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Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Apr 8 2012 15:52:40

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics

By: Ina Steiner
Sponsored Link
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman spoke about her career and offered advice to women gathered at the Simmons Leadership Conference in Boston on Thursday (April 5, 2012). Meg, who is now CEO of Hewlett Packard, was always comfortable speaking in front of an audience when she led eBay, and the calm demeanor that had escaped her during her political campaign was back as she spoke to 3,000 mostly women executives from around the world. But there was a new element to her public speaking on Thursday: she was far more candid about her personal life and feelings.

She spoke about the support she received from her husband, a neurosurgeon, in running a household with two children. She also talked about her mother, who had gone to college and served in World War II, becoming a fully certified airplane and truck mechanic. "Her experience during the war made her feel she could do anything."

Meg outlined her own career, from her Harvard Business School degree, to her time at Bain & Co. where her first boss was Mitt Romney, and to her roles at various companies leading up eBay.

Of the startup she joined in 1998 she wrote, "We did not build eBay. We provided the trading platform that connected buyers and sellers, but it was actually the buyers and sellers who built the company. It was the ultimate experiment in crowd-sourcing, what I later described as the power of many. What we can do together, none of us can do alone, and the eBay community build this company in a way that was really very unique."

She left eBay after 10 years with a "new appreciation for public service," fueled by her belief that people are basically good and her belief in the power of many, which prompted her run for the office of Governor of California, which she called a "fantastic learning experience." It was also the most difficult thing she had ever done, and, she said, "when you run for public office, it is all about you - it's a referendum on you."

She said some good came out of it  - "Boy, did I get a thick skin. Politics is a blood sport. And it's seemingly everything is fair game. And in some ways, there is often a total disregard for the truth. But it taught me a lot of things."

"I have a calm about what we have to do (at Hewlett Packard) and keeping a steady hand on the tiller."

Meg sprinkled advice about leadership throughout her talk, among them, "The cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake." She emphasized the importance of having the right person in the right job at the right time, and she used an example of her time at eBay.

When she first arrived, her intuition told her she didn't have the right CIO. After going public, eBay had a well publicized 22-hour outage on June 10, 1999, because "the site wasn't architected correctly," she said. "It's like when you crash your car, you get it fixed, but it's never quite the same."

eBay was scheduled in August of that year to launch in Japan, and it lost its first-mover advantage and ultimately lost Japan to Yahoo. "We couldn't go to Japan, because we could barely run the U.S. site," Meg said, and eBay "lost out on the second largest Internet market in the world because I didn't follow my instincts to have the right people in the right job at the right time."

In the last presidential campaign, Meg's name was tossed around as a possible running mate to Mitt Romney if he would were to win the Republican candidacy. During the question-and-answer session, I asked Meg if she would consider being his running mate this time around.

"The answer to that is no," she said, explaining that when she decided to take the job at HP, she had to make a difficult decision. She said if Romney wins the presidency, there would have been an opportunity to serve in his administration, but she said she could not do that because she has to stay the course at HP.

"I am committed for the duration at HP."

I asked her if she would ever consider running for politics again after the brutal experience of her gubernatorial race, to which she replied, "I doubt it."

Meg's speech was well received, and a long line formed for book-signing, with many asking her to pose for pictures with them. The scene brought back memories of eBay Live conferences where enthusiastic users stood in line for an autograph from Meg, but without the red, blue, yellow and green decor.




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
by: BetterThingsToDo This user has validated their user name.
       
Sun Apr 8 17:23:32 2012
Maggie tenure at HP will last only until she can walk away with millions. She has no interest in being around any longer than that.
Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
by: teddychan This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Mon Apr 9 00:25:20 2012
MEGabucks never cared about the people of California which is why she got her butt kicked by Jerry Brown in the 2010 election despite spending a record amount on her failed campaign. The voters saw right through her. She has always been about lining her own pockets going back to before her days at eBay. She has zero future in politics and HP was dumb to hire this woman to do anything more than mop the floors.
Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
by: justpassinthru This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Apr 9 01:53:20 2012
I remember when Meg said a chimp could have done her job at Ebay.  Didn't stop her from stuffing a lot of bad business policies down the throats of that very crowd of Ebay sellers she makes mention of now.  I don't believe her, think it's just a sentiment she smirks out when she thinks it sounds good.  If she truly respected Ebay's sellers she'd have hired a good businessman as her replacement instead of John Donahoe.  Forget the BS, to Meggy and John Ebay sellers aren't partners, they're fish to used up in Ebay's never ending catering to Wall Street.  Ebay used to be fun and a place to make a few dollars. Today it's nothing but a rat race to put more money in Ebay's pocket.
Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
by: Ebay's Slow Death This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Apr 9 02:45:35 2012
She picked John Donahoe to take over as CEO when she left Ebay. The right man for the right job?

Enough said!
Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
by: pfft!! This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Apr 9 04:40:43 2012
Well...I won't be quite as harsh.  I have to admit.....In the Meg days...I grossed WELL over $180,000/year.  

