Apple's HR chief: Working with Tim Cook 'actually helps you to be a better human being'

Denise Young Smith, Apple’s vice president of human resources has been working as an HR exec for the company since 1997.

That means she worked for both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. At the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen she talked a little about what it’s like to work for Cook after the Jobs era.

Jobs will always be remembered as a visionary genius who had a “reality distortion field,”that could inspire people to achieve what they previously thought was impossible.

But when asked about what it’s like working for Jobs versus Cook, the articulate-yet-reserved Smith practically glowed.

Working for Cook was “amazing,” she said.

“What people appreciate about Tim are his values, and his authenticity. They are inseparable. Everyone imagines having a leader that helps you do the best work. He does that, but over and above that, he actually helps you to be a better human being.”

She explained that Cook “walks the talk. Walks it before he talks it. He’s inspirational. He brings an aspect of that reflection to everyone’s work.”

As examples she named Cook’s interest in Apple’s commitment to green technologies and climate change. He’s committed to and involved in Apple’s programs to create Apple tech for education, particularly to disabled kids, including hearing aid tech and sight tech.

Apple Denise Young SmithStuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm TechApple’s VP of HR Denise Young Smith

“Education and learning is our legacy but Tim goes above and beyond,” she says.

As the only openly gay CEO of a a Fortune 500 company, he’s also a particularly strong champion of workforce diversity.

“He’s lived it,” she says which makes him particularly supportive of “people who have differences. The thing about Tim is, he understands that differences make us better, make our products better.”

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