Carly Fiorina

Chairwoman, chief executive officer, and president, Hewlett-Packard Company

Nationality: American.

Born: September 6, 1954, in Austin, Texas.

Education: Stanford University, BA, 1976; Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, College Park, MBA, 1980; Sloan School of Business at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MS.

Family: Daughter of Joseph (a law professor and judge) and Madeline (a painter; maiden name unknown) Sneed; married Frank Fiorina (a former AT&T executive), 1985; children: two stepchildren.

Career: AT&T, 1980–1989, for Long Lines, sales representative, then various senior leadership positions, then executive vice president, then CEO; 1989–1992, head of North American operations for Network Systems; 1992–1998, officer in Network Systems, then executive vice president for corporate operations; Lucent Technologies, 1998–1999, president of Global Service Provider Business, then president of Consumer Products; Hewlett-Packard Company, 1999–2000, CEO and president; 2000–, chairwoman, CEO, and president.

Awards: America's Most Powerful People, Forbes; Most Powerful Woman in American Business, Fortune , 1999; Honorary Fellow, London Business School, 2001; Top 25 Executives, CRN , 2002; Appeal of Conscience Award, 2002; Seeds of Hope Award, Concern International, 2003; Leadership Award, Private Sector Council, 2004; Alliance Medal of Honor, Electronics Industries, 2004.

Address: Hewlett-Packard Company, 3000 Hanover Street, Palo Alto, California 94304-1185;

■ Carleton S. Fiorina, well known as Carly, made her mark as the chairwoman, chief executive officer, and president of the prestigious technology and computer-peripherals company Hewlett-Packard (HP). The first woman to head a Dow 30 company, Fiorina arrived at HP in 1999 to become the first

Carly Fiorina. AP/Wide World Photos.
Carly Fiorina.
AP/Wide World Photos

outsider to fill a lead executive position in the company's 60-year history. Time magazine declared her "best line" to be, "My gender is interesting but really not the subject of the story here" ( Once she signed on as CEO, her challenge was to maintain HP's image as a reliable American engineering company and to propel the company into an age dominated by the Internet—a challenge that she would face with success. She recrafted HP's image from that of a mere printer manufacturer into that of a provider of a comprehensive lineup of Internet products. She overcame formidable obstacles in venturing to merge HP with Compaq Computer Corporation, weathering the public-relations storm and managing to heighten HP's standing in the technology industry.


During her time as a student at Stanford University, Fiorina worked as a secretary typing bills of laden for Hewlett-Packard's shipping department. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in medieval history and philosophy, Fiorina attended law school for a semester while holding a variety of odd jobs. Before long she left law school and found her comfort zone in corporate America; she would spend 20 years at AT&T and Lucent before returning to HP to become the CEO.

During the process of consideration for the position of CEO at Hewlett-Packard, the company's leadership team was especially impressed by Fiorina's achievements at Lucent, AT&T's communications-equipment spin-off. At Lucent she launched a $90 million brand-building campaign that transformed and modernized the company. As group president of Lucent's Global Service Provider business she was responsible for over 60 percent of Lucent's revenue, providing systems for network operators and service providers; she increased the company's growth rate, international revenues, and market share. She built up a reputation for taking risks and assuming leadership of unpleasant but potentially fruitful projects. HP also evidenced interest in Fiorina's ability to implement sweeping corporate changes while still paying close attention to quarterly earnings.

Fiorina was committed to product innovation and the ongoing improvement of technology systems at HP. She consistently sought out ways to improve HP's image and its ability to deliver high-tech products to consumers. During slow periods she looked to consumer markets, as opposed to business markets, for growth, seeking to increase consumer awareness and use of HP networking, storage, software, computers, and printing products.

Prior to Fiorina's taking the helm, Hewlett-Packard had developed a reputation as a reliable but stodgy company; the new CEO was widely touted as just the fresh face to revamp that tired image. When she arrived in 1999, the company had 87 different product divisions, each with its own CIO and system of production. The company bureaucracy was overwhelming, and managers were sometimes required to clear their decisions with dozens of executives. During her first few months at HP, Fiorina worked to streamline the company's modes of communication and systems of production. She conducted a systematic review of the company's business units, trimming superfluous products and personnel in the process. Through her initial reorganization of the 60-year-old company Fiorina whittled the number of divisions down to 12.


Fiorina faced a period of backlash, however, soon after the novelty of her appointment had faded. Less than two years into her term at HP, company profits slumped 89 percent during the big technology dip in 2001, prompting a period of sharp criticism of her leadership. Subsequently, after guiding the $13 billion spinoff of Agilent Technologies, in early 2002 Fiorina initiated plans for a controversial $18 billion merger with the personal-computing giant Compaq Computer Corporation. The goal of the merger was to solidify HP's position as a leading provider of computing and imaging services. The move would be the largest in information-technology history and was initially viewed with deep skepticism.