When JD took over it was just a freaking STEADY decline which reached an ALL TIME LOW of $72,000 this year.  LOL....our CPA is like.....WTF??
I made MONEY under MEG....for MANY...MANY YEARS.....  And PLEASE don't throw the "economy " thing out there......
Actually....we should have done DARN well in a bad economy.

But I will give you this......SHE DID Pick this pathetic Piece of Bain to run the company into the ground.

If Meg Whitman wants to really know why she lost as far as her reputation goes....She only has to look back at the last several years and what her "REPLACEMENT" HAS DONE to all the former sellers that actually delighted in her (and would probably have VOTED FOR HER at ONE time...I KNOW I would)

Like JD...I think Meg REALLY underestimated SELLERS on ebay.  There are (well......WERE) A ton of them.   Hello/....sellers AND Buyers.....are VOTERS.  You can't P@@ss of THAT many people and the word of mouth that goes with it and expect to come out UNSCATHED.  

JD has done MORE to tarnish Megs reputation than she could probably EVER do on her own.

There was a time on ebay when people LOVED Meg.  ME INCLUDED....and I still hold great respect.

But one woman to another.......DAMN Meg......You walked away and left us with THIS to deal with?  You want to re-make your reputation???  You owe US.......an apology.  Doubtful it'll ever come.  But I'm DEAD Serious.  I'd accept it in a HEARTBEAT....

Ebay was a WONDERFUL company......YOU WERE THERE......People LOVED this company.....they loved YOU...

Now?  Uh.........how many BROKEN DREAMS later........not so much.  

I swear the guy just doesn't have a CLUE....
Much like our current president...I'm sure he's a nice guy and I'd sit down and have a beer with him.............but SOMEBODY has GOT to turn this thing around.  And it's NOT JD....GOOD LORD GIVE us ANOTHER OPTION!  
Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
This user has validated their user name. by: Tula
       
Mon Apr 9 08:34:35 2012
I agree pfft! My sales were much better under Meg Whitman. I admire her as a woman who has succeeded in an ares dominated by men. It's not easy to break through that glass ceiling. Women who do often suffer criticism because the same kind of behavior that is accepted (and admired) in men, if often viewed negatively in women. Men are termed "aggressive" while women are called "b**chy". Sure, she's not perfect and Donahoe hasn't lived up to his hype, but I can still appreciate what it took for Meg to get where she is.
Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
by: Quicksilver Messenger This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Apr 9 10:04:19 2012
Wow-I bet they really had to airbrush the heck out of that picture of her. Needless to say, I will never go near a Hewlitt-Packard product again. You couldn't give it to me as long as Nutmeg is attached to it. Behold-the woman that brought us John Donahoe! Meg is as greedy as they come.
Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless
       
Mon Apr 9 19:08:41 2012
First, the snarkiness. Either Neg Meg has been shot full of botox and she hired a master air brush specialist for that photo which conveniently is cropped just below her receeding hairline.

In my opinion, those believing Meg Whitman did a great job don't understand cause and effect.

Ebay thrived then because the economy was robust and because it was a novelty. It thrived in spite of Meg Whitman and her chronically bad business decisions and even worse ebay policies.

Some would say her biggest mistakes were failure to penetrate the Pacific Rim markets and the partial acquisition of Skype (she failed to buy the engine that made it run don't forget). Perhaps her best move was to buy PayPal.

Meg Whitman's other failure while running ebay are the genesis of many of the problems that still are with us.

She created a culture where lying and thieving were not only acceptable business practices, but de rigeur for management survival.

She originated the idea that platform changes changes should implemented immediately and to hell with whether they worked or not. Most of them didn't, but Meg insisted programmers move on to her next big idea before properly fixing those that preceeded it.

Consequently, the ebay platform is frail house of cards that even a small amount of tweaking can create havoc across the site.

Like the current management, Meg lived in the Here and Now. What I can I do to increase this quarter's stock option cash in?

Instead of growing the company in a sound manner that understood that ebay as novelty would have a short life span, Meg kept raising fees to keep Wall Street pimping the stock.

MBAs, you see, are capable only in thinking 90 days into the future which may explain why we're now in the fifth year of The Ho's three year "turnaround" plan.

One thing Meg at least publically professes to be truth is that users made ebay successful. Today, however, The Ho thinks he's the reason that ebay is 'successful' when, in fact, ebay is mere shadow of its former self with a spiraling downward marketplace that he himself created with his sociopathic arrogance and anti-American, anti small business policies.

Meg's idea of growth was raising fees. Same for Th Ho only he goes about it a little differently.

Corporate criminal trash all.

Perminate Link for Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics   Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman on Career and Politics
by: nobody This user has validated their user name.
       
Wed Apr 11 13:33:53 2012
lmao @Ming
"Either Neg Meg has been shot full of botox and she hired a master air brush specialist for that photo which conveniently is cropped just below her receeding hairline."
I was thinking the exact same thing!!! lol

I apologize, Ina, I'm sure this is a great article, but I have no interest in anything that that idiot margaret nitwhit has to say. She ruined ebay, just as she ruins everything she touches. How could anyone possibly take anything seriously that this idiot has to say? Thanks for the laugh, though! lol


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