Tim Cook talks about being recruited by Steve Jobs and more in Time profile


Hot on the heels of yesterday’s news that Tim Cook had been shortlisted in the running for Time’s 2012 Person of the Year award, the magazine has published an extensive profile on the CEO. In it, Cook talks candidly about a wide range of topics, including how he was recruited and hired by Steve Jobs, and the unpredictability of Apple. We’ve highlighted some key excerpts from the piece for you after the fold…

Cook has been in the media a lot over the past few weeks, with interviews appearing in both Bloomberg and on TV at the beginning of the month. And it’s not hard to see why. A year ago, he was asked to do the seemingly impossible — succeed Steve Jobs as Apple’s CEO. But Cook has handled it well, adding some $150 billion to the tech company’s market cap and navigating through some pretty tough waters.

He offers a brief account of how he got his start at Apple:

“Almost immediately after he arrived at Compaq, Cook began to get calls from Apple’s headhunters. Jobs was back from exile — he was pushed out from Apple in 1985, then rehired 12 years later — and he wanted to bring in somebody new to run operations. At that point Apple was generally considered to be in a death spiral — that year alone, it lost a billion dollars — and Cook had no interest whatsoever in moving. But Jobs was a legend in the industry, so Cook sat down with him one Saturday morning in Palo Alto. “I was curious to meet him,” Cook says. “We started to talk, and, I swear, five minutes into the conversation I’m thinking, I want to do this.”

According to the recounting, Cook got home on Sunday, Jobs offered him the job on Monday, and on Tuesday, Cook resigned from Compaq. He said it wasn’t just about what they were doing at Apple, but it was how they were doing it. He liked that the culture was different: “I’ve never thought going the way of the herd was a particularly good strategy. You can be assured to be at best middle of the pack if you do that.”

Shortly after joining the company, Tim Cook proved why he was right for the job. In late 1998, the operations expert bought $100mn worth of holiday season air freight months in advance to ensure that Apple’s new iMacs shipped out on time. It’s been said that this really impressed Jobs, and kickstarted Cook’s path on the way to eventually being handpicked as the company’s chief executive officer.

“He doesn’t look like Jobs, he looks like something Jobs would have made. Cook’s flawless cap of white hair could have been designed by Jony Ive and fabricated in China out of brushed aluminum.

And like an Apple product, Cook runs smooth and fast. When Jobs died on Oct. 5, 2011, of pancreatic cancer, there were questions about whether Cook could lead Apple. Some, myself included, wondered whether Apple was even a viable company without Jobs. Since then Cook has gone about his business apparently unintimidated by his role as successor to one of the greatest innovators in history. Cook’s record hasn’t been flawless, but he has presided in a masterly way over both a thorough, systematic upgrading of each of the company’s major product lines and a run-up in the company’s financial fortunes that can only be described as historic.”

Yeah, Cook’s record has been anything but flawless. Since he took over the reigns late last year, he’s had to help Apple weather storms from The New York Times’ iEconomy series, which spotlighted the poor working conditions inside Foxconn’s factories, and more recently, the infamous iOS 6 Maps debacle. Right now he’s trying to keep things steady amidst an executive shakeup and a sharp drop in Apple’s stock price.

But despite all that Cook has done, the big question still remains: can Apple continue to innovate without Steve Jobs? It’s true, since he’s taken over, the company has yet to enter a new market, with a new product. But there’s an awful lot of talk that this is on the verge of changing, with multiple reports in recent weeks claiming that the Cupertino company has some sort of TV product in the works. Will it happen?

“I ask Cook if he would do that — if that would continue to be Apple’s modus operandi going forward. He smiles, seductively as always, and says, “Yes. Yes. Most definitely.” When that happens, that’s when Cook will show his hand, and we’ll get a look below the surface. He’ll do the unexpected thing and double down on something new. And when he does, that’s when the rest of the world will see what Jobs saw in him.”

As you can probably tell, the entire article is really worth a read. If you’re interested, you can find it here. And if you’re wondering whether Tim Cook was selected as Time’s Person of the Year, he wasn’t. US President Barack Obama was.