The potential unification with Compaq sparked very public resistance: Fiorina had to convince government regulators in both Europe and the United States that the move was not anticompetitive. Possible workforce reduction was a bone of contention for both shareholders and employees. The most prominent reason for trouble was the opposition put forth by the families of the company founders. Within HP Fiorina faced an organized no-vote movement—led by Walter Hewlett—while working to narrowly gain stockholder approval for the purchase; she also faced a court challenge from Hewlett, who claimed that she had bought votes from stockholders. Media and employees eagerly followed the courtroom drama, and for a time Fiorina's previously winning image was tarnished. She allowed the arguments to play out and adhered to her original plan, adamantly insisting that a buyout of Compaq would be the best decision for Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina managed to override Hewlett's complaints in court and came out on top; the merger was completed in May 2002.

Later in 2003 Fiorina made a statement in the San Jose Mercury News in reference to the merger offering a glimpse of her management style: "You cannot manage a company by the daily stock price. You cannot manage a company by the conventional wisdom. Leadership by definition means you are out in front" (April 13, 2003). She acknowledged that HP's stock prices dropped after the merger but looked back and remembered, "People increasingly understand that the technology industry was consolidating. Our choice was do we lead it or follow it. We chose to lead it" (April 13, 2003).


Fiorina noted that among her responsibilities as a leader, she dared to redefine the role of the company, openly vowing to use its profits to benefit communities in need around the world. This approach of redefinition extended to her perception of her company's role in society. Fiorina was recognized and known for her commitment to the use of business in furthering citizenship and human rights around the world.

Fiorina emphasized that leaders in science and technology had the responsibility to participate in public discourse on social issues in both the private and public sectors. In her 2004 commencement address to the California Institute of Technology she told the audience, "The people most responsible for making change—the scientists and technologists—don't have a voice, because they have chosen not to represent their views in a public forum" (June 11, 2004). As an example she noted, "The Silicon Valley of the 20th century has given way to the scientific canyon of the 21st century, with scientists on one side, the general public on the other, and too few guides who can help bring us safely across from one side to the other" (June 11, 2004).

She promoted this view of scientists as guides and as leaders in a speech to the Electronic Industries Alliance, telling policy-makers in D.C., "Use us more" (May 25, 2004). She exemplified her call for cooperation through her advisorship to the U.S. Space Commission and in her work with the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who turned to her for help in managing the technological challenges faced by that department.

Under Fiorina HP was a leader in "corporate citizenship" and created educational initiatives around the world. In accepting the "Seeds of Hope" award from Concern International, she declared, "Contribution to community has always been one of our corporate values" (November 4, 2003). Through Concern International HP worked with underprivileged groups needing assistance striving to improve their social situations through the use of technology. Local citizens created their own microbusinesses and, with the help of technological equipment provided by HP, made strides in communication, energy use, and other areas.

In a region of India with infrequent, sporadic electricity HP provided solar-powered digital cameras and printers to help citizens start up their own businesses. HP also provided help in southern India for 320,000 people across five rural villages; the company's goal was to transform the region into a self-sustaining economic community in terms of literacy, employment, and income, with improved access to government, education, and healthcare services.

In October 2003 HP presented a $10 million Technology for Teaching grant to schools in the United States, from kindergarten through the university level. The grant followed $3.3 million in previous HP technology grants that were provided to 20 American universities that same year. As reported by PR Newswire, the Concern International chief executive Tom Arnold noted, "It is important to recognize corporate leaders like Carly Fiorina who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership on issues of corporate and social responsibility. Ms. Fiorina puts her words into action, forming partnerships with the international humanitarian community" (November 6, 2003).

Fiorina, who traveled extensively to Native American reservations during her time at AT&T, led an effort to digitally wire reservations in Southern California as a way of increasing communication among tribal entities and fostering a shared understanding of their heritage and history. Fiorina and HP also worked with UNESCO to modernize computer systems in universities in Eastern Europe.

Fiorina spoke extensively on these broader topics of leadership at conferences, forums, and other gatherings. Fiorina once addressed a number of women business owners assembled by the U.S. Small Business Administration along with U.S. president George W. Bush. She was called on regularly to offer remarks on information technology and digital media.


