Apple ramped up design hiring ahead of Jony Ive's exit: Thinknum

Apple (AAPL) increased hiring for its design teams just before the announcement that its Chief Design Officer Jony Ive would be leaving the company, according to a recent report from Thinknum.

During the second quarter, job postings in Apple’s design division more than doubled: from 35 at the start of April to 72 by the end of May. And design employment openings remained elevated through mid-July, Thinknum data showed.

The jump in hiring was “likely in anticipation that Jony Ive” – a key visionary behind Apple’s iconic Mac, iPod and iPhone designs – would be departing, Thinknum’s Jon Marino said. (Apple did not respond to Yahoo Finance’s request for comment.)

Apple announced at the end of June that Jony Ive would be exiting the company after nearly 30 years, in what CFRA Research analyst Angelo Zino called “the biggest loss for the company since the passing of the iconic Steve Jobs.”

Ive, whose official departure will take place later this year, is leaving to begin his own independent design firm, LoveFrom, which will still have Apple as a client.

Other reports have suggested Ive’s disconnect with Apple’s less product-centric direction under CEO Tim Cook was also partially at play in his decision to leave. Cook himself, however, has since refuted these claims.

Apple design job postings

While the departure of the long-tenured Apple executive took many investors and analysts by surprise, the hiring surge for Apple’s design teams suggests the tech giant already had a contingency plan in place.

“Apple – and Cook – is not a company that ever normally gets surprised,” WedBush analyst Dan Ives told Yahoo Finance. “So even when it seems like they were surprised, behind the scenes, in the walls of Cupertino, I think they were preparing for it.”

The prescient move to bulk up its design staff ahead of Ive’s departure also underscores the company’s continued investment in its hardware products and designs, even as many media reports – and the company itself – have tilted the narrative to depict a company focused on bringing digital services into the fold.

Apple employed about 132,000 full-time workers as of the end of its 2018 fiscal year, according to an annual filing.

‘Metamorphosis’

But other recent hiring trends at Apple reinforce the company’s ambitions to expand into more diverse product offerings, including services, which now comprise more than one-fifth of quarterly revenue.

Apple’s job postings in Sales and Business Development, for instance, climbed 70% between the beginning of April and end of June, according to Thinknum data, and rose even further in the weeks since. In mid-July, the Sales and Business Development postings climbed to as high as 587.

Based on Apple’s jobs page, the company has recently sought talent to fill out roles including business development managers for Apple Pay, Apple TV and Apple Card – all newly unveiled units captured within Apple’s services segment.

Apple's sales and business development job postings

“The increase in sales and business development job postings in Q2 suggests that Apple is maintaining its focus on strengthening all product lines, and that it may not be reliant on the iPhone to carry so much of its revenue,” Thinknum’s Jon Marino told Yahoo Finance.

In the three months to June, Apple’s service segment revenue climbed to a new high of $11.46 billion. This, however, fell slightly short of consensus expectations for $11.95 billion in quarterly services-derived revenue.

This segment also includes the App Store, Apple Care and Apple Music. With iPhone sales on the decline, Apple has recently touted its services division as a means of leveraging its ecosystem of more than 1 billion active installed devices to market additional software to customers.

“Ultimately, this is a company going through a metamorphosis,” Wedbush’s Ives said. “So you have different skillsets that they need to fill and that’s why I definitely sense within [Apple’s] HQ, they’re transitioning to much more of a services company.”

This isn’t the first time Apple’s hiring trends have visibly shifted as the company worked to add personnel to some of its growing divisions. Thinknum reported that Apple’s job openings for health-related positions surged 400% over 2017 at the start of this year, about the time that Cook began touting that Apple’s health-related work would be the company’s “greatest contribution to mankind.”

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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