Apparently, though, epic failure in business doesn't disqualify you from running as the candidate of managerial competence in the modern Republican party. Fiorina destroyed an icon of the American tech industry, and for what? Nothing
Maybe you would be writing exactly the same thing. Maybe you're a paragon of political detachment. But in the fraught political climate of the day, I the reader am left to suspect that most people's opinions on the matter are severely coloured by whether they personally wish to see a Republican replace a Democrat in next week's California Senate election.
This is why I don't think this article is conducive to good discussion and have flagged it.
I would dislike her regardless of party, for the way she destroyed HP culture and turned my friends at Compaq into bitter, insecure husks of human beings. (Those that haven't been fired by now, anyways) The fact that she's actually running for office on that record is just the icing on the cake.
I could post a Great Wall of Text(tm)(r) explaining why she was a rotten CEO, and it wouldn't be anywhere near as polite as the linked article.
Finally, I have never met a person who worked at HP who actually liked what she did to the company. I'm sure there are some, but at the facility I worked at (in Colorado Springs), there were none that I met.
The Republican party makes it a major plank to support large business and to support issues that benefit the wealthy/large, while making less-than-indisputable arguments as to why the decisions benefit the rest of the company. Thus, her tenure at a large business is quite relavent to her viability as a Republican candidate, while it's less relavent (though certainly still important) to her viability as a democrat.
George W Bush (his main claim before governorship, other than genetic, was running a baseball team)
Sarah Palin - sportscaster
Shirley Temple (yes really - she ran for office, didn't win, but was chosen as a diplomat)
On the Democrat side there is… who? Hillary Clinton? But she actually majored in polisci and law, which is a traditional path. Al Franken is odd but he was a political humorist. And he graduated from Harvard with a degree in polisci.
In fact, though I looked, the only Democrat I could find who fit the bill was Jerry Springer. Yes, that's Gipper-level weird.
Some of it is Democrat's looking for inexperience or Republican's trying to be seen as "outside the system", but it is a pretty normal path taken by pretty much everyone listed. It matches the Democrats on about an even basis. Look at the actual paths of people and not what the media tells you.
For example, The last election had both top spots as Senators with no executive office experience in a lower rung of government. This is generally not good when you know that neither had done a budget cycle from the executive prospective (e.g. mayor, governor). This lack of experience, probably lead to some of the problems seen with the federal budget cycles.
// I do believe the same probably would have been true of a McCain admin even with a VP that had been through it as a mayor and governor.
 The other candidates on my radar at that time (Hillary, Rudy) were pro torture, McCain was against. Sad to say torture has become an electoral issue.
A person's motives for writing both unknowable and immaterial, and I find speculation on the matter annoying. If someone makes a good case, they make a good case. I don't care if the devil himself told them to make it.
Maybe a better question would be what if the Republicans had run a different candidate with a track record of success in business? As it happens, they have, but there hasn't been much in the way of discussion on HN about Meg Whitman (and I'm not inviting anyone to start one, btw).
-- Does it matter what side of the fail table she sat on?
Unfortunately, being a mature company with unsexy product lines like scientific instruments wasn't popular with investors in the late '90s and the bean counters and MBA types were given free reign to strip and gut HP so that now it's little more than a marketing division for cheap, Chinese-made crap with funky bezels.
HP has a long history of very sophisticated electronic test equipment. A great deal of innovation and hard work went into development of that equipment, including many things that hadn't been done before. Many other tech companies used HP (and Tektronix) gear when developing their products. Aside from the many tech contributions, their corporate culture was certainly one to admire. HP was better known to engineers than consumers, but they did do some things that crossed over. The HP-35 hand-held scientific calculator was the first product of it's type I ever saw (and owned too...), certainly seeming worth the $400 one cost back in the day (around 1972). HP was constantly pushing the state of the art. HP wasn't merely successful, they were special.
I was sorry that the HP/Compaq computing combination got the HP name. I wish that had stayed with the real tech products, but in Agilent tech lives on. HP certainly stands out from an era when the U.S. really shined as an engineering and manufacturing leader. HP wasn't another Dell or Gateway.
There are (and were) tech companies with a past that goes way back. For instance most think of Motorola as a cell phone company. They were huge in semiconductors (some of that lives on in Freescale), but how many remember them as being the ones behind the first car radio or first under $200 television set, or making communications gear that went to the moon?
In comparison, I find it a little sad to see highly valued companies like Facebook that don't really seem to produce anything. If it had never come into being, would we have really missed much that mattered?
