It hasn't been easy. Livermore, 48, was the valedictorian of her North Carolina high school and later a graduate of Stanford Universitys business school before joining HP at 24. She worked her way up through the ranks in sales, marketing, and R&D before being appointed a corporate executive vice president in 1995.
Her rise to stardom began in the 90s, when she made it her mission to gain a Web presence for HP in a market where competitors were pulling ahead. Despite her long tenure in an organization known for its warring divisions, Livermore unified HP's units to create an E-services business.
By 1999, Livermore was the only company insider to make the short list for the CEO position, which she ultimately lost to Carly Fiorina. Six years later, after Fiorina was ousted and CEO Mark Hurd arrived to mend HPs financial woes, he put his faith in Livermore. Thats when her experience in rethinking business strategies began to pay off for the companys data and storage products.
Livermore set out to slash expenditures, including initiating a round of layoffs, which tore into morale but boosted the companys stock. Then Livermore changed focus, attempting to breathe new life into storage and data by wrapping services around software and network components, using resources from across the company. She also reworked the marketing plan, adding hundreds of new salespeople to aggressively target the mid-market and focus on the emerging SMB arena. (See HP Rethinks Storage Plays.)
The strategies seem to be paying off. In the third quarter 2007 earnings call, Hurd cited Livemores group as a boon to the companys 16 percent growth year-over-year, and he noted a 6 percent boost in the storage division, which had remained flat for some time. (See HP's Storage Sneaks Up and Storage Hurts HP's Quarter.)