Who Is Tim Cook?

Timothy Donald Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc., is one of the most recognizable, successful, and respected businessmen in American history. This article highlights the many milestones Cook has achieved before joining Apple, and during his tenure with the software giant.

Cook’s Educational Background

Cook was born on November 1, 1960, in Mobile, Alabama, and raised in the nearby town of Robertsdale. 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

During the 12 years following Cook's graduation, he worked for International Business Machines (IBM), ultimately rising to the rank of Director of North American fulfillment, where he managed manufacturing and distribution functions for IBM's Personal Computer Company in both North and Latin America.

In 1994, Cook assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer at the Reseller Division of Intelligent Electronics—a position he held for three years. His next job as Vice President of Corporate Materials at Compaq Computer Corporation was short-lived, lasting for less than one year, from 1997 through early 1998.

Cook's Early Apple Career

In 1998, Cook launched his career at Apple after the late Steve Jobs, co-founder, and former chairman and CEO of Apple Inc. personally invited him to join his company 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 an 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, after 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 and steady, but will slice you up with questions. You better know your stuff."