Sunday 25 August 2019

How Apple boss Tim Cook silenced his doubters

Apple chief executive Tim Cook at Trinity College in Dublin
Apple chief executive Tim Cook at Trinity College in Dublin
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

In business, few people have had a harder act to follow than Tim Cook. And few have silenced the doubters as effectively.

When the 55-year-old from Mobile, Alabama, became chief executive of Apple in 2011, the world associated the company with co-founder Steve Jobs.

But in the four years since Mr Cook assumed the top job, Apple has doubled in size and revenue. It has trounced most of its rivals. And it is now in a position to influence things far beyond phones and computers.

One of these things is the issue of diversity. Last year, Mr Cook penned an article explaining his decision to come out.

"I don't seek to draw attention to myself," he wrote. "But I've come to realise that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

The article was widely acclaimed. Speaking to students at Trinity College yesterday, Mr Cook added some context to this when asked about how his life as the world's top chief executive could be used to increase LGBT awareness.

"I came to the conclusion that I needed to do something," he said. "A kid in rural Ireland might say 'wow, if he can do it, so can I'."

Judged by conventional standards, Mr Cook could be considered something of an All-American.

The son of a shipyard worker and a pharmacy employee, he has described himself as "an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South and a sports fanatic."

Unlike many of today's tech wunderkind, Mr Cook didn't pass through Harvard, Stanford or MIT. Instead, he studied at Auburn University in Alabama before doing an MBA qualification at Duke University in North Carolina.

And Mr Cook wasn't one of the trendy tech coders that built motherboards in garages. He worked for over ten years at the conservative computer firm IBM before spending time at Windows-based Apple rival, Compaq.

He was personally recruited into Apple by Steve Jobs in 1998, just as the iconic Macintosh inventor was about to launch the iMac.

"The people who knew me best advised me to stay at Compaq," he later said. "But no more than five minutes into my initial interview with Steve, I wanted to throw caution and logic to the wind and join Apple. My intuition already knew that joining Apple was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for the creative genius, and to be on the executive team that could resurrect a great American company."

Throwing caution to the wind has worked out well for Mr Cook. According to Fortune Magazine, he is worth an estimated $785m.

But he doesn't intend to keep much of it. According to a recent interview, Mr Cook is planning to give most of his fortune away to philanthropic causes.

In doing so, he joins billionaires such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and Mark Zuckerberg, all of whom have signed a "giving pledge" to donate at least 50pc of their wealth to charity.

"You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change," Mr Cook recently said on the issue.

Back at Apple, he hopes to create his own ripples. The iPhone may remain as Apple's big seller. But with the Apple Watch, Apple Pay and an increasing focus on health-related products, Mr Cook is carving out his own legacy at Apple.

Irish Independent

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