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Tough Choices: A Memoir

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Behind the headlines, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard tells her own story, along with her unique perspective on leadership, technology, globalization, sexism, and many other issues.


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Behind the headlines, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard tells her own story, along with her unique perspective on leadership, technology, globalization, sexism, and many other issues.

30 review for Tough Choices: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Antof9

    The first half of this book is totally inspiring. It's a great book on leadership, and one that anyone in business should read. It actually made me want to do my job better. However, the second half of this book felt like "Carly's Defense". It seemed like she really felt the need to tell her side, and this book is the vehicle for it. It wasn't bad, per se, but it didn't go with the first half, and in some ways, it took away from the first half. It seemed awfully defensive, and wasn't so much abou The first half of this book is totally inspiring. It's a great book on leadership, and one that anyone in business should read. It actually made me want to do my job better. However, the second half of this book felt like "Carly's Defense". It seemed like she really felt the need to tell her side, and this book is the vehicle for it. It wasn't bad, per se, but it didn't go with the first half, and in some ways, it took away from the first half. It seemed awfully defensive, and wasn't so much about leadership as just the HP business itself. I'm aware that in the same situation, I'd probably feel the need to defend myself, too, but I wish the first half had stopped at the point where it was still inspiring and encouraging and made me want to be a leader as well as just a good employee.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brian Mcquaig

    Please note I read the abridged audio version of this book. I "read" this book because I was tired of hearing, "I know someone at HP and they hate her because she ruined the company..." blah, blah, blah. ...when it was more than obvious that the majority of people telling me this, 1. Didn't know anyone from HP and 2. They were talking out of their ass...not knowing ANY relevant details of the subject at hand. I find those kinds of people transparent as in finding aggrandizement of themselves in Please note I read the abridged audio version of this book. I "read" this book because I was tired of hearing, "I know someone at HP and they hate her because she ruined the company..." blah, blah, blah. ...when it was more than obvious that the majority of people telling me this, 1. Didn't know anyone from HP and 2. They were talking out of their ass...not knowing ANY relevant details of the subject at hand. I find those kinds of people transparent as in finding aggrandizement of themselves in the eyes & ears of anyone willing to listen. Such is the ignorance that leads you down a path of stupidity and stupid decisions in your own life. Her side of the HP story gave me a lot of clarity on what I heard from the other side. Although I see through some "massaging" of certain situations, it is clear that Carly is an articulate and honest person who also happens to be wickedly intelligent and has a work ethic to match. I urge you to read this and other books to get the entire picture of what actually happened at HP and who Carly Fiorina is, as a person. You'll also find a never-ending source of business analysis of the HP/Compaq merger in numerous iTunesU and MIT Open-Courseware courses.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    Wow. This woman is extraordinary. Her careers moves at lightning speed from a role as a secretary at a brokerage firm to CEO of HP. She also was one of the three people who spun off Lucent from AT&T, creating the logo, company identity and mission statement. She exhibits spectacular moral courage, ethical conviction, daring creativity and infectious charisma. Never would I have imagined adding to my list of personal heroes the CEO of a major corporation, but there you have it; she's been added. Wow. This woman is extraordinary. Her careers moves at lightning speed from a role as a secretary at a brokerage firm to CEO of HP. She also was one of the three people who spun off Lucent from AT&T, creating the logo, company identity and mission statement. She exhibits spectacular moral courage, ethical conviction, daring creativity and infectious charisma. Never would I have imagined adding to my list of personal heroes the CEO of a major corporation, but there you have it; she's been added. This is a story about a meteoric rise to greatness, leadership and stupendous achievement that anyone, whether in business or not, can use as inspiration. She is a dynamo and this is not only an addictively compelling story but supremely well-written and carefully crafted. She was a philosophy major. She studied Ancient Greek and Latin. What more needs to be said? A must read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Robert Koslowsky

