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Fiorina: 'However bad it was for me, it was worse for you'

Cry baby Carly

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Change is good. Unless it means me getting fired.

That was the theme of a talk delivered by former HP chief Carly Fiorina last week to a crowd of San Francisco lawyers. While on the road promoting her new memoir, Tough Choices, Carly stopped off to address the San Francisco Bar Association, to impart some wisdom, and sign some books.

The themes of the talk were straight from the pages of the memoir, and stressed overcoming fear of change, combating resistance to change, and recognizing the need for change. Carly also took some time to emphasize the need for corporate America to focus on ethics (also a change), which we assume was directed towards those dirty sneaks who took over the reins at HP after the board gave her the sack.

Fiorina opened up as well, showing the folks in the audience her personal side. After a question from the crowd about the number of times the book describes a pivotal moment in Carly's career that was immediately followed up by her shedding tears in private, she informed the group that "frankly, I hope that I will always be the kind of person who can cry - for the right reasons."

And, in case you were wondering, she admits that she wept when she had to can over 30,000 people from the ranks of HP. It was a hard decision, Fiorina said, although she did acknowledge that is was probably "even more difficult for the people who lost their jobs." Yeah, and they didn't even get a $21 million severance package.

But, Fiorina reiterated throughout the talk, change works, and the "tough choices" she had to make during the restructuring of HP and its merger with Compaq eventually paid off. After all, HP has now overtaken Dell as the primary supplier of PCs to the world once again.

Yes, the Grey Lady of Silicon Valley is grey no longer, but Carly was too well-mannered and composed to take the credit for this turnaround. She did divulge that she saw it coming, though, and knew that "it was only a matter of time" before HP put the three-tenths-of-a-percentage-point clobber on Dell. "I knew the facts," she says, and the fact was that customer satisfaction with HP was waxing, and customer satisfaction at Dell was on the wane.

Fiorina, as she proudly admits, puts her trust in leading indicators, like customer satisfaction, to guide her way.

Speaking of leading indicators, as striking as what she said was what she didn't say: hardly a mention of the current state of the HP board - the leading indicator that HP's gains on the competition may only be ephemeral. Also nary a whisper concerning her replacement, Mark Hurd, a man who has only avoided the spy scandal fallout thus far - indeed, who has even assumed the role of chairman of the board - by admitting that he was too lazy to read the damn memo about the probe (which either makes him an idiot or the smartest man in the tech biz today).

Nada. Zilch. Not a hint of schadenfreude, not the slightest tinge of happiness that the ungrateful board that defenestrated her after she succeeded in turning around a moribund company has self-destructed in an orgy of personal vendettas, lies and congressional inquiries.

No, Carly is bigger than all that. Plus, she'd already done 60 Minutes.

At this event, she was more interested in discussing the future: how, through her work with the Initiative for Global Development, she hopes to show companies that it is in their "enlightened self-interest" to help underdeveloped nations grow; and how America can maintain its economic might by repairing the crippled education system, encouraging innovation, and opening up to immigration.

Wait - immigration? That's odd . . . why would a former high-tech CEO mention a political hot-button issue that's been on everyone's mind lately? Why is she mentioning policy matters like maintaining American economic might in the face of growing Chinese competition? Especially to a bunch of thought-leaders like a select group of the San Francisco Bar? Could it be . . . Carly is considering a run for office?

Governor Fiorina? Senator Fiorina?

Well, why not? Carly has proven herself capable of turning almost everything she touches to gold – or at least pyrite - so she might just be the right person to come in and fix the train wreck that is the California legislative process or the catastrophe that is, well, the federal legislative process.

At one point Carly acknowledged her father, a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who was in attendance at the event, as being the basis for her appreciation of strong character and ethics. The senior judge stood up and announced to his fellow jurists: "I am so proud of her!"

So are we, your honor, so are we.®

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