I'm an Apple Store technician. It's a tough job, but I love the joy of fixing a customer's beloved device.

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I'm an Apple Store technician. It's a tough job, but I love the joy of fixing a customer's beloved device.
Tyra Reeder
  • Tyra Reeder, 21, works in Maryland at the first unionized Apple store.
  • She's currently in the process of transitioning to a full-time position and has been a vocal participant in the store's move to unionize.
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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Tyra Reeder, 21, who works at the first unionized Apple store located in Towson, Maryland. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

I grew up on 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 required age to apply for a job there. When my 18th birthday finally rolled around, I applied to work at the Towson Town Center Apple store in Maryland, near Towson University, where I was a freshman.

It was January 2020, and unbeknownst to everyone at the time, COVID-19 would hit just two months later. The pandemic brought everything to a standstill and forced all nonessential businesses to temporarily close their doors.

It took a year and 8 months before Apple contacted me regarding my job application

When Apple sent me an email to schedule a preliminary interview, I was ecstatic and immediately called my parents to share the news. The interview process took roughly two months and consisted of an initial phone call, a group Zoom call, and a one-on-one Zoom with the store manager.

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I received a job offer for a part-time position as a technical specialist and started work in January 2022. In that role, I'd check in repairs and handle basic troubleshooting and diagnostics for all sorts of devices.

I was earning $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 countless benefits, including health and life insurance, vision and dental plans, discounted Apple stock, and product discounts.

My onboarding began with a three-day virtual training program, followed by a month of in-store training in the product zone to become acquainted with the product line.

From there, I transitioned over to the Genius Bar

I underwent an additional three weeks of training in preparation for my role as a technical specialist. Working at the Genius Bar can be an emotionally charged experience because, for the most part, the people coming in are already pissed off that their phone has some sort of issue.

My job is not only to determine if we can repair their device but also to repair the relationship between the customer and Apple. In the time I have with customers, my goal is to find a way to rebuild the bridge that, in their mind, has already been burned.

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Some days behind the Genius Bar, I feel like a therapist or a marriage counselor, while on other days I feel like someone's punching bag. I understand a device like a phone enriches people's lives in so many ways, which makes them become very passionate about it. But there's still no reason to yell and scream or demean me and call me names.

When I feel emotionally drained, I often talk to my coworkers

They have become like family to me and can relate to exactly what I'm going through.

During my shifts, which can run anywhere from six to nine hours, we get an hour lunch break. I always make a point of leaving the store so I can decompress. That hour is usually all I need to come back feeling refreshed.

Outside of the store, we don't wear our Apple shirts. People have been known to approach us for help when we're off the clock, and sometimes all they need is a glimpse of our Apple shirt peeking out of our coat.

They'll come running over to us, phone in hand, asking us to fix it or inquiring when the new iPhone is coming out. The truth is, we have no idea when the new phone model is coming out until right before it hits the store.

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Cracked displays are the most common hardware issue that brings people into the store

Not a single day goes by where 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 it's going to cost you somewhere in the range of $300 for a display replacement, but that's the truth when it comes down to it. Whether we're giving you the cost of a repair or suggesting it might be time to consider replacing your device, it's not because we want you to spend your money.

When it comes to software issues, unexpected restarts — or what we refer to as a "Boot Loop," where your screen is stuck on the Apple logo — are the most common challenges that customers encounter.

Usually, a restore is all it takes to get it up and running and get you out the door

Keep in mind that in order to get your phone fixed at all, whether it's a hardware or software issue, you must know your Apple ID. When it comes to your Apple ID, we don't know it nor can we find it for you. You can call support and they can guide you through the process of retrieving it, but even they can only assist you to a certain degree before it's just up to you.

I once had a customer who pleaded with me to get inside her locked phone because she was trying to gain access to photos of her mom, who recently passed away. Sadly, there was nothing I could do to help her because once we restart the phone, we lose everything in the process.

For every painful or difficult experience, there's a heartwarming moment that makes it all worth it

Sometimes, I witness a kid come in so excited because they've managed to save up enough money to buy their first phone. Others, a little old lady comes in upset that her phone doesn't ring, only for me to turn her ringer on and have her look up at me, wide-eyed, like I performed some sort of miracle.

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At the moment, I'm in the process of becoming full-time and moving up to the "expert" level, which means I'll get to open up phones and fix them myself. I'm currently on a gap year at school, but plan to return in the fall and complete my undergraduate degree in communications.

I see myself here long term, and my goal is to one day become a Lead Genius and work my way up to management.

Apple is a company I've come to and found a family at

Every morning I wake up grateful for the opportunity I've been provided with. But like the Apple credo says, "Because good enough isn't," there are certainly things many of my colleagues and I believe we could do better.

That's why I was a vocal participant in our recent move to unionize, and why now that we are the first store in the country to do so, I plan to play an active role in the negotiating process.

After all, we are the face of Apple.

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When you come into the store, you're not looking at Tim Cook or Deidre O'Brien. You're looking at Tyra Reeder and people just like me. In order to do our best, we need to feel our best, and being fairly compensated and having a schedule that takes our mental health into consideration does just that.

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