Earlier this year, Deirdre O’Brien replaced Angela Ahrendts, becoming Apple’s senior vice president of retail + people. In a recent interview with InStyle, she talked about the influence of Steve Jobs, and some of Apple’s darkest days.
The Influence of Steve Jobs
Ms. O’Brien has worked at Apple for 30 years. She’s seen changes at the firm and is better placed than many to comment on the influence of Steve Jobs. “Something that I think Steve really instilled in all of us is that technology is here solely to connect people,” Ms. O’Brien said. “Steve talked about Apple being at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, and that is how we all feel, that it’s so much bigger than the technology itself.”
Her longevity in the company also means she understands Apple culture, which is key to her new role. “I just felt like the constant growth of the Apple culture is something that I tried to weave through everything that we did,” she explained. “I get to wake up and really think through how we make sure that we help support Apple employees to do the best work of their lives,” she added. This longevity also means she’s been at the company in more troubled times, including in the early 2000s.
Honestly at Apple, most people had written us off, they really didn’t feel like we were going to make it through. But there’s always hope. So, number one, I feel like I really learned a deep sense of optimism, but realistic optimism because you need to assess and have a great grounding in the realities of the situation you’re in,” she says. “What I will tell you is those tough times at Apple, the only way we made it through was that we pulled together, and everybody played their part.
Deidre O’Brien on Being A Badass Woman
Like CEO Tim Cook, Ms. O’Brien considers coming out, which she did in her 20s, and bringing her “full self to Apple” important. She said it is one of the most badass things she’s ever done. “I have never, ever regretted that big decision and today, I consider it my responsibility and a privilege to show up every day in support of our underrepresented team members. It is so important to me that everyone feels respected for who they are and that they have a deep sense of belonging,” she explained.