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Apple CEO: Tim Cook Biography

Executive Profile

Apple CEO: Tim Cook

“I didn’t understand it then, as a young MBA student, but life has a habit of throwing you curveballs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to plan for the future but if you’re like me and you occasionally want to swing for the fences then you can’t count on a predictable life.” – Tim Cook

Introduction

Tim Cook was handed over the reins of Apple by the companies mythical founder, Steve Jobs, shortly before Jobs’s death in 2011. Cook’s relationship with Apple began long before the Mac laptop, iPhone, and even iPod; It was a time when the company even lacked profitability.

Shortly after Jobs recruited Cook from a rival computer manufacturer an almost immediate turnaround began. Cook’s influence within the company has become so highly regarded that some question whether it was he or Steve Jobs that saved then built Apple into the tech juggernaut it is today.

By 2012, Cook was not only the most influential voice at Apple but TIME magazine ranked him as one of the 100 most influential people on the planet.

let us rewind the clock and start just as he did – in a small town in Alabama.

Early Life

Hometown

Robertsdale High School

Throughout the 1970s, Robertsdale was just another rural Alabama town of about 2,000 residents. Today, it is still just another rural Alabama town with about 7,000 residents, however, one of the kids who graduated from Robertsdale High now wields unprecedented power which stretches the entirety of the Earth’s circumference.

Although his accomplishments and trophies remain displayed at the school, it is not NFL running back Joe Childress whose 10-year career amounted to 2,210 yards and 3TD’s on 530 carries.

While his 4.2 yards per carry are commendable, there is another more forgotten son of Robertsdale. When asked by The Washington Post why there isn’t much acknowledgment of Cook’s existence around town, his former classmate Rick Ousley says “I kinda wonder about that sometimes, I really do.”

Cook, who is gay, has delivered speech’s challenging the repugnant discrimination against the LGBTQ community which exists in the deep south, meanwhile, he also funds gay rights programs in the region. Noting his hometown’s reaction to such behavior, Ousley says “That was offensive to a lot of people down here.” adding that one pastor vowed to never use an iPad again!

Don’t get all up in arms, no, Robertsdale is not a cesspool of bigoted hate! There are great people that live there, including Cook’s family; who he makes a point to visit during the holidays.

Childhood

Oddly, Cook’s sexuality was able to fly under the radar while growing up in the south – mostly because it was so taboo an idea that nobody would expect to know a person with such desires. This worked to his advantage in some ways as he was actually a very popular kid at school.

A much more potently visible hatred of choice existed at the time – racism. In the early 1970s, while Cook was in sixth or seventh grade, he was riding his bicycle at night down a backroad when he noticed a burning cross.

As he pedaled closer he noticed KKK members in their white hoods and robes. They were burning a cross on a black family’s property. He screamed at them, “Stop!” As the men turned in Cook’s direction, one raised his hood and warned him to keep moving. He recognized this man as a deacon from a local church.

Still but a young boy, Cook pedaled away on his bicycle and in reflecting on the moment says, “This image was permanently imprinted in my brain and it would change my life forever.”

To this day, he keeps two photos of Bobby Kennedy and one of Martin Luther King Jr. mounted on his office walls.

High School

Cook would grow to resent Alabama governor George Wallace’s segregationist policies even despite earning the opportunity to meet him after winning an essay contest. Just 16 years old, this same contest afforded his meeting President Jimmy Carter at the White House; a man he had much more respect for.

He’d go on to graduate nearly top of his class and as his valedictorian, Prochaska Huntsman, puts it, “We were concerned that if we went to college we wouldn’t be prepared!”

Throughout his senior year of high school, while deciding which University to attend Cook says, “Some teachers advised me to attend Auburn while other teachers advised me to attend the University of Alabama and well like I said, some decisions are pretty obvious!”

Ultimately, Robertsdale provided Cook an education both inside and outside the classroom. He’d hit the books hard then leave school to enter a world where the color of one’s skin could mean the difference between life and death. Maybe it was his own personal insecurities that lead him to immediately sympathize with the plight of harshly treated minorities.

