Most people know billionaire HP CEO Meg Whitman for her 10 years at eBay, growing that company from startup to tech behemoth.
But Whitman actually cut her teeth in the world of consumer products, working at Procter & Gamble, Disney and at Hasbro, leading Hasbro’s Playskool division, which had 600 employees and $US600 million in annual sales.
While at Hasbro she was responsible for the company’s most precious toy: Mr. Potato Head.
Mr. Potato Head is one of the oldest continuously produced children’s toys, invented in 1952. It’s first-ever for a toy to be advertised on TV and it put Hasbro on the map. Mrs. Potato Head appeared in 1953, according to the National Toy Hall of Fame.
When Whitman was in charge, the toy was making a big come back thanks to its starring role in Pixar’s Toy Story in 1995. She ran focus-groups to develop new Mr. Potato Head prototypes for Hasbro. She also licensed the toy to television which lead to the “The Mr. Potato Head Show.”
Her other big accomplishment at Hasbro: she brought the UK’s children’s television show Teletubbies into the United States. Teletubbies was a very weird kids’ show that ran from 1998 through 2008, if you include reruns.
She had to be convinced to leave this high-profile role at Hasbro to take the CEO job at eBay, the story goes.
But doing so turned her into a billionaire and eventually led to her job as CEO of HP, one of the world’s biggest tech companies.
And all of the above caused CNBC to name her No. 18 on it’s new list of the 25 most influential business people of the last 25 years.
It just goes to show that some of the most successful tech careers can come from the most unusual beginnings.
Or to put it another way … the same person that brought you this:
Also brought you this: