Excerpt: 'Tough Choices' by Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina, a former chairwoman and CEO at Hewlett-Packard, was once hailed as "the most powerful woman in business." But after HP's board of directors ousted her in 2005, she stepped out of the spotlight.

She returns with a highly anticipated memoir, "Tough Choices," about her astonishing rise and fall in corporate America.

Read an excerpt from "Tough Choices" below.

Chapter 5: Not Till the Lady Leaves Sales school, like every school, presented an idealized version of its subject. It still took a lot of hard work, but in sales school the customers were always willing to spend time with you if you had a good idea, it was possible to talk directly to the decision maker, and your teammates were always willing to help you. When I finally arrived at my real desk and started my real job, I was in for a rude awakening.

I joined Government Communications -- that part of AT&T that served the federal government. I didn't know it on my first day of work, but I was the first MDipper to join the sales team to which I'd been assigned.

MDipper was the not-so-flattering term used to describe people like me who came in with graduate degrees through the Management Development Program. Everyone knew who we were, and some of us quickly developed reputations for being arrogant and impatient to move on to the next assignment. The sales district I joined was very successful, and they didn't think they needed any help from someone like me.

I approached my first day on the job with great anticipation. I was on my way! I was going to do real work! I don't know what kind of welcome I expected, but what I got was a big let down. My boss said good morning and directed me to my desk. It was stacked two feet high with books and papers.

He said, "I've written down the accounts we're assigning you to. You can read up on them. Welcome aboard." On a single sheet of paper were the letters USGS, BIA, WPRS. I asked what they meant. He said, "You'll find them in there," as he motioned to the stack of reading material.

I don't know whether I was being tested or whether my boss just didn't know what else to do with me. I did as I was told. I started reading.

Five days later I was still reading. I knew that BIA was the Bureau of Indian Affairs, USGS was the United States Geological Survey and WPRS was the Water Protection and Resource Service. I also knew what the AT&T billing was on each account, what the account team was hoping to sell them, and what each agency's mission was.

Then I started talking to my new colleagues. I did what I always had done when encountering a new situation. I asked a lot of questions, and I'd read enough so that I could appreciate something about the answers. I asked questions about our customers and what we were trying to accomplish. And I asked questions about each of my teammates: how long they'd worked there, what they liked about it, what they didn't like about it.

One of my new colleagues was David Godfrey, who had been brought into the Washington, D.C., office from Oklahoma. He was legendary for the relationships he'd built with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. BIA was the government agency responsible for managing relations with the country's Indian reservations, and it was a very large Bell System client. They had a massive, nation- wide network connecting regional BIA offices, and each Indian reservation had its own communications systems.

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