Meg Whitman on HP, eBay and her run for California governor


Meg Whitman begins with a narrative.

Really, she shares many tales. Just like the 1997 night when she discovered herself at house in Boston questioning why she was about fly to California the following day to interview for the chief govt job at a startup referred to as eBay. That evening, she appeared on the firm’s web site, which mentioned “AuctionWeb” and never eBay. It was in black and white and was break up into thirds — one for auctions, one for founder Pierre Omidyar’s fiance’s house web page and one with “each hyperlink on the web to the Ebola virus,” recalled Whitman, who, in fact, had no concept that taking that flight would finally flip her into one of many world’s most well-known ladies in know-how.

“I’m sitting there at 10 o’clock considering I’m about to fly three,000 miles throughout the nation to fulfill a nutcase,” mentioned Whitman, who was Friday’s keynote speaker on the annual Ladies in Expertise Convention, organized by the Colorado Expertise Affiliation. “…I flew out and spent the day with Pierre. And on the finish of the day, I referred to as my husband from San Francisco airport and mentioned, ‘Hon, I must take this job.’ … To my husband’s credit score, he mentioned OK to ‘Would you do that?’ and he gave up his job as head of the Mind Tumor Heart at (Massachusetts Common Hospital).”

Whitman, who three days in the past celebrated her 37th marriage ceremony anniversary with Griff Harsh (don’t fear — he nabbed the gig as neurosurgeon at Stanford College), helped flip public sale web site eBay into an web phenomenon. In her speech, she touched on classes realized from her failed bid for California governor in 2010; her earlier years at Proctor & Gamble, the place she needed to analysis the right shampoo lid; at Hasbro’s Playskool Division (blame her for bringing Teletubbies to America); and her present gig as chief govt of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

In sharing know-how tales that few folks get to listen to, Whitman introduced a down-to-earth actuality to what it’s wish to be a girl in know-how. She elicited post-keynote feedback corresponding to “That was price it” from the gang of 600 of largely ladies attending the seventh annual occasion on the Spruce Mountain Ranch in Larkspur.

“Her braveness and talent to go from firm to firm and alter, like she mentioned, ‘What’s the worst that may occur,’ and preserve going. I believe that’s the primary factor I acquired out of this,” mentioned first-time attendee Amy Giles Bhikha, with Amtech Options. “And that remark about being good. It looks like having these relationships are literally a part of what made her profitable.”

Sure, Whitman reminded the gang to be good.

“It’s actually useful to be good to folks. Folks you meet on the best way up are the identical folks you meet on the best way down. There’s no cause to be imply to folks, there’s no cause to be condescending,” Whitman suggested.

Even Whitman’s onstage interviewer, Colorado’s first woman Robin Hickenlooper, gushed a bit.

“By enjoying to your strengths and the ability of being good, these are a number of the best takeaways I’ve heard from a pacesetter in a very long time,” mentioned Hickenlooper, herself a highly effective govt at Liberty Media in Douglas County.

Whitman joined HP as its chief govt in 2011, after dropping the California governor race to Jerry Brown.

“I assumed I may make a distinction actually,” mentioned Whitman, who as soon as labored as a guide for Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital and later supported his marketing campaign.  “I believe I underestimated the problem of going from a enterprise individual to truly working for workplace. I might need been a greater governor than candidate.”

However she feels she’s a greater CEO due to that political expertise. After she joined HP, she confronted crucial headlines about whether or not she may do the job.

“The press was actually horrible. Meg’s a shopper technologist, what does she find out about enterprise?  She’s by no means run an organization this massive. What does Beanie Infants need to do with servers,” Whitman recalled. The headlines didn’t section her.

HP, which employs lots of of individuals in Colorado, break up in two in late 2015 with the patron printer and PC division remaining HP Inc., whereas the enterprise and enterprise division turning into HPE. The corporate has minimize hundreds of jobs since Whitman began, however Whitman mentioned HPE was in a position to slender down its improvements and choose the most effective ones for shifting forward. By listening to prospects, the corporate additionally simply unveiled the world’s largest single-memory laptop, dubbed The Machine, and whose lead architect Kirk Bresniker relies on the Hewlett Packard labs in Fort Collins.

Even at HPE, Whitman mentioned she continues to speak to prospects (together with Friday, the place after her fireplace chat she snuck right into a again room to fulfill with a buyer). She realized that at eBay, she mentioned. She shared a narrative of how eBay began promoting used automobiles. The corporate would take a look at the miscellaneous class each day to see what new classes to create.

“In the future a younger man got here into my workplace, really it was a cubicle, and he mentioned, ‘Meg, they’re promoting automobiles on eBay!’ And I mentioned, ‘Simon, they’re not promoting automobiles on eBay, these are the little diecast automobiles.’ And he mentioned, ‘No, no, look there’s an actual automobile within the miscellaneous class.’ And I mentioned, ‘Properly, the least we are able to do is give him a class.’ We turned the biggest used automobile supplier on this planet,” Whitman mentioned. “And it wasn’t our concept. Belief me, had we been in a convention room with a bunch of Harvard MBAs, of which I’m one, it will not have occurred to us to promote used automobiles. In order that’s the one factor I can let you know. Watch, hear and keep shut.”