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Ask Max: What can a teenager do now to prepare to work for Apple in the future?

Asked on 04/17/2007:

I am a 14 year old who has been using a Mac ever since elementary school and have been exploring every nook and cranny. It has come the time for high school and coming closer to my future. I really want to work for Apple, but not just at the retail store. I want to be working with the best, expanding Jobs' empire and blowing Microsoft out of the water. So I guess my question is what can I do now to help myself to be a great Apple employee?


There is quite a bit you can do now and into the future to build the Mac skills you will need. The first step is to get the tools you will use to develop and troubleshoot software. Fortunately, Apple offers free software development tools. A copy of these tools would have come with your computer, but you will want to always work with the latest version. To get the development tools you will have to be a registered Apple developer but luckily that is also free. You will need to get your parents to sign you up because there is an 18 years or older restriction on it. Here is the link to the developer's site: After installing the Apple developer's tools you should start working through the PDF documentation to get familiar with the tools. There are sample projects with step-by-step instructions on creating simple programs. Completing just a few of the sample projects will take you to a technical level above about half of where the current Mac techs are in regards to software.

After you create a little application and perhaps make an installer, then you can start poking around in other peoples programs to see how they did it. If you hold down the "Control" key and click on an applications icon you will get a special menu. This is the same as right clicking when you have a two-button mouse. In the menu that appears is the "Show Package Contents" option. Selecting it will open the hidden contents of that application in a new finder window. The files and folders inside the application's Contents folder is what make up a program. Every function of the program starts from there. After you install the developer tools you will be able to open many of the files inside the developer applications and even make edits. My only word of caution is that you can stop a program from running by playing around, so make a copy of the program first before you start changing things inside of it.

The best way to become knowledgeable about solving Mac problems is to start fixing them. It may seem strange, but being responsible for finding solutions to problems will make you better at fixing them. The world of computers changes so quickly that the information you learn from traditional studying will soon become outdated before you can use it all. It is better to research as you go along and instead of learning the fix for a problem you will learn methods of solving computer problems. A specific fix for a problem will change or become obsolete before long, but the method that was used to create that fix remains the same for years. A great way to get that tech experience is to give away your services. With your parents permission, offer to volunteer your services as a Mac Tech at a senior citizens home. Provide tech support for whoever needs your help. When someone asks you a question or has a problem you do not know how to solve, make an appointment to get back to them. Go home and do the research on Apples support site and all over the web. When you find the answer you can go back and try to fix the computer. It is important to take the work you do for people as a challenge. "I do not know" should never come out of your mouth unless followed by the words "but I will find out." This is a great way to keep your skills sharp and your confidence strong.

The last bit of advice I have for you is that you do not need to get a paycheck from Apple to be working for the Apple cause. Apple started as a company born from a California garage and grew into an empire. It has continued to grow beyond its confines as a company alone. Apple is a company and a community. The people who choose to create hardware and software for the Mac are as much responsible for the success of the Apple community as Apple Computer itself. Make your goal to be brilliant and creative with technology and then decide where you want to do your work.

Good luck with your ambitions and stay in touch.

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