After all, had anybody known his sexuality he’d likely be in the same boat as them – probably an even worse one. Growing up in these circumstances will only do two things to a person, break them down or make them stronger. Cook is one of those special few that would rise to the occasion, he had a fire in his heart which burned for a vision of the world, along with a vision of himself, that he knew could be true someday.

College

Auburn University

This inner desire lead him to Auburn University in the fall of 1978. He’d go on to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 1982.

He has so much school spirit, saying in a 2010 commencement address at the university, “Auburn has played a key role in my life and continues to mean a lot to me as anyone who comes in my office at Apple or my home in Palo Alto instantly discovers, I have so much Auburn memorabilia you might think it was a California outpost for J&M or Anders.”

After Auburn, Cook enrolled in Duke Universities Fuqua School of Business. He finished in the top 10% of his class and earned his Masters in Business Administration in 1988.

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” – Abraham Lincoln

Career

Tim Cook at IBM

Working at Apple was never in any plan that I had outlined for myself but was, without a doubt, the best decision that I ever made.” – Tim Cook

IBM

Cook began his professional career by joining IBM’s new PC division; so new in fact, Bill Gates and Microsoft had not yet began partnering with them! While there, he worked his way up to Director of North American Fulfillment. This role held him responsible for overseeing IBM’s personal computer program’s manufacturing and distribution functions in both North and Latin America.

He was essentially a logistics guy and a good one considering he stayed with the company for a total of 12 years.

Intelligent Electronics

Cook left IBM to join Intelligent Electronics as their Chief Operating Officer within the Reseller Division. His boss at the time, Mark Briggs, touts him to be an “Operational genius.”

Though a Washington Post article also notes Briggs’s views on homosexuality, he says “The very fact of homosexuality is abhorrent to God,” adding that it is a behavior that can be controlled – “Exactly the same as alcoholism.”

Briggs says he never knew Cook was gay while they worked together but insists it would not have made a difference in the office, explaining, “He knows I don’t approve of homosexuality…He knew it then. He knows it now. No big deal.”

Apparently, and likely for good reason, Cook was still flying under the radar as a gay man. It’s hard to tell how much – if any – inner turmoil existed within Cook throughout his earlier years of life. One thing is for certain though, if there was he wasn’t going to let it hold him back.

Despite knowing his boss’s views, he stayed on at Intelligent Electronics for a total of three years!

Compaq Computer Corporation

By the time his stint at Compaq Computer Corporation (CCC) rolled around, Cook was a hardened veteran when it came to organizing electronic hardware logistics and operations. At the moment CCC was one of the hottest PC manufacturers around and Cook was charged with procuring and managing product inventory in his new role as Vice President of Corporate Materials.

He didn’t last long, only six months actually. He got a call from a man in dire need of saving the company he had founded from complete decimation. That man was Steve Jobs.

Apple

Cook describes how he came to join Apple:

The decision to come to Apple, which I made in early 1998, was not so obvious…Apple in early 1998 was very different than the Apple of today. There was no iPad or iMac or iPhone, there wasn’t even an iPod…Apple did make mac’s, though, the company had been losing sales for years and was commonly considered to be on the verge of extinction.

A few months before Cook accepted his position at Apple, Michael Dell proclaimed, in regards to the company’s situation, “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Intuition

Cook continues:

“There are times in our lives when the careful consideration of cost and benefits just doesn’t seem like the right way to make a decision. There are times in all of our lives when a reliance on gut or intuition just seems more appropriate – when a particular course of action just feels right…interestingly I’ve discovered it’s in facing life’s most important decisions that intuition seems the most indispensable to getting it right.

In turning important decisions over to intuition one has to give up on the idea of developing a life plan that will bear any resemblance to what ultimately unfolds.

“Intuition is something that occurs in the moment and if you are open to it, If you listen to it, It has the potential to direct or redirect you in a way that is best for you. On that day, in early 1998 I listened to my intuition.”

He famously says that just five minutes into his conversation with Jobs, he knew he belonged at Apple.

Road to Recovery

Jobs got his man and Cook found his purpose. As his pedigree may foreshadow, Cook immediately went to work on getting the companies hectic operations in order. His official title was Vice President of Worldwide Operations and within a year of his arrival, Apple was reporting profits again!

