Carly Fiorina Remarks at Tsinghua University
March 12, 2004
Xie, xie. Xia wu hao. Those are the only two words of Chinese I know. That's no true, I know a third–Ni hao. I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your what I know that is a very busy study schedule to be here today. I know this is valuable time for you that you could be using to work, or study, or maybe to play Sword on line. Thank you for having me here today.
Coming from a company that has“invent”as part of our brand, as part of our signature, I sometimes begin speeches by saying that invention and innovation have been part the DNA of HP’s for more than sixty years. Our scientists and engineers today generate more than 11 patents every day. We spend more than 4 billion dollars a year on R&D. So invention is part of our future as well as part of our past.
That all sounds pretty impressive until you think about China’s history, and you realize that“invent”has been part of China’s DNA for more than 5,000 years. Every schoolchild in America learns about China’s many gifts to this world—from the invention of paper, to gunpowder, the wheelbarrow, the compass, acupuncture—right up to the first blast furnace and the first use of iron casting, back in the sixth century.
As a company, we actually at HP are especially indebted to a man named Bi Sheng, who had the vision in 1045 A.D. to invent the world’s first movable type, which led to its first printer—a full 300 years before Gutenberg's invention of movable type changed the Western world. So today, I want to issue a belated thank you to Bi Sheng for having the foresight to set in motion a process that would eventually lead to a 20 billion business for HP.
That great tradition of invention and innovation has certainly been carried on here at Tsinghua, where some of the finest instructors in the world today are working to train some of the finest scientists and engineers. It’s a bit ironic that this school was originally established nearly 100 years ago as a place where young Chinese could go to America and other western nations to learn from us. Today, the rest of the world, I think, has much to learn from China.
It’s always struck me that the process of invention is a little bit like the process of being a college student. After all, as an inventor, you go into a lab and you have a strong but perhaps vague idea of what you want to achieve. By working hard, experimenting, learning along the way, and using as a guide the work of those who went before you–you advance down the road towards discovery. You may not end up where you started–or even where you expected, but if you are successful, then begins another difficult process of trying to make your invention work in the world around you.
Like inventors, many of you have traveled the same road over the last four years here in university. The person you are today–the goals you have today, the dreams you have today–may be different from the ones you had when you first came here. And now, you are becoming prepared to take all that you’ve learned here and make it work in the world around you.
I believe that young people are graduating today into a world filled with more hope and more promise than in any other time in our history. I know sometimes that might sound strange, because we think always of the dangers and challenges in the world around us. But I have studied history in my life. I do believe this is an era of great promise and great opportunity.
For those of you who have seen our ads, you know that they end with the phrase,“everything is possible.”A cynic might say that just a marketing slogan–but I actually believe that. I don’t think every is easy, I don't think things happens right away. But I do think that everything is possible.
For all the remarkable advancements we have seen in recent years, nothing has matched the power of information technology to change our world for the better. And in the next decade, it will take us to places we can only imagine today.
China is the world’s fastest-growing economy; the world’s leader in direct foreign investment; one of the world’s largest trading nations -- a leader on both the production and consumption of information technology. China is poised to play a huge part in that future–and the students who graduate from Tsinghua University are poised to shape the future of technology like never before. Now like any university students, I know for you the road ahead has much uncertainty. But if there is one thing I have learned in the past 20 years in this industry, it is that the principle that you have learned inside the walls of Tsinghua, the principle is more true outside the university than inside. The principle I am speaking of is this: that great leaders–like great organizations, great companies, and great nations–great leaders are defined not simply by their capabilities, but by their character. Not just by the company they are, but by the company they keep. Not by success alone–but as Tsinghua teaches, with self-discipline and social concern in equal balance.
