Tyra Reeder, 21, works in Maryland at the first unionized Apple Store.
She is currently in the process of transitioning to a full-time position and has been vocal in unionizing the store.
This is Reeder’s story as told to writer Jenny Powers.
This essay is based on an interview with Tyra Reeder, 21, who works at the first unionized Apple Store in Towson, Maryland. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I grew up with Apple products. Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of one day working for the company.
As an Apple nerd at heart, I couldn’t wait to turn 18, which is the minimum age to apply for a job there. As my 18th birthday finally approached, I applied to the Towson Town Center Apple Store in Maryland, near Towson University, as a freshman.
It was January 2020, and back then, unbeknownst to everyone, COVID-19 would arrive just two months later. The pandemic brought everything to a halt, forcing all non-essential businesses to temporarily close their doors.
It took a year and 8 months for Apple to contact me regarding my application
When Apple emailed me to set up a preliminary meeting, I was thrilled and immediately called my parents to share the news. The interview lasted approximately two months and consisted of an initial phone call, a Zoom group interview, and a Zoom one-on-one interview with the store manager.
I received a job offer for a part-time position as a technical specialist and started work in January 2022. In this role I would check in repairs and do basic troubleshooting and diagnostics for all types of equipment.
I was making $20 an hour, a significant jump from the $13 an hour I was making at my last job. Even as a part-time employee, I had access to myriad benefits, including health and life insurance, vision and dental plans, discounted Apple stock, and product discounts.
My onboarding began with a 3-day virtual training program, followed by a month of in-store training in the Product Zone to familiarize myself with the product line.
From there I switched to the Genius Bar
To prepare for my job as a technical specialist, I completed another three-week training course. Working at Genius Bar can be an emotionally charged experience as most people who walk in are already pissed that their phone has some kind of problem.
My job is not only to determine if we can fix their device, but also to fix the relationship between the customer and Apple. In the time I spend with clients, my goal is to find a way to rebuild the bridge that has already burned in their minds.
Some days behind the Genius Bar I feel like a therapist or marriage counselor, while other days I feel like someone’s punching bag. I understand that a device like a phone enriches people’s lives in so many ways, which makes them very passionate about it. But there’s still no need to scream and scream or humiliate me and berate me.
When I’m feeling emotionally drained, I often talk to my co-workers
They’ve become like family to me and they really understand what I’m going through.
During my shifts, which can last between six and nine hours, we have an hour lunch break. I always make sure to leave the store so I can relax. That hour is usually all I need to come back refreshed.
We don’t wear our Apple shirts outside of the store. People have been known to ask us for help when we’re off work, and sometimes all they need is a glimpse of our Apple shirt peeking out of our coat.
They come running to us, phone in hand, asking us to fix the problem or asking when the new iPhone will be out. The truth is, we have no idea when the new phone model will be out until just before it hits stores.
Cracked displays are the most common hardware issue that brings people to the store
Not a single day goes by that I don’t see a cracked display. If you don’t have AppleCare, there’s no easy way to look you in the eye and tell you that a screen replacement will cost you somewhere in the region of $300, but that’s the truth when it comes down to it arrives Whether we tell you the cost of a repair or suggest it might be time to replace your device, it’s not because we want you to spend your money.
When it comes to software issues, unexpected reboots — or what we call a “boot loop” where your screen gets stuck on the Apple logo — are the most common challenges customers encounter.
Usually one restore is enough to get it working and get you out the door
Keep in mind that whether the problem is hardware or software, you need to know your Apple ID to even be able to fix your phone. When it comes to your Apple ID, we don’t know it and we can’t find it for you. You can call support and they can walk you through the retrieval process, but even they can only help you to a certain extent before it’s just up to you.
I once had a client who begged me to break into her locked phone because she was trying to access photos of her recently deceased mother. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do to help her because as soon as we restart the phone we lose everything in the process.
For every painful or difficult experience, there is a heartwarming moment worth having
Sometimes I see a kid walk in so excited because they saved enough money to buy their first phone. At others, a little old lady walks in annoyed that her phone isn’t ringing, only for me to put her ringer on and her eyes widen up at me like I’ve performed some kind of miracle.
At the moment I’m in the process of becoming full-time and moving up to “Expert” level, which means I can open phones and fix them myself. I am currently on a gap year at the school but plan to return in the fall and complete my bachelor’s degree in communications.
I see myself here for the long term and my goal is to one day become Lead Genius and work my way up to management.
Apple is a company that I came to and found family with
Every morning I wake up grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me. But as the Apple credo says, “Because good enough isn’t,” there are certainly things that many of my colleagues and I believe we could do better.
For this reason I have been a vocal participant in our recent move to unionize and now that we are the first shop in the country to do so, I plan to play an active role in the negotiation process.
After all, we are the face of Apple.
When you enter the store, don’t look at Tim Cook or Deidre O’Brien. You look at Tyra Reeder and people like me. In order to do our best, we need to feel good, and that’s what we do when we’re paid fairly and on a schedule that respects our mental health.
Read the original article on Business Insider