The Three Lessons Learned by Apple’s Angela Ahrendts

Senior Vice President of Retail, Angela Ahrendts, recently left Apple. Her three lessons learned provide valuable insights.

Angela Ahrendts
Image credit: Apple

In our recent coverage, by Andrew Orr, “Angela Ahrendts’ First Interview After Leaving Apple,” he wrote:

In Angela Ahrendts’ first interview since leaving Apple, the former SVP of Retail sat down with Jessi Hempel, host of LinkedIn’s Hello Monday podcast. She talked about when Tim Cook pursued her for the job, her first six months at Apple, the experience of switching industries, and her three takeaways from leaving Apple.

I thought these were powerful messages described during the podcast, and so I want to comment on them from my own perspective having worked at Apple.

3 Takeaways

1. “Never forget where you came from.” One has developed a foundation before coming to Apple. It might be, for example, coding, hardware engineering or marketing. Apple hires people for their expertise, but then, upon arriving at Apple, one is surrounded by other amazing experts. It can be daunting.

But one cannot try to emulate others or best them at their own job. Apple is like a smoothly running machine in which each component is essential. One must focus on one’s personal expertise. Think of a car. The disc brakes can’t be envious of the cleverly engineered transmission, for well engineered brakes are equally critical to the car’s performance.

One is hired to do a specific job that requires specific talents. Be self-confident in that.

2. “Move fast.” The customer is watching and waiting. The pace of digital technology, itself, makes for a quickly evolving environment. One can’t afford to relish the status-quo as a palliative for being overworked.

That’s why some employees burn out at Apple after a few years. Others, with a different kind of disposition, thrive and can spend a career at Apple. As the U.S. Navy Seals teach, one must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. And so, the best approach is to realize that one will be overworked. That’s the reward in itself.

Employees who expect micro-bookkeeping by managers that will provide tangible rewards for each and every heroic effort will become disappointed. The journey is the reward.

3. “Never forget your responsibilities.” Each employee of Apple is both an inheritor of the company’s legacy and a new steward of that legacy. The badge around the neck is a symbol of what Apple stands for and one’s own implied responsibilities. The vision of Steve Jobs echoes down the hallways in a palpable way, and Apple Park was designed to preserve that atmosphere.

And there will come a time, as it does with many Apple employees, when it’s time to leave and pass the baton on to the next steward. The tenure should be savored and the advances made should be worthy.

Perhaps this is why its such a giddy experience to work at Apple. I don’t mean giddy in the sense of youthful silliness and wooziness. I mean joyful in the sense of being honored to carry on a tradition. To sign up for excellence, to sense the corporate accomplishments of the past, to be part of a company that changes the world for the better. To work with such a talented team that shares such a strong legacy engenders joy.

Angela Ahrendts articulated these notions in her interview, and her reverence for her experience resonated with me. I wish I could have worked with her.

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