Tough. Uncompromising. Ambitious. Words that perfectly epitomize one of America’s most polarizing top business leaders. Carly Fiorina’s rise in a male-dominated industry meant she had to step on many toes, make drastic decisions, and generally bulldoze her way to the top. While most of her methods divide opinion, her results for most of the time has been unquestionable.
Seen by many as ruthless, and others as pragmatic, the story of her life and career has been one of “tough choices” which incidentally is the title of her 2006 autobiography which attempts to shed light on her time in charge of one of Americas biggest Tech corporations.
Fiorina Rose Through the Ranks at AT&T
Born in Austin, Texas, Carly graduated from Charles E. Jordan High School Durham, North Carolina, and later earned B.A in Philosophy and Medieval History from Stanford University, in 1976. Initially, Carly thought of pursuing a career in law but after joining UCLA School of Law, she dropped out after her first semester in the school to further her studies with an MBA as well as M.SC from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
At the beginning of her career, Carly joined AT&T as a sales rep at the age of 25. Ten years down the road she had risen within AT&T’s Network Systems division to become its first female officer. Her exemplary work ethic singled her out among her peers and in five years, she was head of North American sales of AT&T.
In 1996, the company’s Bell Labs and Western Electric divisions were merged to birth Lucent Technologies, Inc. which Carly Fiorina was named as the head. She embarked on an audacious campaign to launch an IPO which culminated in the most successful IPO ever, raising $3 billion. In 1997 she was appointed Lucent’s group President making her at the time, the Most Powerful Woman in American Business.
Carly Fiorina Was the First Woman to Lead a Top-20 Company
In 1998 she left Lucent to join Hewlett-Packard as a CEO. Given her keen interest and passion in management, she took the platform she found to excel at her profession.
Fiorina embarked on changing HP’s business culture and sought to reposition the organization by enacting sweeping changes. She scraped the company policy of profit-sharing and replaced it with bonuses instead. She also trimmed the organizational bureaucracy by cutting operational units to just 12 from 83. Jobs were lost, profits soared and she made enemies within the corporation to the point that she was jeered at company meetings.
In 2001 she championed the merger with Compaq, a move that got her into loggerheads with Walter Hewlett, the son of co-founder William Hewlett. The merger of both industry heavyweights created the world’s largest personal computer manufacturing corporation.
During her time as CEO of HP, Fiorina sacked more than 30,000 employees and presided over the company stocks taking a nosedive in 2004. With all these internal wranglings, she was forced to resign. Not leaving without a fight, she negotiated for herself a $21 million severance package. After the announcement of her exit, the company’s stock value appreciated by almost 7% which translated in $3 Billion in real value to the company.
After Transitioning Into Politics, She Is Yet To Win An Election For Any Elective Office
Carly Fiorina’s first foray into politics was on Senator John McCain’s 2006 presidential campaign. She ran for the 2010 U.S. Senate candidacy for California against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. She lost the election after scoring 42.2% of the total votes cast.
On May 4, 2015, Carly announced her bid to get nominated by the Republican Party as a candidate for the 2016 Presidential elections. She pointed to her time as the CEO of Hewitt-Packard as proof that she could handle top leadership. She later dropped out of the race and endorsed Senator Ted Cruz with him later announcing her as his VP pick if he won the GOP nomination. Donald Trump went on to win the party’s ticket.
She Won Her Battle with Cancer
Carly was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer the day before she was going to announce her run for Senate in California in 2009. A few weeks later, the successful businesswoman underwent a double mastectomy. Following the surgery, she went through several months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, all while running her Senate campaign against Sen. Barbara Boxer. Within the same period, Carly lost her step-daughter but she persevered despite all the forces against her and made a full recovery.
Fiorina Has Been Married Twice
Carly Fiorina got married to her first husband, Todd Bartlem, in 1977, they had met whilst students at Stanford University. They moved to Italy after their marriage while Todd took up a teaching job at John Hopkins University. After they returned to the US, Fiorina took a job at AT&T, that was when the cracks began to show.
According to her, he was uneasy with her independence and fierce ambition. They divorced in 1984 and since then the relationship between both parties has been frosty. Though now remarried, Todd has granted interviews accusing her of infidelity (an accusation she equally leveled against him) and saying they have never set eyes on each other since their divorce. They did not have any children together.
She married Frank Fiorina in 1985 at a small event which held at a friend’s house. The ceremony had only 6 people in attendance. Frank who was formerly Vice President of AT&T resigned his job to focus on his family while Carly soldiered on in her career and even served as her bodyguard at some point.
Carly Fiorina has no children of her own even though she wished to have kids with Frank. According to her, it was not the plan of God for her. However, Frank Fiorina had two daughters – Lori and Tracy; with his first wife, Patricia Easler, so Carly took them as her own children.
Unfortunately, while still battling cancer, Carly was faced with the unexpected death of her stepdaughter, Lori Fiorina, who died from drug addiction. Lori, it was reported, had been battling addictions for many years and had been in and out of rehab three times. She died on October 12, 2009, at her home in New Jersey, at the age of 35.