To be honest, I wish I could say that the road to learning that lesson for me was easy. I wish I could tell you that the day I graduated from university I knew exactly how all the pieces would fit together, that I knew exactly what I wanted to do from day one and my life as been a nice strait line and careful plan ever since. The truth is, I didn’t begin my career as a technologist. I took to heart the wisdom of Confucius–who taught us that one should“study the past if you would define the future”–and I majored in medieval history and philosophy at Stanford University. As perhaps you can appreciate, that of degree was not in great demand when I graduated from University.
So I wasn’t sure what to do after collage, so I went to law school because that’s what my father wanted me to do. But found I didn't like law school; I didn't have any passion for it. I quit after one semester quit after a semester, and wandered off into the world to find myself. I did some strange things. I joined a commercial brokerage company and there I typed, I answered the phones–I was what we call a secretary. Then I went off to Italy to teach English to Italian businessmen. Then, finally, I decided to apply to business school. And there I learned about marketing and operations and statistics and other skills necessary for business–but perhaps more importantly, I had professors–like the students here do -- who challenged me, who taught me a different notion of what was possible, who forced me to see my life in new ways. And I think, in a very great measure -- that is what leadership is about, that is what education is about, that is what character is all about.
You see, I think one of most important qualities a leader can bring is the ability, the energy, the desire to unlock potential in others. I think leadership is ultimately about helping other people achieve more than they think is possible; it is about helping people see a different set of possibilities for themselves.
I’ve been asked a lot since if there are any lessons I’ve learned about character and leadership. There are three lessons, I think that I have learned, that continue to instruct me to this day, that continue to guide me in both business and in life.
The first lesson is that values matter and character counts and that. The first lesson is that values matter and character counts, and that no matter how much things change, fundamental values shouldn't. For those of you who are just starting out your career, you will find that in leadership—as perhaps in life—the most important decisions you make, and the toughest decisions you make are often the decisions you make alone. And when you make those decisions, there is an opportunity to be buffeted about by and confused by all kinds of things: conventional wisdom, and popular emotion…and maybe by cynicism and doubt as well.
I think leadership takes what I would call a strong internal compass. And I use the term compass because what does a compass do? When the winds are howling, and the storms raging, and the sky is so cloudy that you have nothing to navigate by, a compass tells you where true North is. And I think when a person is in a difficult situation, a lonely situation; you have to rely on that compass. Who am I? What do I believe? Do I believe I am doing the right things for the right reasons in the best way I can? Sometimes that’s all you have.
The second lesson I’ve learned about character and leadership is that leadership, just like success, is not a journey, it is a destination. It is perhaps a clichéto say that leadership is a journey not a destination but it is a clichébecause it is true, leadership is a journey. The only constant in any of our lives, whether you're running a company or running a family, or perhaps running a country, is change. But change has never been as constant and as fast as it is today.
To me, the dividing line between will increasingly separate the winners from the losers in the marketplace those individuals, the dividing line between those individuals who truly make a difference and a contribution in the 21st century from those who do not—is the line between those who embrace change and those who run away from it. It will be between those who seek to lead change, and those who find refuge in the status quo or in their comfort zones.
And the third lesson I’ve learned about leadership and success is that real power comes in the connections between all kinds of things; but most importantly real power comes from the connections between people. Power comes not from those who stand alone, .but from those who can work best with others, and reach out to others to achieve a desired outcome. And finding those connections and recognizing those connections is part of what leadership is all about.
As leaders, you can never forget that people want to do a good job. They want to be treated with consideration and respect. They want to feel a real sense of accomplishment in their work, to have their ideas considered, and their achievements recognized. People want to feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves–to be a part of the larger vision, direction, to be part of worthy goals.
Personally, I think anyone can lead from anywhere at any time. I think leadership has nothing to do with how many people work for you or how large your organization is, or what your title is, or how large your budget is. Anyone can lead from anywhere at any time, which is to say that I believe that character and leadership is a choice, and are about making a positive impact. And anyone can make a positive impact. Some acts of leadership are very large, and happen on a grand scale, and some acts of leadership are quite small. But like a stone you drop in a pond it ripples. Sometimes even very small acts of leadership can have a big consequences. And of course, it follows that if anyone can choose to lead at anywhere from anytime, then it is the role of leaders to find leaders other leaders and to unlock for them the possibility that they can make a positive impact.