    Carly Fiorina wrote Tough Choices: A Memoir (2006), which I read in December 2015. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the contributions she made in the field in which I thrived for my entire early career – telecommunications. Both her stint at Lucent and Hewlett-Packard (HP) in leadership positions revealed important lessons many of us learned during the optimistic 1990s and subdued 2000s. Unlike her father’s view that learning was not simply a way to make a living, learning was a goal in and o Carly Fiorina wrote Tough Choices: A Memoir (2006), which I read in December 2015. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the contributions she made in the field in which I thrived for my entire early career – telecommunications. Both her stint at Lucent and Hewlett-Packard (HP) in leadership positions revealed important lessons many of us learned during the optimistic 1990s and subdued 2000s. Unlike her father’s view that learning was not simply a way to make a living, learning was a goal in and of itself, Carly, and many of us educated during the 1970s, saw an education as a way of securing a good paying job. Careers in engineering and the sciences “paid off” while those in the arts and humanities did not. I resonated with her book owing to mutual experiences in the workplace. She recalls, “Most of all, I loved the people of business. I loved working with them; I loved collaborating with them and negotiating with them. I learned for the first time that some people in business are driven by facts and numbers, some are driven by judgment and intuition, and most are driven by both. And some are driven by emotion and ego more than others. I loved the camaraderie of working hard and then winning, or losing, together. I even found the politics of office life interesting, because I was often asked to intervene to help people find common ground.” I experienced all of this too at Nortel Networks (just as Carly did at Lucent) and at Cisco Systems (just as Carly did at HP). We share the view that customers and our competitors set the pace of how we conduct business and it’s critical that movement quickly occurs “when the decision is perfect enough.” Carly’s story spoke to me. She writes, “Challenge comes from the reality that your best is required and falling short is possible. Learning comes from rising to meet that challenge.” I always took on new roles early in my career to learn, just as she did at AT&T-Lucent. Carly adds, “Sometimes the riskier the choice gives you a better opportunity to prove yourself to others, and you’ll always prove something important to yourself. You’ll know yourself and those you work with better.” I adopted this mantra and left the security of a large company for a California startup and proved myself there during the late 1990s. Bottom line: Business is about producing results, and if you can’t deliver, you should work someplace else. See how Carly and her colleagues delivered. I encourage you to read Tough Choices about those myriad workplace experiences found in large companies. You’ll learn a lot from her story and enjoy the journey.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I know nothing about HP or management, but I really liked this book. Fiorini was the CEO of HP, and this is her autobiography, focused on her climb through the business world (from AT&T to Lucent to HP). There is a lot on management techniques and her personal philosophies on management and business, and this is interesting to read. I enjoyed the stories of how she overcame particular obstacles at work. What I really liked about it, though, was her frank depiction of the challenges for women in I know nothing about HP or management, but I really liked this book. Fiorini was the CEO of HP, and this is her autobiography, focused on her climb through the business world (from AT&T to Lucent to HP). There is a lot on management techniques and her personal philosophies on management and business, and this is interesting to read. I enjoyed the stories of how she overcame particular obstacles at work. What I really liked about it, though, was her frank depiction of the challenges for women in the workplace, and at the same time her refusal to be categorized as a woman in the workplace. She clearly discusses the difficulties she faced because of her gender, and then tells the reader how she overcame those difficulties. The book is sobering and uplifting at the same time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is an autobiography of the former CEO of HP. It chronicles her rise and fall from power. I could relate to a lot of it, of course with quite a few less zeroes in my case! ( I read elsewhere that Carly received $21 million in her HP severance agreement – 2.5 X her annual salary.) I agreed with much of Carly’s philosophy of business. The following quotes resonated with me, primarily in the context of my own situation. “They (the Board) did not thank me and they did not say good-bye. They did n This is an autobiography of the former CEO of HP. It chronicles her rise and fall from power. I could relate to a lot of it, of course with quite a few less zeroes in my case! ( I read elsewhere that Carly received $21 million in her HP severance agreement – 2.5 X her annual salary.) I agreed with much of Carly’s philosophy of business. The following quotes resonated with me, primarily in the context of my own situation. “They (the Board) did not thank me and they did not say good-bye. They did not explain their decision or their reasoning. They did not seek my opinion or my involvement in any aspect of the transition.” “I was utterly devastated, but the next day the sun still came up and life went on. That day, and in the days that followed, I was more hurt than angry. I felt a curious mixture of sorrow and relief. I had worked so hard for so long; I had thought about the company constantly; I’d put everything on the line, and now suddenly it was over. …I thought about the people of a company I had grown to love, and I ached for the chance to say good-bye and reminisce, one last time, about the remarkable journey we had taken together. I was never given the chance.” “As weeks became months I asked myself over and over what had happened. Were there signals I’d missed? Was there something I should have said or done that would have made the difference? “

