Who Is Tim Cook?

Tim Cook is the chief executive officer of Apple (APPL) and is also a member of its board of directors. Prior to becoming CEO in August 2011, Cook held the position of chief operating officer and was responsible for managing the company's sales and supply chain operations. This article highlights the many milestones Cook achieved before and during his tenure with Apple.

Cook’s Educational Background

Cook was born on November 1, 1960, in Mobile, Alabama. His father worked in a shipyard and his mother was a pharmacist. In 1978, Cook graduated from Robertsdale High School as salutatorian of his class. In 1982, he graduated from Auburn University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering.

From there, Cook attended the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where he earned a Master of Business Administration. He graduated in the top 10% of his class and was named a Fuqua Scholar.

Cook's Pre-Apple Career

Cook worked for International Business Machines (IBM) for 12 years, ultimately rising to the rank of director of North American fulfillment, where he managed manufacturing and distribution for IBM's personal computer business in North and Latin America.

He then worked at Intelligent Electronics as the chief operating officer for its reseller division. His next job prior to joining Apple was at Compaq Computer. He was vice president for corporate materials and was responsible for managing the company's product inventory.

Cook's Early Apple Career

In 1998, Cook launched his career at Apple after co-founder Steve Jobs invited him to join as senior vice president of worldwide operations. For Cook, the decision to defect from Compaq and accept this opportunity was based on gut instinct rather than rational analysis.

Cook explained:

I listened to my intuition, not the left side of my brain, or for that matter, even the people who knew me best. 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.

Cook's Later Apple Career

From 2002 to 2005, Cook was executive vice president of worldwide sales and operations, and from 2005 until 2011, he held the position of chief operating officer, while simultaneously heading Apple's Macintosh division. On August 24, 2011, Cook took Apple's helm as its new CEO.  Jobs died of neuroendocrine cancer, in October of that year, at aged 56.

Cook’s Management Style

Cook’s leadership skills have been widely saluted as both effective and democratic. Known to be quiet and mild-mannered, Cook keeps employees focused and driven by barraging them with an abundance of questions designed to ensure that they understand the tasks set before them and that they honor their responsibilities in a timely and well-executed manner.

Said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of products, "He’s just very calm, steady, but will slice you up with questions. You better know your stuff."