So those things are what I think character is all about–but what about capability? For the profession that many of you have chosen–for the profession of communication and information technology, as scientists or engineers–the heart of capability, the true potential of this field also lies in finding the potential unlocked inside things, whether they are organizations, or societies, machines–or people.
I think the technology landscape today is changing in three fundamental ways. The first big shift we see going on in technology is that all processes, and that all content are being transformed from physical and analog to digital and mobile, and virtual. There are so many examples. Just think about the simple example of what is happening in photography. Photography is going from physical to digital and now from digital to mobile and all the content is about to become virtual and available, and accessible to anyone, anywhere in any form they want. And that transformation from physical to digital, virtual, mobile will happen to every process, every industry, and every kind of content.
The second big shift we see in technology is that the demand for simplicity, for manageability, for adaptability. While it is true that while technology is core to everything, it is also true that technology is also still too complex, too hard to manage, and often that complexity is a barrier.
The third big shift is that it’s becoming a horizontal, heterogeneous, connected world. Whether you’re a CEO trying to become more efficient, more effective and more agile; or a small and medium business trying to mobilize your workforce; or you're a consumer who wants a whole bunch of separate things that you have bought in your home to work better together, it is now about horizontal connections. It’s about making a heterogeneous world work together and speak a common language–and I am speaking not of just devices, but networking and connecting businesses and companies, employees and suppliers to customers.
As technology moves from the fringe to the core of people’s lives and businesses, the need for technology to deliver more becomes increasingly important. I think today our consumers are no longer willing to compromise. Now, all of our customers actually want everything from technology. They want affordability and innovation and reliability and security and simplicity and manageability and connection.
Now if I were giving you a speech today on HP, I would tell you that that this is a future that we are trying to create. That we see our role to accelerate the transformation from physical to digital. That as the number one consumer IT company in the world; the number one technology company for small and medium-sized businesses, and one of the leading enterprise technology companies, we are a company, we believe, unlike any other, with market-leading positions in virtually every category in which we compete. Today we are a almost 84 billion company with 140,000 employees in 176 countries around the world. We are working hard to create the growth industries of the future and to find the connections between things.
This school has prepared all of you for that same journey. As you work to take what you have learned here and apply it to the world around you, I hope that you will also strive to use your capabilities to create communities that are not just richer, but better; to judge success not just by the number of networks you connect, but by the number of people you connect; that you won’t just help make better companies, but better communities, and a better world.
It’s that same kind of thinking that brought us to China in the first place. It was 22 years ago that HP opened our first office here in China, in an old municipal factory located in Beijing. A day before the opening, there was still sawdust on the floor, and two of our engineers worked so hard to get our systems ready that they slept overnight in the building on folding cots. When we opened that building , it was the first partnership of its kind to be sponsored by the government of the People’s Republic of China in conjunction with a foreign company.
In 1985 our first joint venture agreement was signed between our then chairman, Dave Packard, and the then Minister of Information Technologies, Jiang Ze Min.
One newspaper recalled that the day there was“much hand-shaking and drinking of green tea.”At the ceremonial dedication, our representative at the time (Bill Doolittle) said that“it was our hope that by exchanging experiences, not only would we contribute to the progress of our industries and the growth of our economies, but to the friendship of our countries and the humanity of the world.”
That’s the same wish I leave you with here today. This University, I believe, has prepared you well and taught you the lessons of character and capability. The leaders of tomorrow will be the people of your age with the drive and commitment to fulfill their own potential and to help others reach their potential.