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melita

    This is an unforgettable book for me. It was the first time I read book in this genre - female leaders' memoirs/bio/autobiography, and I fell in love with this genre after I finished this book. It was thoroughly well-written. Enjoyable, good flow, page turner, good info, juicy details, with just the right amount of wisdoms, lessons learnt, and key takeaways. Yes, she's no angel, yes, she's had her problems...but she is honest and tried to defend her choices, which I learned a lot from. I learned This is an unforgettable book for me. It was the first time I read book in this genre - female leaders' memoirs/bio/autobiography, and I fell in love with this genre after I finished this book. It was thoroughly well-written. Enjoyable, good flow, page turner, good info, juicy details, with just the right amount of wisdoms, lessons learnt, and key takeaways. Yes, she's no angel, yes, she's had her problems...but she is honest and tried to defend her choices, which I learned a lot from. I learned that sometimes you have to sacrifice things, you have to be ready to lose things, for standing up for what you believe, and that's okay. You get to keep your principles, and you know what, that's great, too. I learned how hard she worked to get to the top, and note that I had to be willing to work just as hard, if not harder, than she was. I learned the importance of network, and the amazing support you can get from your social circles, and sort of vowed to keep myself rich with friendships. I'd like to think that I have kept all those notes to myself when I read this book, so many years ago during my youth. Afterwards, I remember reading eBay's Meg Whitman's book, and it wasn't even close to this book (in terms of quality).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I have a confession to make. I am yet another Hewlett-Packard refugee. I was at HP when Carly Fiorina was CEO. Working on a design team that was almost all male, it was exhilerating to have a female CEO. But, like so many other HP employees, I felt that Carly was calculating and immune to the charm of "Bill and Dave" and the HP Way. I agreed with the sentiments of most of my co-workers that Carly Fiorina was a ...(rhymes with witch). Although I was no longer at HP when Carly was ousted, I cheere I have a confession to make. I am yet another Hewlett-Packard refugee. I was at HP when Carly Fiorina was CEO. Working on a design team that was almost all male, it was exhilerating to have a female CEO. But, like so many other HP employees, I felt that Carly was calculating and immune to the charm of "Bill and Dave" and the HP Way. I agreed with the sentiments of most of my co-workers that Carly Fiorina was a ...(rhymes with witch). Although I was no longer at HP when Carly was ousted, I cheered along with the rest of the valley. But, a few weeks ago, I saw Carly speak at the Flint Center. She was warm and engaging and refreshingly honest about her career and especially her time at HP. She impressed me enough to listen to her autobiography, Tough Choices . I'm sure the past several years have improved my perspective on HP, but after listening to the book, my opinion of Carly has changed. She is intelligent, capable, and possibly saved HP from extinction. Now if only I could change her political views...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    I really enjoyed this book. One of the best leadership and business books I have read and will likely re-read or at the very least borrow wisdom from. Carly's astuteness for business is unmatched. This was a rather quick read that focused on her career and her thoughts on leadership. I read this book to gain some insight into Carly to see if my vote would be her this coming election. She certainly now has it, but what I did not expect in this book and I actually appreciated the book did not go t I really enjoyed this book. One of the best leadership and business books I have read and will likely re-read or at the very least borrow wisdom from. Carly's astuteness for business is unmatched. This was a rather quick read that focused on her career and her thoughts on leadership. I read this book to gain some insight into Carly to see if my vote would be her this coming election. She certainly now has it, but what I did not expect in this book and I actually appreciated the book did not go this way was that she did not mention anyting about her political beliefs. Rather it was strictly business as she provided a chronology of her career, her education, her early beginnings ending in the culmination of her 5.5 year run as CEO of HP. It is unfortunate what happened to her at toward the end of her time at HP, but it is my view she is now destined for elected office. Some highlighting points were her perserverance through the establishment, her guts and her diplomacy through tough situations. I would love to meet her one day.