Featured Profiles

The Outstanding Protege

Tim Cook is the mastermind behind the company with the world’s largest market capitalization, Apple. Cook runs one of the most profitable companies in the world. He is an influential player in technology, design, publishing, and entertainment. He is a world-renowned leader that has taken Apple to new heights.


When Tim Cook was just a young boy growing up in a small town in Alabama, he came across a bizarre situation. He was cycling home, and he happened to pass a large cross in flames in front of a house. Since it was his neighbourhood, he knew it belonged to a family of colour. Around the cross were men, dressed in white cloaks and hoods, hurling abuses and chanting racial slurs at the family. All of a sudden, Cook heard the glass shatter, and he could not bear to see any more of it and yelled, “Stop!” One of the men lifted his hood, and Cook instantly recognized him as a deacon from a local church nearby. Shocked, he pedalled away.


“This image was permanently imprinted in my brain, and it would change my life forever,” Mr Cook said of the burning cross, in a speech he gave. In this speech, he said his new awareness made him feel that no matter what you do in life, human rights and dignity are values that need to be acted upon. And he found synergy of values perfectly at Apple that sincerely believes in the cause of “advancing humanity.”


Tim Cook’s Career:

Cook graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University in Alabama in 1982. In 1988, he earned his Master’s in Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in Business Administration. Before joining Apple, he held crucial positions in companies such as  International Business Machines Corporation, Intelligent Electronics, Inc. and Compaq Computer Corporation.


Cook joined Apple in 1998 as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations. The visionary Jobs introduced new products such as the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone that received much media attention during Apple’s turnaround. However, Cook’s successful streamlining of its supply chain and operations were equally critical for the brand. Cook made some decisions to improve the production department and moved Apple products away from its factories to outsource the job to contractors. He often characterized inventory as “fundamentally evil” and compared Apple to a dairy, in which products should be sold while they were fresh and new. He reduced the time in which Apple’s inventory turned over from months to days. With its sought-after products and efficient supply chain, Apple was in the enviable position of setting prices high while keeping costs low.


In 2005, Cook made investments that lay the groundwork for its future, including forming critical deals with manufacturers on flash memory. This computer-storage component would form the basis for the iPhone and iPad. In 2009, Cook was named interim CEO due to Steve Jobs’ declining health. Throughout 2011, he acted as the interim CEO on multiple occasions when Jobs was on medical leave or simply recuperating. In August 2011, Jobs resigned from his role to recover and take care of his health and Tim Cook became the CEO of Apple. When Jobs passed away in October 2011, Cook had the Apple campus flags down at half-mast in his memory. Cook said that after Jobs’ death, “when the dust settled, all he knew was that he was going to have to be the best version of himself that he could be.”


Moving ahead, Cook knew he had big shoes to fill. He swung into action. To strengthen his shareholder’s faith, Cook split the stock, increased the dividend and engineered a $90 billion buyback. These steps helped shares rebound almost entirely. He has led strategic moves to strengthen Apple’s standing in the market such as setting up Apple stores in China, a huge market to tap into, and acquiring talent, while also spending $3 billion to buy Beats. This music company brings Apple two primary music-industry shakers and deal makers, Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine.


Warren Buffett (CEO, Berkshire Hathaway) and currently the world’s ninth richest person, told Bloomberg, “Apple CEO Tim Cook may not be able to design a product like Steve.” He added, “But Tim understands the world to a degree that very, very few CEOs I’ve met over the past 60 years could match.”


Cook has operated on one single belief, “Our mission is to make the best products in the world in those areas that we choose to participate that enrich people’s lives. And so, if we can’t make the best product, we don’t go in. If we can make a great product, but it doesn’t help anybody, it doesn’t enrich their life, then we’re not gonna go in that either” as he told a reporter in his interview with CNBC.


Following Jobs would be a mammoth task for the best of leaders, but Cook has maintained individuality while driving the essence of Apple. Jonathan Ive, the head of design at Apple, says Mr Cook has not neglected the company’s central mission: innovation. “Honestly, I don’t think anything’s changed,” he said. And that includes the clamour for some exciting new thing. “People felt exactly the same way when we were working on the iPhone,” Mr Ive added.


Not only has Tim carved a place for himself in the corporate world, but he has also taken bold steps that align with his personal philosophy too. In 2014 Cook ended years of speculation by publicly announcing, in an editorial in Bloomberg Businessweek, that he was gay. That made Cook the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.


He has been vocal on various public platforms on his support for environmentalism, gay rights and the urgent need to use sustainable products. Early in his tenure, he also established a program to match employee charitable contributions, upping the company’s social commitment to the community at large!


But what makes Cook a brilliant leader, as spoken by him, is, “For us, the most important thing we can do is raise people up – that is, either by giving the ability to do things they could not otherwise do, allow them to create things they couldn’t otherwise create. It’s about giving them tools; it is about empowering people.”