Fiorina inspired admiration and loyalty both within and without her company. BusinessWeek dubbed her as bearing a "silver tongue and an iron will" and highlighted her ability to connect with employees: "As a leader, she has a personal touch that inspires intense loyalty" (August 2, 1999). She sent balloons and flowers to employees when they landed big contracts. She also brought an understanding of people to the organization; she explained to Working Knowledge , a publication of Harvard Business School, "Business is about more than facts. It's also about powerful emotions and how people react to them" (March 17, 2003). She summed up her style of managing human beings in BusinessWeek : "First, you reinforce the things that work. Then, you appeal to their brains to address what doesn't" (August 2, 1999).

Her marketing and sales techniques were as calculated and successful as her approach to managing technology systems. BusinessWeek noted that "her coddling of customers at Lucent was legendary" (August 2, 1999). Later the publication complimented her "marketing savvy, energy, and single-minded conviction" and called her the "most-watched woman in business" (May 29, 2003).


Fiorina's success was of course also largely based on her ability to master advanced ideas in technology. In another interview with BusinessWeek Fiorina explained how product innovation was a systems approach rather than a process of creating one product at a time. Such an approach flavored her leadership at HP. She noted, "Technology isn't a silver bullet. The innovation that is going to be most important is the kind that weaves systems and networks together. Security, mobility, rich media would be examples. These require systems approaches. They also require scope and scale, which is why we have been so convinced that the industry will consolidate into fewer, bigger players" (August 25, 2003).


Part of Fiorina's celebrity and appeal, in addition to her aggressive leadership at HP, was the example she set as a female CEO of a prestigious company. In her contribution to the mentoring book Hard Won Wisdom , Fiorina shared her views on the importance of confidence in life and in business: "Having self-possession and self-awareness is important. No one learns who they are or what they are capable of without risk and without mistakes. In the end, you have got to be happy with who you are. You've got to be proud of who you are. You've got to like who you are" (2001).

Through 2004 Fiorina continued to integrate and organize her merged entities. By that time Hewlett-Packard was a $75 billion company with 140,000 employees in 176 countries, billing itself on the company Web site page entitled "Carly Fiorina: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HP" as a "leading global provider of computing and imaging solutions and services, which is focused on making technology and its benefits accessible to all." On the site's "Executive Team: Carly Fiorina" page, the company declared that Fiorina "led the reinvention of the company many associate with the birth of Silicon Valley."

See also entry on Hewlett-Packard Company in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

Anders, George, Perfect Enough: Carly Fiorina and the Reinvention of Hewlett-Packard , Portfolio, 2003.

Burrows, Peter, Backfire: Carly Fiorina's High-Stakes Battle for the Soul of Hewlett-Packard , John Wiley & Sons, 2003.

Burrows, Peter, and Peter Elstrom, "HP's Carly Fiorina: The Boss," BusinessWeek Online , August 2, 1999, .

"Carleton S. Fiorina," , .

"Carly Fiorina: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of HP," Hewlett-Packard, .

"Carly Fiorina: Makeup Artist," Time , "Digital 50" listings, .

"Concern Worldwide U.S. Presents 'Seeds of Hope' Award to HP's Carly Fiorina," PR Newswire, November 6, 2003, .

"Executive Profiles: Carly Fiorina," CEO Central, .

"Executive Team: Carly Fiorina," Hewlett-Packard, .

Fiorina, Carly, "Catching Up with Carly Fiorina," interview by Dean Takahasi and Vindu Goel in San Jose Mercury News , April 13, 2003, .

——, Commencement Remarks, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June 2, 2000, .

——, Concern International's "Seeds of Hope" Award Reception, New York, N.Y., November 4, 2003, .

——, "A Conversation with Carly Fiorina," Forbes Fifth Annual CIO Forum, Dallas, Tex., December 2, 2003, .

——, "Dare to Dream," Commencement Address, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., June 11, 2004, .

——, "Speaking Out: Hewlett-Packard's Carly Fiorina," BusinessWeek Online , August 25, 2003, .

——, "Use Us More," Electronic Industries Alliance Government and Industry Dinner, Washington, D.C., May 25, 2004, .

Germer, Fawn, Hard Won Wisdom: 50 Extraordinary Women Mentor You to Find Self-Awareness, Perspective, and Balance , Perigee Books, 2001.

Lagace, Martha, "Carly Fiorina: Heed Your Internal Compass," Working Knowledge , March 17, 2003, .

Malone, Michael S., "Failure to Communicate? HP Chief Carly Fiorina Needs to Explain Compaq Merger,", February 12, 2002, .

"Profile: HP's Carly Fiorina," BBC News, September 4, 2001, .

Tsao, Amy, and Jane Black, "Where Will Carly Fiorina Take HP?" BusinessWeek Online , May 29, 2003, .

Zarley, Craig, "Carly Fiorina," CRN , November 12, 2002, .

—Alison Lake

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