Earlier this week, Apple announced that it was promoting its retail HR head Denise Smith to lead its human resources department company-wide. Smith replaces Joel Podolny, who will now focus all of his energy on a top-secret executive training program known as Apple University.
Not much is known about the project, other than that Steve Jobs hired Podolny—the former dean of Yale’s School of Management—to put together a program to teach his methods to future execs. But a new Bloomberg report helps shine some light on the University, and its new leader…
Bloomberg’s Peter Burrows reports:
“When Steve Jobs hired Joel Podolny in 2008 to create Apple University, the marching orders were to help the company do something it had never spent much time doing: Study itself.
Jobs had run the company much like a gigantic startup, enabling him to imprint his management philosophy on everything from product design to advertising. But with his cancer worsening, Jobs wanted Podolny, the well-known, youthful dean of the Yale School of Management, to create a program to distill his approach so Apple’s executives would be able to reinforce it after he was gone.”
Podolny worked closely with Jobs—his office sat in between the co-founder and then-COO Tim Cook—to build up the program. They eventually put together a curriculum of courses, including one called “What Makes Apple Apple,” which teaches attention to detail, secrecy and other tenets.
That overseeing Apple University is now a full-time job for Podolny suggests that the program is expanding, and as Burrows notes, it comes at an important time. Many of the people who worked closely with Jobs have either left Apple, or are retiring, and plenty of newcomers are arriving.
“Keeping its best people will become harder for Apple, said Jon Bischke, CEO of Entelo, an online-recruiting service. Part of the problem is unavoidable: As Apple downshifts from a hyper-growth company to slower-growing behemoth, talented employees are more easily lured to startups that promise bigger monetary rewards. If Apple doesn’t prove it can bring out world-changing products like the iPhone and iPad, as it routinely did during Jobs’s tenure, some of its engineers will keep an eye out for other hot companies that can, he said. “
If you’re interested, you can read the full profile here.