|October 9, 2000|
Women In Technology
Ann Livermore, Hewlett-Packard
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She was right. Livermore now sits with the computer company's top executive management team as president of HP's business customer organization, a division that's pulling in more than half of HP's estimated $35.5 billion in revenue this year To many, she's one of the reasons HP was able to pull out of the doldrums and become a force as an E-business provider. She's been credited with steering HP away from its decentralized culture and hardware mentality and was the brains behind HP's E-services strategy. Last year, she was named the 13th most-powerful woman in business by Fortune.
Livermore's name also appeared on the short list to replace CEO Lewis Platt when he announced plans to retire in March 1999. Ultimately, she didn't get the job--the spot went to Carly Fiorina, then-president of Lucent Technologies Inc.'s global service provider business, who made history as the first female CEO of a Dow 30 company.
Rather than pack her bags, Livermore says she stayed on simply because she believes HP "is positioned to be the leading company in the next wave of the Internet." She intends to help the company take advantage of its strategic position by delivering a comprehensive package to customers. To Livermore, a leading high-tech company has to do more than sell product--it has to be a full-time business partner to each customer, providing a complete and cohesive suite of products and services.
"The underpinning of all this is she is very smart," says Tom Ashburn, VP and general manager of HP Services, who has worked with or for Livermore since 1983. "She really understands how things get done, she understands the issues. And she's able to dig in and cut through the garbage to get to the issues," he says. Deborah Nelson, VP of North American marketing at HP--who met Livermore years ago, as the two women were being issued badges on their first day of work at the company--adds that Livermore isn't afraid to take risks.
Case in point: Livermore helped HP--known primarily as a hardware company--bring sharper focus to its services strategy when she took the reins of the newly formed software and services group in 1997. "One of the first things I worked on was to manage some of our services as a business," Livermore says. "At the time, services were given away for free. But there was a business opportunity for us to start selling services."
Moreover, she's a great boss. "After 33 years at HP, I've had a lot of bosses, and I would say she's one of my favorites," says Ashburn. "When you put the whole package together, there isn't anybody I'd rather work for than her." Any staff member who has been to one of her pool parties at the California home she shares with her husband, Tom, and her 10-year-old daughter, would probably agree.
Livermore is well-known at HP for her down-to-earth management style. "She's just as comfortable sitting down in the cafeteria with administrative assistants, which she does frequently, as she is sitting down with the chairman of GM," says Lane Nonnenberg, VP and general manager of HP's channels, alliances, and partners business.
Livermore's calm voice, tinged with a Southern drawl, her relaxed demeanor, and her unassuming manners belie the fact that she's one of the highest-powered executives in the country--man or woman. And don't tell her daughter that mom manages some 41,000 employees a day. "She understands I have a big job and she's proud of it, but to her, I'm mom," Livermore says. "I'm the one who makes her laugh because I can't ride a horse or I fall down skiing."
As part of running a global business, Livermore's daily routine includes attending to lots of voice mail and E-mail, and she has conversations with at least two or three customers a day. She says it's impossible to give a specific answer to the question, "How many hours a day do you work?" Instead, she says simply, "I do whatever it takes. I've got a global operation to run. There are times I have to make calls at night, or on Sunday--when it's Monday in Asia."
Nonnenberg tells a story that provides some insight into the can-do quality that makes Livermore a first-rate executive. He recalls a day more than a decade ago at the Stanford University driving range when Livermore thought she'd try her hand at golf. Six months pregnant at the time, she "proceeded to get up and absolutely whack the balls 150 yards," Nonnenberg says. "She just turned to me with a little smile, and said, 'Well, that wasn't too hard'."
Title: President of Hewlett-Packard╣s business customer organization
Years at HP: 18
Previous positions at HP: VP of Windows marketing; VP of enterprise customer unit; VP of product support services
Previous positions at other companies: Marketing services manager for the application support division; research and development manager for the application support division; general manager of the software and services group; general manager of enterprise computing solutions organization; president of enterprise computing
Education: B.A. in economics from the University of North Carolina; MBA from Stanford
Personal status: Married, one daughter
Hobbies: Learning to play golf well enough to get below 100 and lose less than three balls per round; reading trashy novels
Future goals: Continuing to do a great job in whatever position she holds.
No. of high-level female execs at HP:Seven
Livermore came to HP right out of graduate school. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then immediately went on to Stanford, where she earned her MBA in 1982.
Ask her if she thinks being a woman has made it tougher to succeed in the high-tech world, and she's quick with a self-effacing answer. While growing up in North Carolina, Livermore says, she "never experienced a situation where I wasn't allowed to do something or experience something because I was a girl."
Livermore confesses to having had a few brushes with chauvinism since then. For example, on one of her first overseas business trips, to visit a customer in Japan, she says the customer at first assumed Livermore was the person who'd be serving tea. But because she says she was "a bit na´ve" when she entered the workforce, she paid little attention to these incidents. "I haven't lost any time worrying about them," she says.
Within HP, the tradition of fostering diversity has led to the promotion of a comparatively large number of women executives to top positions. In addition to Livermore and Fiorina, three other women hold high-level spots: Susan Bowick (VP of human resources), Debra Dunn (VP of strategy and corporate operations), and Carolyn Tickner (president of imaging and printing systems). "I believe this goes to the roots of Bill [Hewlett] and Dave [Packard]," Livermore says. "The company has always focused on invention, and to do that you have to allow for more diversity."
But HP employees are quick to point out that women such as Livermore are put in management positions because they deserve them, not because they're women. "I think Ann is very definitely a role model for a lot of women in the organization, but no one ever questions that she got there on her ability. You just need to see her in action once to know," Nelson says.
Livermore hopes to inspire even greater diversity and innovation as she leads HP through the Internet age. "The Internet is all about invention," Livermore says. "And anytime you have a set of actions that drive transformation, you need to have a diversity of views and opinions. That's where you get the best inventions."
Photo by Gary Parker
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