“How many people vote for American Idol on their cell phone every week?” Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina asked the crowd on stage at Disrupt NY on Tuesday. “What if we had citizens — teens in particular — engaging with their president that way?”
Fiorina, best known in the tech community for her role as the CEO of HP from 1999 to 2005, believes we can use modern technology to reimagine government. She recently used live-streaming app Periscope to connect with younger citizens for that very purpose. “Technology is a disruptive force; maybe we should use it to disrupt the status quo,” she said.
That same Silicon Valley experience is what she hopes to bring to the White House. As she said onstage, it gives her an “in-depth understanding” of how this world works.
Technology is a disruptive force; maybe we should use it to disrupt the status quo. Carly Fiorina
However, Fiorina’s tenure at HP included massive layoffs, a botched merger deal with Compaq, and a serious loss in revenue for the company. She was said to be a difficult manager, knocking heads with several members of the board — including Walter Hewlett (the son of company co-founder William Hewlett).
Fair or not, plenty of female CEOs have faced similar criticism over management style. But Fiorina seems to be a special case. Though she makes her HP experience a central part of her bid for the President, it is that very experience that others point out as her weakness.
Fiorina ran against incumbent Barbara Boxer for a Senate seat in California in 2010, touting her business experience as a qualification to lead. Boxer used it as ammunition, saying at the time, “And through all that pain, what did she do to show any sacrifice? She took $100 million. That’s what happened on Wall Street.”
Fiorina also laid off 30,000 people during the Compaq merger and shipped jobs overseas.
The former HP executive defended her record onstage, saying she went from “lagging to leading” and that “Politics is a fact-free zone, but the facts and the numbers and the results are crystal clear.”
Fiorina blamed her very public firing in 2005 on loose lips among board members, a recession and her attempt to lead change within the organization. “When you lead change…when you disrupt the status quo you make enemies. It’s human nature,” she said.
Fiorina and other tech CEOs were indeed operating in very difficult circumstances back then. Fiorina was charged with steering HP through the dot-com bust of the early 2000s, though many agree Fiorina’s record of failure to lead were extraordinary.
When asked if she thought we were again in a tech bubble, Fiorina replied that she didn’t think we were in the same environment, but that she did see the similarities and said in some ways that this is a “frothy time” for the technology industry. But to her that has more to do with what she believes is a 30-40 year transition from the physical to a digital world.
Part of that world includes the recent FCC ruling over new Internet regulations. While many in the tech industry and beyond felt very strongly that major Internet providers should not be able to create a two-tier system – one that would be for those able to pay more and one for the rest of us – Fiorina saw this as government intrusion, saying she would “roll back the 400 pages of regulation that the FCC published over the Internet.”
Fiorina touts her tech experience as necessary in the White House and said onstage that, “Government shouldn’t be regulating how innovation progresses in the technology industry.”
Fiorina announced on her site and on social media yesterday that she is running for president, but she faces quite a few challenges with her HP background, a crowded Republican field of candidates vying for the position and, it seems, even technology itself. Fiorina failed to purchase the domain carlyfiornia.org, leaving it open for an upset citizen to grab it and use it to show how many people lost their jobs under Fiorina’s leadership at HP.
“You can’t buy every domain name…maybe we should’ve,” she said.
Fiorina still believes her technology experience and background make her the best candidate for the job. When asked if she’d be willing to settle for vice president, Fiorina wondered aloud if she would be asked that as a man, then when that was confirmed that she definitely would by TechCrunch’s Sarah Lane, she replied, “I’m not running for something else. I’m running because I think I can win this job and I think I can do this job.”
You can watch the entire interview here: