Former SVP of Retail, Angela Ahrendts sat down for her first interview since leaving Apple and discussed her experience at the iPhone maker. Ahrendts discussed her tenure at Apple with Jessi Hempel, host of LinkedIn’s Hello Monday podcast.
Apple hired Ahrendts in in 2014, after Apple CEO Tim Cook listened to her April 2013 TED talk on “the positive and transformative power of human energy.”
I had done a TED talk in April on human energy, love, and building trust. So by the time I met with [Tim], he said, “I listened to your TED talk.” And, just the way that he said it, he said, “You know, you’re supposed to be here.” And I’m like “How do you know that?”
Tim goes, “I don’t know, but I just know you’re supposed to be here.”
Ahrendts says she had never had an interaction like that with a person especially one at his level. “That was the pivotal moment.”
She was a bit worried as to whether she would fit in at Apple.
I was, on my own accord, incredibly insecure. I’m 54 years old, and it’s Apple, for God’s sake! I don’t speak that language. I am not a left brain engineer operator. I mean, I could talk myself out of it forever.
Her first six months at Apple were spent listening and learning.
The first six months are always incredibly exciting and I think you’re just honored and proud and grateful. But, I also tend to go fairly silent because I need to listen and learn. My dad used to always say, I think it’s a Mark Twain quote, “Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and relieve them of all doubt.” So that was like haunting me in the back of my mind. And so I just listened, and listened, and listened. Actually, I wrote a LinkedIn post on it. I wrote about the first hundred days and how insecure you feel, and what it teaches you…it teaches you that they wanted you for a reason.
Ahrendts says she had three takeaways from leaving Apple:
One: never forget where you came from. And what I mean by that is no different than what I did at Burberry. We looked back, because that’s your foundation, right? When I came to Apple, I’d go out in the field and they’d talk about, “Steve said our job was to enrich lives” And “Steve said this and wrote that.” I could have thrown all that out, but [I thought] no let’s codify that. Let’s protect that. So, my first lesson, what I’ve learned from them after I hit 140 stores (what that taught me) is never forget where you came from, and use that as your foundation.
The second thing was move faster than you could ever fathom because they’re waiting, and they see how much their technology is changing everything. They’re [the consumer] living on Uber, they’re staying at Airbnb, right? They’re living on Youtube and Instagram. They expect your leadership to be just like that because that’s the world that they are living in today. So you can’t wait. I told the leaders very early on, move fast, fast. So we got rid of all the manuals, got rid of everything, started doing three minute YouTube. That’s how we united and aligned 70,000 people (Apple Retail employees) around the world.
The third thing was, never forget that you have a greater responsibility. That it is not just about operating stores, it is not just about selling phones, it is not. You have a much greater responsibility. And maybe that’s what Steve meant when he talked about enriching lives and, and when he talked about liberal arts and technology and the impact it could have on humanity.
The full interview is available now on Apple Podcast and on other platforms.