From that audio oscillator that adorned every electronics lab at Purdue University through oscilloscopes, frequency counters, and sweep generators, there was always one or more Hewlett-Packard instrument on the bench in my screen cage as I was earning my stripes as a young engineer. Hewlett-Packard was the gold standard in electronic equipment, and every electronics engineer swore by the name.
But there was a period in my life when I wouldn't touch Hewlett-Packard products. That period was from 2000 through 2010, and the reason was Carly Fiorina. From the time she was appointed CEO of HP in July 1999, and until she was asked to resign in February 2005, Carly Fiorina did a DustBuster on Hewlett-Packard.
DustBuster refers to the Black and Decker debacle of the mid-1980s, when they decided to increase their bottom line on the wildly popular cordless hand held vacuum cleaner by cheapening the components. It didn't take the public six months to realize they'd been had, and DustBuster sales dropped from 7 million a year to zero.
Fiorina's taking money out of the front end of the product had the same effect at Hewlett-Packard. Sales dropped, the market value of the company fell to half, and Fiorina laid off 30,000 employees.
In the ten years since Fiorina's departure, Hewlett-Packard has made a comeback in the quality of their products, and many of us once again feel comfortable buying the HP brand. But those lost years can never be recovered. They are gone forever.
In fairness to Carly Fiorina, she should never have been placed in a position of control over a multi-billion dollar corporation. She was clearly promoted beyond her competence level – and obviously far beyond her moral capacity.
Let's not repeat the Hewlett-Packard Board's mistake in November 2016.