I was able to get away for a few days last week to a favorite destination in Vermont and have returned completely recharged and geared up for a busy and exciting fall (more on those plans soon). While off, I read my first digital book – Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – and it was a fantastic read. Anyone who’s ever owned an iPad, iPhone, or iMac or been to an Apple Store can appreciate the blend of art and technology that Jobs imputed in his products to create what is now the world’s leading technology company. The book is well-told story of a compelling and fascinating man.
Of all the great stories and anecdotes that it contains, I was most struck by an excerpt from Chapter 28 about another Apple employee – Tim Cook, who is now the CEO of Apple. I will share that excerpt with you here (Please note that the bold emphasis in the text below is mine).
After three months of working under Jobs, Apple’s head of operations decided he could not bear the pressure, and he quit. For almost a year Jobs ran operations himself because all the prospects he interviewed “seemed like they were old-wave manufacturing people,” he recalled. He wanted someone who could build just-in-time factories and supply chains, as Michael Dell had done. Then in 1998, he met Tim Cook, a courtly thirty-seven year old procurement and supply chain manager at Compaq Computers, who not only would become his operations manager but would grow into an indispensable backstage partner in running Apple. As Jobs recalled:
Tim Cook came out of procurement which is just the right background for what we needed. I realized that he and I saw things exactly the same way. I had visited a lot of just-in-time factories in Japan and I’d built one for the Mac and at NeXT. I knew what I wanted, and I met Tim, and he wanted the same thing. So we started to work together, and before long I trusted him to know exactly what to do. He had the same vision I did, and we could interact at a high strategic level, and I could just forget about things unless he came and pinged me.
Cook, the son of a shipyard worker, was raised in Robertsdale, Alabama, a small town between Mobile and Pensacola a half hour from the Gulf Coast. He majored in industrial engineering at Auburn, got a business degree at Duke, and for the next twelve years worked for IBM in the Research Triangle of North Carolina. When Jobs interviewed him, he had recently taken a job at Compaq. He had always been a very logical engineer, and Compaq then seemed a more sensible career option, but he was snared by Jobs’s aura. “Five minutes into my initial interview with Steve, I wanted to throw caution and logic to the wind and join Apple,” he later said. “My intuition told me that joining Apple would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for a creative genius.” And so he did. “Engineers are taught to make a decision analytically, but there are times when relying or gut or intuition is most indispensable.”
- Apple’s share price on Friday closed at $621.70 giving it an equity market capitalization that exceeds $582 Billion
- Apple is the world’s largest company
- Following the permanent resignation of Steve Jobs, Cook was made CEO of Apple Inc. on August 24, 2011
- Steve Jobs believed that Cook’s procurement background was invaluable
- When Tim Cook joined Apple at the age of thirty-seven, his resume looked very similar to the resumes of many of this site’s readers (i.e. Directors/VPs of Procurement and Chief Procurement Officers)
If you think that a career in procurement isn’t valuable or worthwhile, maybe it is time for you to “Think Different.”
Please share this article (which shows that the CEO of the world’s most successful company would not be where he is today without a background in procurement) with your colleagues, superiors, and in particular, with your co-workers in other functions. We need more people to “think differently” about procurement.