During last week’s earnings conference call, CEO Tim Cook confirmed that Angela Ahrendts was transitioning from Burberry and officially joining Apple this week as its head of retail. Her achievements and personality as the CEO of Burberry have been well-publicized but her roots, early career influences, and resulting business and life philosophies are less well-known. These characteristics were recently detailed in a lengthy profile by the folks over at CNET.
For those of you who didn’t now, Ahrendts was born in 1960 in New Palestine, Indiana, where she was one of six children. As a young girl, she “lived vicariously through fashion magazines” and moved to New York after graduating from Ball State University to pursue her dream job in the fashion industry. She got her start at bra maker Warnaco and then landed a position at Donna Karan in 1989. She rose through the ranks at DK to eventually become President of the New York-based fashion house. When Donna Karan changed its focus, Ahrendts transitioned to Liz Clairborne as the executive vice president and finally landed at Burberry where she helped revive Burberry’s image and sales as CEO of the London fashion house. Upon starting in 2006, Burberry was a well-known rainwear company and upon leaving 8 years later, the company is known as an internationally acclaimed fashion label.
Ahrendts seems to have a personal management style that keeps her in touch with her employees traveling to stores to meet them and “communicating constantly” with them via email to thank them for their work. She credits her Midwestern values that taught her compassion towards others, humility and hard work were the keys to success. It’s this human touch that Ahrendts will be bringing to Apple’s all-male executive team and will be a balance to the company’s technology and engineering focus. The following was mentioned by Ahrendts:
Technology has given us access to the world and its sea of content, allowing us to never speak to another person if we don't want to. Computers and smart devices are among the greatest intellectual gifts ever created for man, but if not balanced with human contact, may offer little to develop ones heart. Don't get me wrong, I am mesmerized by this Digital Tsunami, but Google doesn't have all the answers, and are all those people on Facebook truly your friends?
Source: Bloomberg, CNET