The Day Tim Cook Was First Introduced To Steve Jobs

By James Mills, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International

When recruiting people to their team, legends are clear who they can work with and trust their intuition.

Tim Cook is the successor to Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple who was originally hired back in 1998 as a Senior Vice President for worldwide operations. This is the fascinating story as to how they first met and what they thought of each other as well as the opportunity to work together at Apple.

In an article published by Real Leaders, Rick Devine, the recruiter who introduced Tim Cook to Steve Jobs shares his experience of that meeting and what he noticed in the way that Steve Jobs went about hiring people.

"Steve Jobs came striding into his offsite meeting room one Saturday morning in [1998] in Palo Alto, California, USA, bristling with characteristic impatient energy and already thinking past the moment as to why it was so hard to find like-minded people to work with.

Inside the room sat a calm Tim Cook, who had just flown in on the advice of executive recruiter Rick Devine – to be presented to Jobs as a potential new Senior Vice President for Apple Inc. Jobs grabbed Cook by the hand, looked directly into his eyes and a spark of acknowledgement rippled through the room. Jobs knew he had found his man – and Devine tried not to exhale too loudly...

Jobs was the quintessential instinct guy, known never to look at a resume. Chemistry and personality were far more important to him, and as Devine recalls, 'he would just look at a guy and know'...

Devine knew it was a match made in heaven when Jobs started selling Apple to Cook. “There was no saying ‘no,’” recalls Devine. “Jobs kicked into sales mode and you got the distinct impression that he wasn’t leaving anytime soon.” That was not the case for a Japanese candidate a few weeks earlier who had flown non-stop from Tokyo to meet Jobs, only to have him walk out the meeting a few minutes later...

Jobs was tuned into a vibration, an instinct, the ephemeral, a feeling, an emotion,” explains Devine. “An animal, for instance, can sense you from far away, and Jobs had an incredible ability to tap into something similar.”"

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Tim Cook shared his experience from the other side.

"Charlie Rose: I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, the fact, when you made a decision in 1998 about Apple. You had some reservations. But at the same time, during your interview with Steve, you said, something like this, I was prepared within five minutes to throw caution to the wind. What did he say that made you believe this company is the place for Tim Cook?

Tim Cook: It was an interesting meeting. I had gotten a call several times from the search people that he had employed. And I said no, I was at Compaq, I was happy and, or thought I was. And they were persistent. And so I finally thought, I’m going to go out and take the meeting. Steve created the whole industry that I’m in, I’d love to meet him. And so I’m honestly going into the meeting.

CR: There’s no downside of this.

TC: Well I’m just thinking I’m going to meet him and all of a sudden he’s talking about his strategy and his vision, and what he was doing was going 100 percent into consumer. When everybody else in the industry had decided you couldn’t make any money on consumers so they were headed to services and storage and enterprise. And I thought, I’d always thought that following the herd was not a good thing, that it was a terrible thing to do right? You’re either going to lose big, or lose, but those are the two options. He was doing something totally different.

And he told me a little about the design, enough to get me really interested. And he was describing what later would be called the iMac. And the way that he talked, and the way the chemistry was in the room, it was just he and I. And I could tell, I can work with him.

And I looked at the problems Apple had, and I thought you know, I can make a contribution here. And working with him, and this is a privilege of a lifetime. And so all of a sudden I thought, I ‘m doing it. I’m going for it. And you have this voice in your ear that says go west young man, go west. I was young at the time. But you know, you come back and you try to do the things that people do with spreadsheets and stuff, and none of it makes sense. It didn’t make sense. And yet, my gut said, go for it. And I listened to my gut. There was literally no one around me that was inviting doing it." 

He added more to his decision-making process at a commencement speech at Aubern University in 2010 and the deeply-felt reasons for going against the logical arguments not to change employer...

"Any purely rational consideration of cost and benefits lined up in Compaq's favor, and the people who knew me best advised me to stay at Compaq... On that day in early 1998 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, and to be on the executive team that could resurrect a great American company."

What this experience shows is that feeling and instinct is a critical part of making decisions based on knowing what we are looking for. Steve Jobs and Tim Cook knew they could work with each other because they were excited about the vision that Steve Jobs was able to describe with clarity. They knew they could build a relationship based on their intuition and not just their heads: "And I could tell, I can work with him." - Tim Cook. Although they had very different skills and abilities, they saw the synergy that would come from them working together towards a mutually inspiring vision.

While a CV may be important to get you into an interview, it's not the defining factor when actually being hired. This is something that is so often overlooked when we apply for a job or want to move up in a company. The one guarantee you have of succeeding in your career or your business are the genuine and strong connections you are able to build along the way.

Here's the article of Rick Devine's experience published by Real Leaders, the interview transcript between Charlie Rose & Tim Cook by Business Insider and the excerpt from the commencement speech can be found on the Wikipedia page about Tim Cook.

To learn more about the impact that Tim Cook had through his appointment, then you have to read this article on how Steve Jobs started to rebuild Apple.

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