This is a world that in fact has always been driven by the young. Galileo published his first book on gravity at age 22. The founders of HP, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, were in their 20's when they began the company. Bill Gates after all started Microsoft when he was 22. Or think about a lesson of one of this school’s great founders -- Zhao Yuanren, one of Tsinghua’s Great Four Tutors, who knew 10 European languages and dozens of Chinese dialects, who accompanied British philosopher Bertrand Russell around China and translated his English into the local dialect at each of their destinations. He was only 28 at the time.
And let us not forget that the world’s very first computer programmer was a woman in her 20s named Ada Byron Lovelace. She lived more than 150 years ago. She greatly expanded on the work of her mentor, the renowned mathematician Charles Babbage, whose work on the analytical engine preceded the modern computer. Today, the computer language Ada is named for her.
Your job, your great opportunity, is to harness the forces of change swirling all around you, in whatever field you decide to enter, and to take full advantage of the possibilities at your fingertips. Leadership can take place in acts large and small, it can come not just from CEOs and Prime Ministers, but can come as well from ordinary citizens who believe in the potential of others. I hope that whatever you do, you will remember your own power and dedicate yourself to the cause Tsinghua has prepared you so well for: to dedicate yourself to unlock the potential in others; to believe in the potential of yourself; to make this era the most exciting in all of human history–and to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that everything is possible.
Q: HP has business all over the world and you use about 15 about languages. One of the most challenging things you face today must be cross of different cultures. I am We are now holding an educational exchange with Standford University. Would you please give me me some general advise on how to handle this problem?
A: So that subject is a thesis in its own own right. But, first let me begin with what we do inside our own company. Because, as you correctly point out -- we have many different cultures, and many different nations that are part of the HP world, and those present cultural differences. We also have different business divisions, and believe it or not, even different business devisions inside the same company still think there are differences between them. We also, when we brought together Compaq and HP, we had different histories, different cultures. I think the challenge, whether it is in your exchange program, or whether it is in our company, is to find what must be in common and leverage what is different.
And let me illustrate what I mean, in our company we know that certain things must be common and shared among all of our people: our objectives, our goals, our strategy, our vision of ourselves -- these must be common across every nation, across every business division, and must be shared and understood by every employee. Likewise how we think about our business must be understood and shared by all of our employees. We use --inside HP-- something we call leadership framework. What we mean by leadership framework is we think about 4 dimensions of our business. We call it framework because we draw it as a square. Strategy - which is purpose and goals. Structure and process -- which is how we organize. Results and rewards and and metrics-- which is how we measure our progress, how track our results and how me motivate our employees. And finally what I call the software of the system: values and behavior. When we say "values" these also by be common. We must all believe, that for example; passion for consumers, this is one of our most important values, is commonly understood and shared. Or, highest standards of integrity, or contribution to community. These are three example of values we must share.
But if we have a common purpose, if we have a common set of values, if we have a common objective - everything else is diversity that we leverage. Every other difference is power. When we brought... it is power in our company that we can share the best practices of our team here in China with best practices of our team in California. It was power when we brought the differences of Compaq and HP together. Example: the tradition of HP was very process intensive. We understood process very well. That is good because we build big complicated systems. And process is important for quality.
But on the other hand, sometimes, HP in its past, had processed forever and never acted. On the other hand, Compaq was a company that moved with a lot of speed. It was very decisive. Sometimes it had to make the same decision over and over because it had not fully thought it through. The power in that diversity, once we were united by a common purpose, to become the leading technology company in the world, the power in that diversity was to marry "thorough process" with "fast and decisive."
That was a winning combination. And that combination of fast and thorough is how we accomplished our merger of great size and complexity is record time. You have the same opportunity in your exchange program. Find what is common, You are brought together by a common purpose. You are brought together by a common goal. Spend the time to find what you agree on. Then leverage everything else that is different. Because in that difference, in that connection -- is great power.
