Chief People Officer Enters the Chat

It’s not everyday that the core leadership team at Apple sees a change. Here’s Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Mac:

Apple has added a new face to its executive leadership team. The company has named Carol Surface its new Chief People Officer, who joins Apple after nearly a decade at the medical device company Medtronic. Surface is Apple’s first-ever Chief People Officer.

I’m a bit surprised to see Apple hire an outsider” for this high-profile role. I thought they had learned their lesson last time. Hopefully, Surface fits within Apple’s culture better than other external hires.

As part of this change, Apple is realigning the role of Deirdre O’Brien, a 30-year Apple veteran who has been Apple’s senior vice president of Retail + People since 2019. Once Surface begins at Apple in March, Apple will remove the human resources responsibilities from O’Brien’s role, allowing her to focus full-time on retail.

It’s probably for the best that O’Brien has those duties split out. On one hand, Apple’s retail team makes up a huge part of their overall headcount, so having those roles aligned under one person makes sense. On the other, I can imagine that there are opposing incentives in trying to make the retail stores as successful and profitable as possible, and also have the happiest and most successful employees. For example, I often wonder how situations play out when retail employees are upset by one of O’Brien’s decrees. When your head of HR is also the retail boss, knowing where and how the buck stops — I imagine — gets murky. Having Surface as another person to balance out those debates will probably be beneficial for everyone.

As a side note, I’m curious about how Apple determines a Chief ____ Officer” role versus a Senior Vice President or Vice President. If there’s a pattern to their Leadership page, I can’t see it. People’ joins Executive’, Financial’, and Operations’ as the only C-level positions after the Chief Design Officer role disappeared with John Ive’s departure. A fact that’s more relevant this week as Apple is, reportedly, planning to have their lead industrial designers all report to the Chief Operations Officer, rather than name a new head for the team after Evans Hankey, current vice president of industrial design, also exits.

Anyway, back to Surface as the new Chief People Officer.

Carol Surface joins Apple after a 10-year stint as an executive vice president in charge of human resources. Prior to that, she spent three and a half years in that same role at Best Buy as well as over a decade in human resources and personnel at PepsiCo. She received a Bachelor of arts in psychology from Castleton University and a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology from Central Michigan University.

Surface certainly has the receipts to be successful in this role. Apple’s been dropping down the best places to work” list, so they could use a change up in that regard. I wish Surface all the best, and hope we hear positive feedback from Apple employees about her tenure. I’m extra rooting for her since I see she earned her Ph.D. from Central Michigan University; it’s also my alma mater.


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