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Biography of Carol Bartz - CEO of Yahoo

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Carol Bartz - CEO of Yahoo

Carol Bartz - CEO of Yahoo

Getty Images News / Richard Ellis

A Rough Start in Life:

Carol A. Bartz was born August 29, 1948 in Winona, Minnesota. Her mother died of a devastating chronic disease when she was only eight years old. For the next four years, Bartz cared for her younger brother, Jim. Each day, she would drop him off at a babysitters on her way to elementary school and pick him up on her way home.

Ill-equipped to raise his family alone, Bartz's father was heavy-handed and used a belt for discipline.

Bartz married Bill Marr and together they have three children.

Bartz’s High School Years :

When Bartz was twelve, she and her brother, Jim, were rescued by their grandmother, Alice Schwartz, who raised both children. Bartz thrived under the loving care and guidance of her grandmother.

During high school Bartz was made homecoming queen and was a majorette. But Bartz was already breaking down gender barriers when she became one of only two girls in her school to take physics and advanced algebra classes.

Her College Education:

While still in high school Bartz began work at a bank as a secretary. She worked her way up to bank teller, earning 75 cents per hour. An excellent worker, she found favor and earned the respect of her managers who later helped her obtain a scholarship to attend William Woods, an elite all-girls college in Fulton, Missouri.

To supplement her scholarship, Bartz worked in the college cafeteria; a humbling experience as most of her classmates came from affluent families.

She continued her education at the University of Wisconsin while working as a cocktail waitress and earned a BA in Computer Science in 1971.

Bartz Quits 3M After Suffering Discrimination on the Job:

Bartz joined 3M in 1972 as the only woman professional in a division of 300 men. She faced repeated acts of discrimination and quit in 1976 after being refused a transfer to headquarters. In an interview with More Magazine, Bartz recalls, "They told me to my face, 'Women don't do these jobs.'" She replied, "I'm out of here," and she immediately quit.

Her decision to leave 3M was not an admission of defeat; quite the opposite. Bartz knew she was capable of accomplishing bigger and better things and if 3M was not interested in offering her growth opportunities, she would find them elsewhere.

And, she did.

Autodesk, Inc.:

In 1992, at age 43, Bartz took the position of CEO for Autodesk, Inc., a moderate-sized computer-aided software design company with average earnings of $300 million. In 1993, Bartz purchased AutoDesk from founder Carl Bass, who she fired shortly thereafter. Realizing that Bass was an integral part of the business she quickly rehired him.

During her impressive 14-year reign as CEO, she turned Autodesk into a software giant earning more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue in 2008.

Her Battle With Breast Cancer:

A few days before Bartz began as CEO of Autodesk, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She delayed treatment for one month and only took only one month off to undergo and recovery from a mastectomy and trans flap surgery. She worked through the entire seven months of her brutal chemotherapy.

But Bartz has different advice for other women; "Please tell people that when doctors say it takes six weeks to recover, you shouldn't go back to work after four," she says. "Missing work those two weeks wouldn't have killed anybody. And it was really tough on me. I should have stayed home."

Bartz's Plans for Yahoo to Kick Ass Again:

In January 2009, Bartz took the helm of Yahoo!, Inc. as CEO. In typically bold, down-to-earth Bartz style she spoke her mind in a blog post to Yahoo! employees: "Look for this company's brand to kick ass again."

Bartz leads with a consumer-based vision: "Who wants innovation for innovation's sake if it doesn't make your life easier, more efficient, more productive? So expect us to hear you better and take better care of you."

The blog post is worth studying as it gives valuable insight into how Bartz approaches problems, values customers and employees, and is able to see the big picture from the outside and inside.

Update: In September 2011, Carol Bartz was fired by Yahoo!

Honorary Credentials:

Bartz holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree granted from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from William Woods University.

Carol Bartz - 60 and Going Strong:

Carol Bartz does not mince words and is well-known for her quick comebacks, direct approach to problem solving, and calculated risk-taking. Despite making many personal sacrifices to pursue a high-powered career, Bartz treasures her family, and remains passionate about gardening, one of the few "down time" luxuries she affords herself.

Throughout her life she has faced multiple personal and professional challenges including blatant gender discrimination but refuses to play the role of victim and give in to circumstances. By sheer will and determination, Bartz began shaping her life's path from an early age. She has taken the business world by surprise and force. A self-made woman entrepreneur, Bartz is still breaking barriers today even as she enters into her 60s.

In her own inspiring words one of the keys to her success resonates with the boldness of a true champion for women: "Most people assume that because I'm a woman, I'm someone who's standing behind a leader, a man." But she adds, "The fact that they're unenlightened is their problem, not mine."

Sources:

UPDATE: On September 6, 2011, Bartz was fired as CEO from Yahoo!

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