Q: Mrs. Fiorina. I admire you as a great woman. How did you make the journey from history student to becoming CEO of an IT company? And I have another question. When Chinese people think about HP they think about imaging and printing. Do you think there is any need for HP to discuss on its image in the consumer market?
A: Let me start with your second question. Because its easier maybe. First, I certainly agree with you,. HP here in China has been, up until this point and time, has really been, mostly a company focused in the business sector. We have been very successful with our computing business here in China. But mostly in state-owned enterprises and large companies. We are increasingly successful in the small and medium business sector. Where today we have perhaps about 6,000 Chinese partners who help us reach small and medium businesses, and we have about 500 Solutions Centers around China for small and medium businesses.
By as a matter of fact, one of my purposes for coming to China this time, and I have been visiting here for 15 years, one of the reasons I came on this trip, is that we recently approved, inside HP, a 3 year plan for HP in China. Three years not because everything is finished in 3 years, but because we want to achieve a lot in 3 years. As part of that plan, we have decided that we will enter, in a big way, the consumer market in China. We entered the market about 8 months ago, both with PC's and with printers. We have been very successful in the first 8 months and now we will continue to accelerate our growth. In fact 2 days ago I gave a press conference in Shanghai where I talked about our digital entertainment strategy. Bringing digital content and process to consumer's homes. And we will build our foundation in PC's and printers and go to the next step in digital entertainment. So I agree with you, we have much more work to do in building our image here in China and entering the consumer market.
In terms of your first question, 'how did I go from being a history student to a CEO?'
It beats the heck out of me, as we would say in English. I did not plan to become a CEO. Up until fairly recently I never would have dreamed I could become a CEO. How do I manage a lot of technologist when I am not trained in technology myself? First, I have worked around technology my business career, so I know what technology can do. And one of the things I have learned about leadership and management is to know what you know and equally important to know what you do not know. I do not know how to program a computer. But I do know the power that a computer can unlock. So one of my great contributions, I think, as been, not to understand how to make technology, but to understand how to use technology. And I know that there are many many people around me at HP who understand how to make technology.
So I don't need to make that particular contribution, my contribution is to unlock the potential of HP. And also to unlock the potential of people with technology. So knowing what you and knowing what you don't know are very important. And I think as well, successful people, great leaders, just like successful companies -- they know their strengths, they leverage their strengths, but also know how to balance what they don't know, what they are not strong at with other people and other partners.
Q: Good afternoon Carly, its my great honor and privilege to attend you speech. I would like to ask you a question which many girls would be interested in. My question is, as a successful female CEO how do you balance your family life? Thank you very much.
A: The truth is, since I have become the CEO of HP, balance is very hard. And my family would tell you that. I have the great fortune to have a family that is very supportive. The truth is my life today is work and family, I have nothing else. People ask me do I have hobbies? No. Do I play golf? No. I work, and I spend time with my family. Over the years I have learned that you have different needs at different times in your life. You have different balance points at different in different times of your life. Different people have different balance requirements. The goal of a company, I think, is to accommodate all kinds of people with all kinds of work-life balance requirements. All of which is to say there is no easy answer to your question. There is no silver bullet, you will have to find your own balance point for yourself. You will have to make your choices about what your balance should be. But you should also know, that only you can make those choices. No one else can tell you how to make them. Only you can make those choices. And whatever choice you make there will be consequences. So, some of the consequence will be very good, some of the consequences will be frustrating. But you can make your own choices.
Q: Mrs. Fiorina. Its my honor to the . How did you get started? I mean, what's your first step to sail in the ocean of business? I want to know what's your first step.
