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Fiorina’s Address Rings of HP Philosophy

By Dana Levine


Delivering a commencement address which borrowed heavily from Hewlet-Packard’s corporate vision, HP Chief Executive Officer Carly S. Fiorina ’89 advised MIT graduates to look beyond their minds and to listen to their hearts.

Fiorina began her speech by describing how she had e-mailed the graduating class, “asking you not only where I should focus, but what I should avoid.” She described how each e-mail that suggested she focus on a specific topic was counterbalanced by another which advised her to avoid it.

However, she eventually determined that the graduates wanted her to focus on personal experience and leadership, leading her to share her unconventional personal philosophy for prospering in this “new landscape that’s emerging from the mist.”

“When I worked as a secretary in the shipping department of a company called Hewlett-Packard ..., logic and intellect would never have predicted that I would one day return to run that same ... company,” she said.

Fiorina, who earned a Master’s degree from the Sloan school of Management, told her own story of how her disregard for traditional logic allowed her to become the CEO of HP.

After graduating from Stanford in 1976, she enrolled in law school. However, she found that “while I was intellectually challenged, the rest of me was left cold ... I see now ... that I began my path to becoming a CEO on the day I decided to quit law school.”

Fiorina described the freedom that graduates have, and how they should use their minds, hearts, and guts to decide what to do with this power of choice. “Your mind alone won’t do it. When you leave here you start on the second important journey, figuring out how to listen to your heart.”

She went on to describe leadership, and how its definition has changed drastically in these ever-complicated times. True leaders simply give others the environment to create, Fiorina said. “Leadership in this new era is about empowering others to decide for themselves ... to reach their full potential,” she said.

Donning her corporate hat, Fiorina described how she has applied this philosophy to HP, calling it the “rules of the garage.” These include believing that one can change the world, working quickly, and eschewing politics and bureaucracy.

“I believe that if you carry these rules with you on your journey ... then you will have touched others you encounter on your journey,” Fiorina said.