Lessons learned from 25 years at HPE: From call center to CEO
MAY 3, 2021 • BLOG POST • ANTONIO NERI, PRESIDENT AND CEO
IN THIS ARTICLE
- Antonio Neri celebrates 25 years at Hewlett Packard Enterprise
- Now HPE’s President and CEO, Neri was first hired for a call center role in Amsterdam because his first manager “took a risk” on him
- His top lessons reflect the importance of transparency, trust, inclusion, diversity and embracing humanity
Lessons learned from call center to CEO
Four years is the average amount of time an employee stays with an employer. I may be an outlier, statistically, as I reflect on 25 years with HP and HPE. I’m proud to say that my tenure is not all that unusual - I know of many colleagues who are well into their third or fourth decade at HPE.
Within the tech industry, in particular, employment opportunities are plentiful. But, I’ve had to look no further than this very fine company to experience personal and professional growth.
During my tenure, I lived and worked in four different cities in two countries. In each new role, I gained new skills and experiences. I also met new colleagues and friends. To everyone I’ve had the opportunity to work with, I want to say a heart-felt thank you. It’s because of you that the last 25 years at HPE have been so incredibly rewarding.
There are hundreds of lessons I have learned along the way, but here are five I’d like to share with you.
Lesson #1: Give people a chance. In 1996, my first job at HP was in a call center in Amsterdam. But it would have been easy not to hire me. Although I spoke two languages at the time, I was not yet fluent in English and that was a prerequisite for the role. Thankfully, my technical skills were strong and I spoke the languages for the countries I covered, so the hiring manager took a chance on me. I made sure he was right, and I remain grateful for him seeing something in me.
I challenge you to look at the complete person when you’re considering a new hire. Even if that person doesn’t check all the boxes, dig deeper. You may find a spark—in their personality, skill set or experience—but most importantly passion and attitude that could ignite a successful career.
Lesson #2: Be unconditionally inclusive. My parents are from Sicily and I was born and raised in Argentina. I’ve understood, and appreciated, diversity all my life.
My first call center role at HP taught me something about diversity that’s fundamental to my leadership style. Diverse teams are better teams. That call center team, many of whom I still keep in touch with, had people from all backgrounds, experiences and skillsets. We solved problems in new, innovative ways. We challenged each other, and respected everyone’s unique perspective. We were better, together. Building diverse teams is fundamental, but respecting and encouraging unique points of view is the key to success.
Lesson #3: Opportunity comes in many forms. In 1999, I moved from Amsterdam to Boise, Idaho for an opportunity in the HP Printer business. The move to Boise – where both my kids were born– was transformative. Not only did I work with the best and brightest in the printing business who created an industry leading franchise known as the “HP LaserJet” but I also met passionate leaders who were committed to developing talent.
In 2004, I was presented the opportunity to make a lateral move to transform the PC Services business. It was quite a challenge, as the HP PC business was losing money.
By the late 2000s, the PC business became number one again in market share. We delivered new products, bolstered margins and fixed service delivery. That success opened up new opportunities for me. I sometimes wonder what direction my career would have taken if I hadn’t made that lateral move. The point is: take calculated risks and keep learning, every step of the way.
Lesson #4: Invest in relationships. Working in a constructive, collaborative way with peers and colleagues is critical. I make it a habit to seek guidance and insights from people with different experiences. I have learned from so many people.One of the biggest lessons is that leaders and teams thrive when they embrace humanity. Support each other, focus on wellness and health, and ensure team members have the opportunity to thrive both personally and professionally.
Lesson #5: Transparency builds trust. Being transparent builds respect and understanding, in good times and bad. I have learned that sharing the truth, even when it’s painful, does more good than harm. Do what you say.
Last June, I contracted COVID-19 just days before the opening of our annual Discover event— our most important showcase each year. We could have minimized or ignored my condition.
Sharing the truth—first with our team members and then with external audiences—was the right thing to do. It underscored HPE’s commitment to transparency, and – on a personal level—unleashed a wave of well wishes and kind words that I could have never anticipated.
I’ve learned so much over the past 25 years that has shaped my career, and informed my outlook on life. My goal is to continue to learn and be relentlessly curious every day. I am incredibly thankful to have spent a quarter of a century at a company that has encouraged me to grow and evolve. May you all find the happiness, success and fulfillment I’ve discovered in our amazing company.