nature or the business, the retail schedule, the ever increasing assembly line of work it is time for them to go.

Every 3 or 4 months you have to look hard at yourself and the current incarnation of the job and ask, Am I the best fit for this job? Am I willing to deal with the problem of the week and offer feasible solutions? Is my mental health in a state where I can enjoy this? Would I want to work with me with my current attitude? If the answer is no, I hope a manager helps you through that tough time and out the door if need be.

The magic of the position has worn off. I will always miss the good times I had working for Apple, but too much has changed both behind the bar and within myself for me to ever go back.