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Very inspiring. I would want to write a very long review, but if I wait to find the perfect words, it will never happen. So, the bottom line is that I feel rejuvenated. It have set myself my 5 and 10 year goals because of this book. I had never seriously considered management until now, and I owe it all to this book. I feel less intimidated by my own management because the book humanizes upper management. My only issue is how she focuses on metrics as measurement of success (ie # of patents = inn Very inspiring. I would want to write a very long review, but if I wait to find the perfect words, it will never happen. So, the bottom line is that I feel rejuvenated. It have set myself my 5 and 10 year goals because of this book. I had never seriously considered management until now, and I owe it all to this book. I feel less intimidated by my own management because the book humanizes upper management. My only issue is how she focuses on metrics as measurement of success (ie # of patents = innovation). In my experience, employees will find ways around these metrics so that the numbers look good for them, and people who don't play the game look bad. But that's really the only negative thing. She has more guts than me (hence why she's where she is, and I am not), but her story has given me the confidence/courage to stand up for myself more, and for that, I'm grateful to whoever suggested I read this book and will encourage many (men and women) to do the same.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    This was really quite interesting, even though I know little about business and had no idea that she had ever led Hewlett Packard.It chronicles her rise (from a secretary to CEO of HP) and fall (the HP Board fired her) in business. She talks of how she learned management, and the obstacles she faced as a woman in a tech industry in her time and how she overcame them through focus on the work. There is a lot on management techniques and her personal philosophies on management and business, and th This was really quite interesting, even though I know little about business and had no idea that she had ever led Hewlett Packard.It chronicles her rise (from a secretary to CEO of HP) and fall (the HP Board fired her) in business. She talks of how she learned management, and the obstacles she faced as a woman in a tech industry in her time and how she overcame them through focus on the work. There is a lot on management techniques and her personal philosophies on management and business, and this is interesting to read. Additionally, I liked how she summed up what she's learned from each stage or incident at the end of the chapter. It helped me learn from her. This was really quite interesting. I listened to it and she read the audiobook herself and did a good job at it. If I ever had a chance to know her, I would like her.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I liked this book - would even recommend it - but the first half held my interest more than the second half. One of my favorite things about this book is the way Ms. Fiorina closes many of her chapters by summing up what she learned from the particular time or place covered in that chapter. Her stories from the early part of her career were interesting - dropping out of law school, her first jobs, her first encounter with male bias against women. I was surprised at how 'normal' she comes across I liked this book - would even recommend it - but the first half held my interest more than the second half. One of my favorite things about this book is the way Ms. Fiorina closes many of her chapters by summing up what she learned from the particular time or place covered in that chapter. Her stories from the early part of her career were interesting - dropping out of law school, her first jobs, her first encounter with male bias against women. I was surprised at how 'normal' she comes across - she wrote this in a style that makes her seem approachable. I wonder if she really is.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Thanks, Laura, for sharing this book! It is a great picture of a woman driven to the heights of corporate responsibility, with memorable assessments of what leadership consists of. I especially liked how she never once whined about the unique challenges of being a woman in this role, but she never sugar coats it either. I'll reread this book. Thanks, Laura, for sharing this book! It is a great picture of a woman driven to the heights of corporate responsibility, with memorable assessments of what leadership consists of. I especially liked how she never once whined about the unique challenges of being a woman in this role, but she never sugar coats it either. I'll reread this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura Skladzinski

