I first met Carly Fiorina when we were both working at AT&T. I began reporting directly to her in 1991, when she was heading up of worldwide strategy and I held a similar role for the company’s European division. That arrangement lasted until 1993—though we continued to work together on and off until she left Lucent in 1999....
I’m here to tell you that Fiorina’s detractors, including Donald Trump, couldn’t be more wrong in their assessment of her leadership. Fiorina was bright, insightful, and dedicated to growing our company and developing relationships with employees and customers. There is a reason she rose from a secretary to a CEO – Fiorina is the real deal.
Fiorina, as the head of North American sales, knew that Network Solutions needed to immediately solve this problem. She found that Network Solutions’ competitors were responsive to customer needs, while our engineers and developers were not. Then, in true Fiorina fashion, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work.
As a non-Network Systems insider, she immediately met with fierce resistance to the changes she proposed. The issue was complicated by a leadership team that was entrenched in its ways and unfriendly to “outsiders”—even when they were from within AT&T.
Fiorina realized the crux of the issue was R&D funding. After a major campaign, she was able to convince some of the higher-ups to move funding into the Sales Organization. Then she created a unit within Sales that controlled the funding and acted as a liaison between Product Units and Sales, determining which products to fund and develop.
Fiorina called this concept Customer Architecture. It completely revolutionized Network Systems, pulling a stodgy, lagging company into the 21st Century. Network Systems once again became competitive—and it was this customer architecture that eventually turned Network Systems into Lucent Technologies.
We at AT&T saw this pattern time and time again: When Fiorina put her mind to something, she accomplished it. She was relentless, and through persistence, perseverance, and personality she gradually won people over. In the end, her changes were made and all those working within Network Systems benefited. Fiorina’s genius was recognizing the problem, analyzing the situation, developing a solution and implementing the fix. And those of us lucky enough to work with her reaped the rewards of her leadership.