"Never forget where you came from" is one of the important lessons former Apple Retail chief Angela Ahrendts learned during her tenure at the company, her first interview after leaving the iPhone producer reveals, one which covers both her departure and her arrival at the tech titan.
Ahrendts' departure from Apple was announced in February and took place in April, with SVP Deirdre O'Brien taking over her permission in control of Apple's retail efforts. After being at the head of the online and brick-and-mortar retail business for five years, Ahrendts' first interview outside of the company tells a lot about what it's like to join Apple's management, along with what she learned during her tenure.
CEO Tim Cook introduced himself to Ahrendts by mentioning her TED talk on human energy, love, and building trust, she told LinkedIn's Hello Monday podcast. Cook then followed up suggesting "You know, you're supposed to be here," referring to Apple.
"How do you know that?" Ahrendts replied, receiving the response "I don't know, but I just know you're supposed to be here."
Calling it a pivotal moment and the first time of experiencing that type of interaction with a person "especially at his level," the statement made Ahrendts consider her future at Burberry, and wonder about possibly moving to Apple before reaching ten years at the fashion house.
"I was, on my own accord, incredibly insecure. I'm 54 years old, and it's Apple, for God's sake!" advised Ahrendts. "I don't speak that language. I am not a left brain engineer operator. I mean, I could talk myself out of it forever."
For her first six months, Ahrendts felt honored, proud, and grateful for being there, but admitted to going silent in order to listen and learn. Referencing the quote "Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and relieve them of all doubt," the retail chief kept listening before realizing the insecurity in the first hundred days teaches you "they wanted you for a reason."
On the three takeaways she has from leaving Apple, Ahrendts' first was "never forget where you come from," bringing up comments from other employees mentioning the late Steve Jobs. Rather than dismissing it, Ahrendts decided "Let's codify that. Let's protect that."
Ahrendts also learned to "move faster than you could ever fathom," due to the expectations of consumers and employees to see how much technology changes everything. "They expect your leadership to be just like that because that's the world they are living in today. So you can't wait."
The third was to "never forget that you have a greater responsibility," greater than operating stores and selling hardware. "You have a much greater responsibility," insists Ahrendts. "And maybe that's what Steve meant when he talked about enriching lives and, when he talked about liberal arts and technology and the impact it could have on humanity."
Ahrendts goes on to discuss how she would communicate to teams about the impact they could have on community, and how the Today at Apple experience teaches a similar lesson to others.
"It's not a coincidence that it's only teaching liberal arts: how to make you a better videographer or photographer or app developer or musician. Because I do believe that that's what you're going to need in the future," the former retail chief suggests. "But I also believed that maybe liberal arts was a little bit of what was missing in the [Apple] stores."