Business Insider reports that “One of Cook’s biggest early coups was closing Apple’s own factories and warehouses and replacing them with contract manufacturers, meaning that devices could be made in larger quantities and get delivered faster.

He’d eventually earn the title of COO. As time went on, Cook was taking care of a majority of the grunt work behind the scenes, meanwhile, Jobs was able to focus on developing new products such as the iMac, iPod, and iPhone.

There was one HUGE failure the Apple team had to come to terms with before they’d go on their glorious winning streak. In 2000 they released a personal computer called the Power Mac G4 Cube and it was a total flop, having never found a loyal customer base.

Cook says the “Spectacular failure” taught him an important lesson in humility. Adding, “That was another thing Steve taught me, actually…you’ve got to be willing to look yourself in the mirror and say ‘I was wrong, it’s not right'”

Apple CEO

Steve Passes the Torch

Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003 and by 2009 his health had declined to the point that Cook was named interim CEO as Jobs battled for his life.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Cook describes the day he learned he’d officially be the CEO of Apple, it started with a call from Steve Jobs, “He called me one weekend in August of 2011. He said, ‘I’d like to talk’ and I said ‘Okay, when?’ he said ‘Now’ and I told him I’d be right over!

He tells me, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot, Apple’s never had a professional transition at CEO. I’m determined that we will have one now. I want you to be the CEO.’

Cook explains, “Honestly, I didn’t see it coming…you can say I was in denial or whatever…but I thought Steve was getting better, I was seeing him regularly, and I guess at the end of the day I always thought he would bounce – he always had.”

“It took me a little by surprise. He had talked to me about being CEO before and so I always knew it was his long-term thinking.” More than anything, Cook was shocked that it was happening at that specific moment.

He and I had a discussion back and forth about…because I was testing him on this…you know, what kind of things do you want to do as chairman vs me do? I was just sort of having good banter with him.”

“I said, for example, ads, do you want me to just do the ones that I think are right or do you want to be involved in it? He said ‘Well I hope you’ll ask my opinion on some things!'”

I thought on that day that he would be chairman for a long time – that I’d be CEO for a long time and that we would continue to work together.

He knew when he chose me that I wasn’t like him, that I’m not a carbon-copy of him. He obviously thought through that deeply, about who he wanted to lead Apple.

Steve Jobs Passes Away

Despite Cook’s beliefs, this legendary dynamic duo didn’t have much longer as on October 5th, 2011 it was reported that Steve Jobs had lost his battle with cancer. Just a month or so after delivering the news to Cook that he’d be Apple’s new CEO.

Cook sent out the following statement to all Apple employees:

Team,

I have some very sad news to share with all of you. Steve passed away earlier today.

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

We are planning a celebration of Steve’s extraordinary life for Apple employees that will take place soon. If you would like to share your thoughts, memories and condolences in the interim, you can simply email rememberingsteve@apple.com.

No words can adequately express our sadness at Steve’s death or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.

Tim

The Tim Cook Era

Below are some of the greatest changes and product launches that have occurred at Apple since Tim Cook took over as CEO.

Apple Watch

Largely considered Cook’s most revolutionary product release, the Apple Watch has dominated the market since its release in 2015. According to Fortune, it accounted for 54% of all smartwatches sold in Q1 of 2019. Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston says by 2020 Apple looks to own 48% of the market.

Mawston and Wedbush analyst Dan Ives explain that, “[Apple] offers a famous brand, user-friendly wristwear with plenty of apps, and an extensive retail presence worldwide. Apple Watch remains one step ahead of almost all rivals in hardware, software and services.”

Check out Marques Brownlee review the Apple Watch Series 5:

iPhone

The first iPhone release with Cook at the helm was the 4s. He has since brought us to the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Unfortunately, though, Apple has been experiencing a steady slippage in iPhone sales. It seems that despite putting out more advanced products, consumers are reluctant to fork out the money necessary for an upgrade. Instead, preferring to hang on to the reliable model they already have.