Everything good about Silicon Valley is owed to that company, and to its founders. It's impossible to place Fiorina's actions in any sort of context until one understands that.
(disclosure: my parents worked there at the time and brought home the internal news every night)
Lucent was continually developing new networking equipment with a particular service model in mind, but AT&T was sluggish in deploying them. So they found ambitious small companies and hooked them up with equipment on time payment plans. Generally they ran the service better than the telcos would have, and it created lots of great companies.
The Fortune article digs a bit deeper: PathNet was such service provider caught in the easy money in the internet bubble era.
"...PathNet, with barely 100 employees and all of $1.6 million in annual revenue..."
"...The smaller company had barely $100 million in equity (and that's based on generous accounting assumptions) on top of which it had already balanced $350 million in junk bonds paying 12.25% interest. Adding $440 million in loans from Lucent..."
So, give equipment and money to a company, knowing they would need to one day repay 220 times their revenue (if they could), and recording that as a "sale" ... that does not appear to be sound strategy for sustaining one's own company. It's like banks, giving out loans to people to buy houses they might not be able to afford...
It would be like Disney spinning off the animated movie business to focus on running TV stations or GM spinning off the car business to focus on financing. It might make sense on a spreadsheet but it has to hurt morale of all employees who give more than the minimum because they are proud to be associated with an iconic company
I felt the HP Way was alive at Agilent (at least at the time of the split).
Difficult to see how you could do the same in Washington
However, some number of people had to think it was a good idea to hire her, continue to extend her contract, and reward her performance with huge compensation.
Even a CEO has a boss.
There is also the distinct possibility that the 'HP Way' was sacrificed to save the company. Again, I know nothing of the history, but putting out a hit piece like this right before the election is just crude.
I think this is actually the dumbest thing I've ever seen written on Hacker News. If the CEO isn't responsible for corporate culture, then A) Who is? and B) What's the CEO responsible for?
It worked for a friend I know who is a film producer who faked his early resumé as "Producer" and kept getting hired as a such. He would hire good staff & they'd pretty much run the show. He learned producing on the job and quickly replaced the fake resumé jobs with real ones. Thing is, all it took was convincing someone he actually was a Producer. I think many CEOs do the same thing. Walk the walk, talk the talk and hope your employees don't screw up.
There may be a time and a place for discussing the upsides and downsides of any particular CEO's tenure at any given company, but it would probably be much better to discuss it when said CEO is not standing for election in less than a week, so that people's feelings on politics don't cloud their opinions on technology management.
I know nothing about Carly Fiorina's time as CEO of HP, but am disinclined to trust anyone's opinion on the subject this week. Can we talk about Geoffrey Immelt's CEOship of General Electric instead?
Indeed, taking her experience into account, and comparing it to that of Barbara Boxer, is a good idea when you're deciding for whom to vote (unless you're just going to vote on ideology as most people do anyway). But the subject then is still "politics" rather than "tech news".
Incidentally, I do think she has a chance of victory. And I also think she and boxer share the same weakness - lack of answers for the underlying problem. Fiorina and other CEOs didn't outsource thousands of jobs to Asia because regulatory compliance was tedious, they did so because the skill level required for a great many jobs is available at a fraction of the price elsewhere. Even if we cut the price of doing business in the USA by 25% in the morning and made administration, regulation and healthcare cheap and easy for all, low-tech manufacturing and services would still be a lot more expensive in the USA than in China or India, and within a few years we'd be back to where we are now.
We need internal reforms, and there are some valid proposals for what to reform and how from both the left and the right. But the big question, to which neither party has proposed any good answers, is how to productively employ the least skilled members of the workforce so that they can have a reasonable level of economic security. People often talk about reviving US manufacturing; that sounds like a fine idea, but first we must identify what we can make that everyone will prefer to buy. In other words, what comparative advantage do we have in manufacturing over the developing world? If no such advantage exists, how can we redeploy that part of our labor force?
I like the green jobs idea, but wind turbines and solar panels can't make up 5% of the economy for the long term.
Everybody's been saying she was a disaster for half of a decade. And yes, it's relevant to someone who attempts to make "business experience" a reason to vote for them.
But in this particular case, the HP way was 'on the way out' for a while before she ever joined the company, the Agilent spin-off was already in the works before she took over as CEO.
I'm sure that she carries her portion on the blame for what came next though, but spinning off Agilent was definitely not a smart move because it was to a large extent the strongest hold-out of 'the hp way'.