Tech Tycoon Focus: Tim Cook

Tech Tycoon Focus: Tim Cook

American business leader Tim Cook has served as chief executive officer of Apple since August 2011.

Who Is Tim Cook?

Born in Alabama in 1960, Tim Cook graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and earned an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Following a 12-year career at IBM, Cook went on to executive roles at Intelligent Electronics and Compaq, before joining Apple in 1998. In August 2011, Cook was named Apple’s new CEO, following the death of predecessor Steve Jobs.

Bright Mind

Tim Cook was born Timothy D. Cook in the small town of Robertsdale, Alabama, on November 1, 1960. The middle of three sons born to father Donald, a shipyard worker, and mother Geraldine, a homemaker, Cook attended Robertsdale High School and graduated second in his class in 1978. 

He enrolled at Auburn University in Alabama, graduating in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, and went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 1988. Additionally, Cook was awarded the title of Fuqua Scholar—an honour given only to students at the business school who graduate in the top 10 per cent of their class.

Early Career

Fresh out of graduate school, Cook embarked on a career in the field of computer technology. He was hired by IBM, where he moved up the ranks to become the corporation’s North American fulfilment director, managing manufacturing and distribution functions for IBM’s Personal Computer Company in both North and Latin America.

Following a 12-year career at IBM, Cook in 1994 became chief operating officer of the Reseller Division at Intelligent Electronics. After three years he joined the Compaq Computer Corporation as vice president of corporate materials, charged with procuring and managing product inventory. His time there was short-lived, however: After a six-month stint at Compaq, Cook left for a position at Apple.

Career at Apple

“My most significant discovery so far in my life was the result of one single decision: My decision to join Apple,” Cook stated some 12 years after joining the corporation while speaking at Auburn University’s commencement ceremony in 2010.

However, it wasn’t an easy decision: Cook began working for Apple in early 1998, before the company had developed the likes of the iMac, iPod, iPhone or iPad, and when it was seeing declining profits instead of profit growth. According to Cook, prior to accepting his job at Apple, he was actually dissuaded from doing so on the grounds that the company’s future looked very bleak.

“While Apple did make Macs, the company had been losing sales for years and was commonly considered to be on the verge of extinction,” he told the Auburn graduates. “Only a few months before I’d accepted the job at Apple, Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell Computer, was publicly asked what he would do to fix Apple, and he responded, ‘I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.'”

But things quickly changed after Cook came on board as a vice president: Less than a year after his Apple debut, the corporation was reporting profits, an extraordinary shift from a recent report that showed a net loss of $1 billion from the prior fiscal year. As Cook rose to executive vice president and then a chief operating officer, he took responsibility for managing worldwide sales and operations, along with leading the Macintosh division and continued development of reseller/supplier relationships.

In August 2011, Cook was named Apple’s new CEO, taking over the position for former CEO and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in October 2011 after a years-long battle with cancer. In addition to serving as CEO, Cook sits on the corporation’s board of directors.

In May 2014, Apple announced its biggest acquisition to date when it bought Beats Music and Beats Electronics for $3 billion. As part of the deal, Beats co-founders Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine would join Apple in executive roles. In a letter to Apple employees, Cook said, “This afternoon we announced that Apple is acquiring Beats Music and Beats Electronics, two fast-growing businesses which complement our product line and will help extend the Apple ecosystem in the future. Bringing our companies together paves the way for amazing developments which our customers will love.”

Following this, at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2014, Cook announced the latest version of the Apple operating system for desktop and mobile, OSX Yosemite. In September of the same year, Cook unveiled the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, both of which had larger screen sizes and came with new features such as Apple Pay and “Burst Selfies.” He also announced the first new product under his reign, a wearable device to track fitness and health, the “Apple Watch,” available for purchase in 2015.

Cook continued to oversee the development of new products like Clips, an app that enabled the creation of short videos for social media. A few months after its spring 2017 debut, Apple unveiled the iPhone X, which generated buzz in the tech world for its facial recognition system.