A: The first step is to start, even if you are afraid. The first step is to start, even if you are afraid. Do not believe that your whole life must be mapped out. Do not believe that every job must be the greatest ever. I have learned from everything I have ever done. I said that I had a job as a secretary. I typed. I answered the phones. I learned a lot from that job. And I remember to this day, lessons I learned in that job. For example, one of the lessons I learned in that job was how much difference someone low in the organization can make. I think that it is also true that everybody is afraid at some time. I have been afraid in my career, I have been afraid in in my life. Sometimes people call me brave, I heard some newspapers call me fearless. You know, courage is not the absence of fear, courage is acting in spite of fear. You will be afraid at times in you life. Maybe you are afraid now - what does the future hold? Where will I go? How will I contribute? Just take the first step, in spite of the fear. See opportunity when it approaches you. I said I obviously have not had a clear road map for my life, or my career. I went to jobs that were difficult purposefully. Every job I ever took in my career was a job someone told me I shouldn't do. It was a job someone told me I couldn't do. It was a job someone told me it was not wise to try. I took hard jobs because they were challenging. I took hard jobs because I could prove something. Not because I know the end point but because I wanted to be challenged and I wanted to make a difference in the here and now. But always I could see opportunity. So being flexible, acting even if you are afraid, taking the first step, even if we do not know the step that will come later. Those are the most important things you can do. Now, and 20 years from now.
Q: Good afternoon Mrs. Carly Fiorina. I have a dream to be a CEO like you, that's why I came here today. Now, I have two questions. First, it is said said that the IT industry is a world for men. As a woman in the industry, whats your feeling with working with so many men? We have the same problems here in Tsing Hua University. You can find more boys than girls. HP now is a very success company in the world. You made it more successful that ever before. Do you have a plan to start your own company? If so, would it be in the IT industry or will it produce something else?
A: In answer to your question to what will I do next? Consist with to my answer with the young man just a moment ago... I don't know. And it doesn't worry me that I don't know. What I know right now is that I have a wonderful privilege to lead this great company. And I know as well that I have a lot of work left to do here. What comes next will revel itself in time. I don't need to worry about that right now. We're not done by a long shot, we have a lot left to do. I have no idea if I would start my own company, or if it would be in IT.
With regards to your questions, being in a man's world. That isn't how you asked it, but that is how you meant it. Actually I am very delighted to see so many young women here today. It is true that there are still mostly meetings that I go to where I am the only one. So I learned to love men and get along with men very well, but one thing I know. Only you know inside, what you are capable of. I said in my speech, "know your own power, know your own potential, and do not let anyone take that away from you." That is not arrogance. It is not hubris, it is not pride. But you cannot unlock the potential in other, unless you know the potential and power in yourself.
I think leadership and success take the right balance between confidence, and humility. The confidence to know you can make a difference, the confidence to know you can make a contribution, the confidence to know that you have capability an power can and the humility to know that you can't do it all by yourself, you don't know every answer and you do need help. Don't let anyone tell you you cannot do something. Anyone can do something if they really want to do it. And so if someone says you can't do it, because you're a woman, because you don't have the right something. If someone says you can't do it - let that be their problem, not yours. Don't take it inside, you know what you can do. Do what you want to do.
Q: Thank you. My question is about my problem. I am not very interested in my major. I will have more problems if I stay in my major. But to make a change is very difficult. It is very difficult to give up what we have now, I have studied in my major for more than two years. And my parents don't want me to quit. So what I learned from your speech that you have changed your major 2 twice and you have studied 3 majors. So would you give me the suggestion that I should quit? I want to listen to your opinion.
A: Do you mean that so when you go home and tell your mother and father you changed majors you can say that Carly Fiorina told me to?
My father wanted me to go to law school. You know what I would really say to you, and I would say it to all of you. I would say it to any one. Find what you love. Find what you love. If you do not have interest and excitement and passion for what you are doing, you cannot be successful. Success takes commitment, commitment takes devotion, devotion takes passion.
And how terrible, I thought, for me, it would be to lead a life as a lawyer when I had no passion for it. I cannot tell you what to do. I cannot advise you. All of my life tells me that you should find what you love. Even if that takes a little longer. I hope I don't get you into trouble.