"What makes Apple special?"
That question, so fundamental to the tech giant's identity, was posed by Kate Adams, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, to her surprise guest—Apple CEO Tim Cook—in a room full of LCLD Fellows at a recent Learning Experience in Cupertino, California. At that moment, the Fellows knew they were in for something different.
Cook's response to that question—which covered everything from corporate values and Apple's stance on social issues to diversity and inclusion, the legal department, and the future of technology—was a highlight of this or any other Fellows year, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear directly from the leader of one of the world's most profitable and innovative companies.
It was a blockbuster opening for this LCLD Fellows Learning Experience, which had begun the afternoon before with a tour of Apple Park, the futuristic headquarters where more than 12000 employees work around a lush inner courtyard with lawns, fruit trees, and a reflecting pond. Fellows were later joined by Apple employees and Kate Adams at a welcome reception at the Apple Park Caffe Macs.
The next day, after their conversation with Cook, Fellows met with Oliver Schusser, Vice-President of Apple Music, who described his career journey from Munich, Germany, to present-day Silicon Valley. He recapped the history and evolution of iTunes and showed a video promoting Apple as "music's biggest fan."
He also described his involvement in the launch of Apple Music, the company's first venture into subscription media. He discussed the challenges of competing in that booming market, and how Apple Music has differentiated itself from other streaming services to become the largest music retailer in the world. Schusser answered questions from Fellows on a wide range of topics such as managing teams across the globe, recruiting and interviewing strategies, and artificial intelligence.
Next Joel Podolny, Dean of Apple University, described Apple's approach to innovation as "the intersection of tech, liberal arts, and the humanities." He asked Fellows to think about the question, "What do we want people to feel?" He discussed what makes Apple different and how its marketing has evolved from the very first Macintosh ad in 1984 (right) to the present day. He engaged the Fellows in a discussion of Apple products and answered questions about the evolution and structure of Apple University and its role in the employee onboarding process.
In the afternoon, Fellows heard from Sumbul Desai, Vice President of Health, who was interviewed by Jackie Olson, Health and Wellness Counsel in the Legal department. Desai talked about her extensive background in the media industry, including a stint at Disney, before she left to attend medical school later in life.
Desai gave Fellows insight into her leadership style, which is based on authenticity. She also talked about the projects she has worked on, including Apple's health-related products and applications. She answered questions from Fellows on cultivating empathy on teams, the emotional impact of being "first in the room," and overcoming job performance anxiety.
Next in the spotlight was Christie Smith, Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity, who answered questions from Debbie Rice, Senior Director of Employment Law. Smith talked about her background at Deloitte, where she first got to know LCLD, until she was recruited to Apple. She discussed the company's D&I initiatives, including partnering with external organizations and defining diversity on a country-by-country basis. She also took questions from Fellows on policies for working parents and making sure all voices are heard.
To close out the Learning Experience, Fellows were given the opportunity to question their host, longtime LCLD Member Kate Adams, about anything on their minds. They asked her about her own journey from Honeywell to Apple, as well as probing questions about Apple's internal legal department and pro bono programs. Afterward, she and the Legal department hosted the Fellows at a local Cupertino hot spot.
Along with Kate Adams and the Apple Fellows, LCLD would like to also thank Carlin Jones for her assistance in making this Learning Experience an extraordinary event.