16 November 2020
By Tom Collins
The story of Apple in Ireland began in 1980 with a single manufacturing facility and 60 employees.
Fast-forward to today, and Ireland is home to more than 6,000 Apple employees and a large campus in the city of Cork. As Apple celebrates its 40th anniversary in Ireland, the original manufacturing facility has expanded and is now part of a campus that includes AppleCare, Operations, Logistics, and a variety of other teams staffed by a diverse group of employees representing over 90 nationalities. Cork also serves as Apple’s European headquarters, supporting customers across the continent and beyond.
Cathy Kearney is Apple’s vice president of European Operations and has been with the company in Cork for over 30 years.
“The Cork campus is more than a place — we’re a family,” says Kearney. “And every day, we strive to uphold Apple’s collective values through our work, whether that’s protecting our planet, defending the right to privacy, or making sure education and technology are accessible to everyone. I’m so honoured to work with such a talented, diverse, and compassionate team every day.”
One of those team members is Grainne Kenny, who started with Apple in Cork in 1990, when she was 18. “I’ve grown up here,” says Kenny, now 48. “I started working on the manufacturing floor, and now 30 years later, I manage a team of between 20 and 30 manufacturing trainers. It’s been a great journey, and I’ve loved the camaraderie and the community we’ve made together.”
That sense of community is something Alvaro Porcel, 33, felt from the moment he started at Apple eight years ago.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, or what your language or culture is,” says Porcel, who moved to Cork from Barcelona, Spain. “You’re welcomed right away at Apple. You’re encouraged to be yourself, and to embrace inclusion and diversity.” Porcel is a member of the Cork LGBTQ Diversity Network Association (DNA) and the soon-to-be launched Cork Accessibility DNA, two of Apple’s many DNAs that connect employees with shared interests, backgrounds, and values. He also participates in Apple’s Giving programme, coordinating volunteer engagements for a local charity called Age Action, which provides free technology classes for senior citizens.
“This is a charity that is very close to my heart,” says Porcel. “It’s not just about learning how to use your device. There’s a huge social aspect as well. Most of these elderly people are very isolated. Before COVID-19, there were weekly face-to-face events, but now we have phone calls instead, and when they tell you, ‘This is the only phone call I’m going to get today,’ you can feel how much it means to them.”
Since 2015, Apple’s Giving programme in Cork has supported more than 400 registered charities in Ireland. For every hour a Cork employee volunteers, Apple matches their time with a monetary donation to the same charity. So far in 2020, a staggering 43 percent of all Cork employees have participated in volunteering activities.
Apple employees have been volunteering weekly at Terence MacSwiney School in Cork for the past five years, helping to teach students coding, music, photography, and video. That has continued during the pandemic, with volunteers mentoring students through virtual sessions. Principal Phil O’Flynn has seen what the partnership has done for both her students and for Cork over time.
“Apple brought an awful lot of hope to the whole Cork community,” says O’Flynn, whose school is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. “And I think that culture of hope has been sustained throughout the four decades that it’s been here.”
Terence MacSwiney School also participates in Apple’s Transition Year experience, which has given more than 1,600 students throughout Ireland the opportunity to come to the Cork campus and learn about potential career paths, coding skills, and how they can make a positive difference in the world. O’Flynn believes the interactions her students have had with Apple employees through both programmes have changed their perspective on what is possible for the future.
“One of our coding mentors works in app quality review, and she pointed out to our students that her job didn’t exist five or six years ago,” says O’Flynn. “But it’s about developing the skills so that you’re highly adaptable in the employment market, and now our students can imagine doing that. This kind of mentoring that takes place shoulder to shoulder, you can’t buy that — it’s just priceless.”
As Apple’s involvement within the Cork community has expanded over the past four decades, so too has its campus. New buildings were designed by a Cork-based team with environmental responsibility front and centre. The Cork campus, like all Apple facilities, runs on 100 percent clean energy. It features more than 200 solar thermal panels, and rainwater is harvested from the roof to supply restrooms across the campus. It has also achieved Zero Waste to Landfill, including for its manufacturing facility.
But as much as the Cork campus has changed over the past 40 years, there is one constant.
“We are definitely a community here,” says Porcel. “That feeling started on my first day and has stayed right through my journey. This is home.”
“Growing up with Apple, we have been through a lot together,” says Kenny. “Losing parents, going through tough personal experiences, and now through these challenging times. But through it all, Apple has been phenomenal. It’s not just a job here — it’s a family.”