Carol Bartz ’71, a titan of technology, is a Wisconsin girl. From the age of 12, Carol Bartz lived in Alma, a small town on the Mississippi River in rural Buffalo County. She was raised there by her grandmother and worked her way through college, earning a computer science degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1971.
Bartz went on to work for 3M, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Sun Microsystems before becoming the chief executive officer at the software developer Autodesk.
On her first day at Autodesk, at age 43, Bartz was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent chemotherapy and a mastectomy and returned to work in four weeks instead of the recommended six. That toughness and tenacity helped her to boost Autodesk’s annual revenue from $300 million to $1.5 billion during her 14 years with the company.
“Accept failure and learn from it.”
Bartz’s success at Autodesk was guided by what she calls the three Fs: Fail. Fast. Forward. This philosophy encourages people to risk failure and then move on quickly if it occurs.
“Accept failure and learn from it,” Bartz told graduates at UW–Madison’s 2012 commencement.
In 2009, she became CEO of then-challenged Internet giant Yahoo and led it until 2011. Today Bartz serves on the boards of PlanGrid and Cisco. Given all of her experience in management and leadership, she says that there is a difference between managers and leaders.
“Managing winds up being the allocation of resources against tasks. Leadership focuses on people. My definition of a leader is someone who helps people succeed.”