Tim Cook’s Quiet Ascension Through the Ranks of Apple

By Phineas Upham

Tim Cook told the graduating class of Auburn University in 2010 that joining Apple led him to the most significant discovery in his life. He’d joined Apple 15 years before, and would soon become the CEO of the company.

Cook graduated from Auburn in 1960, so the speech was a return to the campus and a reflection on his life of sorts. He’d earned a degree in industrial engineering in 1982, and an M.B.A. that he earned from Duke during the 1980s. Cook got his start working for IBM, where he held a position for 12 years. He became CEO of the reseller division of Intelligent Electronics, and then held the position of Vice President of corporate materials at Compaq.

It was after working six months at Compaq that Cook decided to leave everything behind for Apple. That was 1998, well before Apple was the technological powerhouse it is today. The company was coming out of a slump and trying to improve itself. The company’s financials weren’t looking great and he was dissuaded by colleagues from taking the job. But Cook saw something in Apple that he believed in.

Cooks ascension to CEO in 2011 came as a shock to many outsiders who wondered who he was and what he’d brought to the company. Cook had been responsible for sales and operations, including service and support. You can thank Cook for the Genius Bar and Apple’s warranties and impeccable sales techniques. Cooks effect was so immense that Apple was reporting profits less than a year after he’d arrived.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Twitter page.