    This was one of the better business books I've read... up until the last third, when it became purely a defense of Carly's time at HP, filled with tons of unnecessary details that were boring unless you were reading it to understand her firing scandal. I'd higly recommend reading it up until she gets the job at HP, then stopping. This was one of the better business books I've read... up until the last third, when it became purely a defense of Carly's time at HP, filled with tons of unnecessary details that were boring unless you were reading it to understand her firing scandal. I'd higly recommend reading it up until she gets the job at HP, then stopping.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I found this book fascinating but it is definitely not a page turner if you aren't interested in reading an in-depth story of a female CEO in the Valley. Lots of detail about leadership strategy and politics at Lucent and HP, which I loved reading! I found this book fascinating but it is definitely not a page turner if you aren't interested in reading an in-depth story of a female CEO in the Valley. Lots of detail about leadership strategy and politics at Lucent and HP, which I loved reading!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Listened to the audio book that was read by the author and really enjoyed it. It was like listening to "lessons learned" from a mentor. Listened to the audio book that was read by the author and really enjoyed it. It was like listening to "lessons learned" from a mentor.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julie Salinas

    This book has been out for a while, and was on the discount shelf when I picked it up. I was vaguely aware of Ms. Fiorina, and once in a while foray from my typical reading material into memoirs or biographies. Presently I am in a leadership class, so the subject of business was a plus. The style of the writing reminds me of how our leaders present their "profiles" during our quarterly meetings. She starts by telling us about herself, and the path that lead her to her leadership of HP. Perhaps m This book has been out for a while, and was on the discount shelf when I picked it up. I was vaguely aware of Ms. Fiorina, and once in a while foray from my typical reading material into memoirs or biographies. Presently I am in a leadership class, so the subject of business was a plus. The style of the writing reminds me of how our leaders present their "profiles" during our quarterly meetings. She starts by telling us about herself, and the path that lead her to her leadership of HP. Perhaps most interesting to me is her observations of people, and the culture of a business. I have been blessed with very good leadership at my work environment, but with a recent change in leadership the working atmosphere has deteriorated. What happens at the top truly does roll downhill. This book is well written, and carefully done so with consideration of what perhaps went wrong, in addition of what does work.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    A good book although sometimes hard to read due to the economic language that I have forgotten since my business classes almost 20 years ago (my God, it makes me grasp for fresh air when I realize how time has passed). A few things that got stuck in my mind: - people who stop learning become old before their time - continuous progress, not perfection is the goal in management - if you’re in a leadership role that doesn’t make you necessarily smarter - people are the same all over the world - a good l A good book although sometimes hard to read due to the economic language that I have forgotten since my business classes almost 20 years ago (my God, it makes me grasp for fresh air when I realize how time has passed). A few things that got stuck in my mind: - people who stop learning become old before their time - continuous progress, not perfection is the goal in management - if you’re in a leadership role that doesn’t make you necessarily smarter - people are the same all over the world - a good leader helps the employees to rise up and use their creativity, making the best of their potential. - diversity is good - you must be adaptive to change - stories and analogies are powerful communication tools

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rhode

    Read when it first came out. This book has stayed with me for years as a female insider's look at succeeding in a pre-existing Fortune 500 company - as opposed to most woman in business books which tend to be pink collar entrepreneurs. The Board shenanigans she dealt with were also terrible. It's a good reminder that even at the top of top companies, flawed humans run things. Read when it first came out. This book has stayed with me for years as a female insider's look at succeeding in a pre-existing Fortune 500 company - as opposed to most woman in business books which tend to be pink collar entrepreneurs. The Board shenanigans she dealt with were also terrible. It's a good reminder that even at the top of top companies, flawed humans run things.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Bigler

    I was curious about who she was and how she became a presidential candidate. She’s obviously very intelligent. Seemed more like a defense explaining her side of the story for being fired from Hewlett-Packard. Not really a spoiler since she starts the book talking about it. It was interesting hearing her overall strategies for business. I came away feeling I know more about who she is.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mai Pham

    “Sometimes the riskier the choice gives you a better opportunity to prove yourself to others, and you’ll always prove something important to yourself. You’ll know yourself and those you work with better.” Love the first past but unfortunately loose my interest when it reaches the second-half.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jose Kaumphawi

    Inspirational This is a book that will help you discover that there is more you can do with your life than what you've so far done. You can achieve any goals that are on your heart to achieve. There is no stopping you Inspirational This is a book that will help you discover that there is more you can do with your life than what you've so far done. You can achieve any goals that are on your heart to achieve. There is no stopping you

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tim Butzen-Cahill

    Very well written. A highly valuable read for anyone working in a complex organization.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stuart H Crepea

    Tough no nonsense professionals Trial of women in business but truly more about a person with strong moral compass and her learning curve and Adventures up the Corporate ladder

  25. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Gordon

    What a brave, courageous, strong woman. I had no idea all that was going on at HP.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Diane Moore

    Respectable. Good insight.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    The first half of the book was interesting ...the second half was ok

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kent

    strong woman, inspiring stories, but she could not have made it more boring had she tried - she should be the next US President

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ira Dorogova

    That might be a great book on leadership and I really enjoyed reading it, but the second part of the book seemed to be mean to tell Carly's version of the story about HP. That might be a great book on leadership and I really enjoyed reading it, but the second part of the book seemed to be mean to tell Carly's version of the story about HP.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed Ockba

    Very inspiring I really liked her story lots of things to learn from

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