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A spirit that is not afraid

Tim Cook discusses diversity, inclusion with students

Apple CEO Tim Cook began his talk with students – titled “A Conversation with Tim Cook: A Personal View of Inclusion and Diversity," – with warm words for his alma mater.

“There is no place in the world I’d rather be than here,” Cook said. “Brings back a lot of memories. I often think that Auburn is really not a place, it’s a feeling and a spirit. Fortunately, it is with you for all the days of your life. It has been for me at least.”

The event, hosted by SGA in the Telfair Peet Theatre, was announced this week. Students lined up before 7 a.m. for a chance to see Cook speak.

The 1982 alumnus jumped right into the subject of his discussion. He advised students – of all backgrounds and majors – to prepare to encounter people with diverse backgrounds in every career field.

“The world is intertwined today, much more than it was when I was coming out of school,” Cook said. “Because of that, you really need to have a deep understanding of cultures around the world.”

Students will likely work for companies where they will not only work with people from other countries, Cook said, but will serve customers and users from all all over the world.

“I have learned to not just appreciate this but celebrate it,” Cook said. “The thing that makes the world interesting is our differences, not our similarities.”

Cook spoke about how Apple Inc. – the world's largest information technology company – benefits from inclusion.

“We believe you can only create a great product with a diverse team,” Cook said. “And I’m talking about the large definition of diversity. One of the reasons Apple products work really great – I hope you think they work really great – is that the people working on them are not only engineers and computer scientists, but artists and musicians.

It’s this intersection of the liberal arts and humanities with technology that makes products that are magical.”

Students were invited to ask questions toward the end of the conversation.

Kayla Warner, junior in public relations, asked Cook about managing identities and intersectionalities in the workplace.

“In order to lead in a diverse and inclusive environment, you have to allow that you may not personally be able to understand something someone else does,” Cook replied. “That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

For example, somebody may worship something else as you. You might not be able to understand why they do that. But you have to allow that the person not only has the right to do that, but they likely have a set of reasons and life experiences that have led them to that.”

Editor’s note: Check back later to read The Plainsman’s exclusive interview with Tim Cook. 

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