Mike Bland

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Leaving Apple

I learned to focus, simplify, and know my own value.

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Tags: Apple, QCI, Test Certified, Testing Grouplet, grouplets, personal

Friday, November 4, 2022 was my last day at Apple. I learned, grew, and accomplished a lot during my four years there. Most notably, I helped build an extensive volunteer organization in the style of the Testing Grouplet, called the Quality Culture Initiative.

As for why I left: My girlfriend and I lost our home in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in August 2020. After spending a year in the Santa Clara Valley, we decided to return to Virginia instead of committing to a multiyear rebuild. I accepted the risk that I would most likely not receive permission to continue working remotely once the return to office order came.

The QCI garnered these results during my tenure (all internal to Apple):

Training: I and almost 40 volunteers taught almost 360 course sessions of our 16 course curriculum. We had over 6100 check-ins from about 3200 unique attendees.

Internal setup and workflow reference: We delivered the Software Engineering department’s first comprehensive onboarding and workflow reference in its history. An entire chapter consisted of code review guidelines, from how to produce reviewable code to delivering a meaningful review.

Podcast: We published 45 episodes and attracted over 500 internal subscribers. The podcast drives a broad conversation around software quality, inviting guests from various teams and roles across the company to share their thoughts and experiences.

Internal Podcasts Server: Built using Python and internal services for Postgres, blob storage, and Kubernetes. We implemented several security features recommended by an internal security team, and it hosts a few other internal podcasts as well.

Test Certified inspired team roadmap program: Formally enrolled over 80 teams, with about 20 dedicated volunteers to guide the teams through the process. The program was designed for teams to self-serve at the beginning, so the actual number of participating teams is higher.

Embedded QCI advocates: Officially launched six groups of QCI advocates in organizations across the company, with at least six more poised to launch soon. The idea was to decentralize the QCI by having these groups apply our resources to achieving their orgs’ specific quality goals. At the same time, the network between these groups allows information to spread, making their work more visible across the company. Every group joining the network also enhances the credibility of all participating groups.

Sales presentations: We presented to over 50 teams and organizations across the company, to start conversations around software quality, culture, leadership, and how the QCI encourages them.

Virtual conference: We organized an event that produced nearly 50 recorded sessions from almost 60 presenters and panelists spanning nearly the entire company. The goal was to make quality work and its impact visible. Over 850 folks registered from across Apple, and we regularly sent session videos as examples and as references when introducing speakers in conversations.

There’s more we achieved that I’m not mentioning, and I clearly didn’t do this all by myself. A lot of other dedicated and talented people contributed to all of the above—and I tried my best to credit them fairly internally.

What makes the QCI’s results even more astonishing is that, for most of the time, I was the only full-time QCI member. The vast majority of the work was done on a volunteer basis. That wasn’t what I signed up for—I didn’t get the resources, management support, and career development I expected—but that didn’t stop us from executing the mission.

The most important thing is that the work continues. The QCI has a strong, deep bench of leaders carrying it forward—which was the essence of what the QCI was all about from the start. Improved software quality, achieved via sustainable principles and practices, is the outcome we want. The obstacles to achieving it are systemic, and overcoming them requires a culture change. Getting people to buy into the quality culture lifestyle and to promote that culture change requires leadership.

As hard as it was to walk away, it’s deeply gratifying to know that everything I worked for won’t grind to a halt and disintegrate. In fact, the QCI’s best days are still ahead of it—I’m proud to have done my part to set it on a course for success. The chain reaction is underway.

There’s much more I’d like to share here, of course, but I’m in no hurry. I need a break, and plan to focus on other things for a while. I’ll most likely wander back into independent consulting eventually. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the expensive six-stringed toys I had the money to buy but not the time to play. (And maybe tinker with making this blog prettier, finally.)