According to Forbes, “The revenue from iPhone sales is falling, and has dropped below fifty percent for the first time since 2012, falling from $29.47 billion to $25.99 billion.

The company has attempted to remedy this issue by offering its users discounts on newer models when they trade in their older ones. This has been in practice since 2013, however, sales continue to decline.

A rise in revenue from the various services Apple provides has helped to offset the losses. While people may not be upgrading their phones, they still use the programs installed on the one they’re using! This is where Cook tends to direct the conversation when discussing the future of the company.

We’ll get more into the success of their services business is seeing shortly. First, AppleInsider walks us through some of the best features on the latest iPhone!

Airpods

A less talked about product that has experienced incredible success is Apple’s Airpods. Fortune reports “This year, the company will sell 50 million AirPods, at $159 for a pair, according to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives. That would translate into nearly $8 billion in revenue.” The article adds that Apple now controls about 60% of the global wireless earbuds market.

They have recently released the Airpods Pro, Unbox Therapy provides a review in the video below.

Mac

As documented by Statista, Apple’s Mac computers have experienced a leveling off in sales since Cook took over. According to MacRumors, Apple is the fourth largest PC shipper on the planet, hanging on to a 6.8% market share.

Inspired by a deep respect for the integrity of the brand, users have voiced a number of concerns regarding the Mac. Sara Dietschy unboxes the 2019 Macbook Pro and gives us a down to earth review of the product in the following video.

Apple TV +

When it comes to the streaming service they’ve recently rolled out, Cook and company are playing the long game. Subscription prices range from FREE to $4.99. Apple simply lacks content and in recognizing this shortcoming they have priced accordingly.

Don’t count them out of the streaming wars just yet though, they do currently offer a number of solid programs and when you couple this with insane budget possibilities and their greater vision for the service…Apple TV Plus will definitely be a serious problem for its competitors.

WatchMojo breaks it all down in the following video.

Services

Likely the most exciting revenue stream for Apple executives, according to Forbes, “Over FY’18, the Services segment emerged as Apple’s fastest-growing business, with revenues growing by 24% year-over-year to $37.2 billion.

The same article indicates that app sales are probably the biggest contributor, followed by licensing agreements with companies such as Google, and then subscriptions – for example, Apple Music.

Stock Price

To this day, Cook continues to face criticism from those who believe he’s been riding Jobs’s creative coattails this whole time. These opinions are simply uninformed. Cook’s “Operational genius” was the reason Jobs was able to allow his creativity to flourish once again. It’s the classic “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?”

Let’s take a look at what the numbers show. In August of 2011, when he became CEO, Apple’s stock was trading at $54.80 per share. Today a single share goes for $236.41! For a comparison of growth rate before and after Cook arrived at the company, in 1980 the stock was trading at $0.51 a share. 18 years later, when Cook arrived in 1998, shares cost just $1.26 each.

In totality, since Cook arrived at Apple in 1998, the companies stock has risen from $1.26 a share to $236.41 a share.

Tim Cook Inspiration

While there may not be any indication commemorating Tim Cook’s presence at his hometown high school, his impact on our modern society has been profound. Despite running the Earth’s most valuable company, Cook’s leadership remains incredibly underrated.

Writers Note: It’s tough to write a bio on Tim Cook. It’s tough because there’s this monumental part of his life that is missing from every text which exists of him – it’s even missing from the speeches that come from his own mouth.

What the world needs to know is how Tim Cook navigated his way to the heights of a world that for a large period of time not only didn’t support gay people but resented their lifestyle entirely.

If we only knew this, not just for gay people but for all people facing some form of discrimination – which is most people – then this proponent may be the greatest contribution Cook makes to humanity, regardless of the latest Apple products.

He says he’s “No activist” and that’s because he’s better than an activist, he’s living proof. He’s no Bobby Kennedy either yet he is everything Bobby ever preached that a man become. He says he’s Bobby’s greatest fan but were Bobby still alive he’d be Cook’s biggest fan.

The Universe puts us through adversity for a reason and more than likely to prepare us for a specific moment in the future. Cook’s finest moment is yet to come.

In business, as in sports, the vast majority of victories are determined before the beginning of the game.” – Tim Cook

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