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Wildly Successful CEOs Who Started From the Bottom

They were telephone operator, sales representative, and weatherman in the businesses they would one day run. To get to the top, these 7 prominent CEOs started at the bottom, often starting with unglamorous positions in the companies they would one day run.

  1. Mary Barra of General Motors: At age 18, Mary Barra started on the assembly line at General Motors, checking fender panels and inspecting hoods. Now, she’s the Chairman (since January 4, 2016) and Chief Executive Officer (since January 15, 2014) of General Motors. Out of 121 best CEOs in the world 2019, Mary Barra ranked No. 34th.
  2. Bob Iger of Walt Disney: Bob Iger (Robert A. Iger) started as a weatherman on a local ABC news station. Today, he is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Walt Disney Company. Bob Iger ranked No. 103 in the CEOWORLD magazine’s ranking of the most influential CEOs in the world 2019.

  3. Doug McMillon of Walmart: Doug McMillon loaded trucks at a Wal-Mart distribution center as a teenager. Now, he’s the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Walmart Inc. Douglas McMillon came first in the CEOWORLD magazine’s global ranking of the best chief executives across all industries for 2019. In addition, he serves on the board of directors of the Consumer Goods Forum, the U.S.-China Business Council and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

  4. Alex Gorsky of Johnsons & Johnson: In 1988, Alex Gorsky started as a sales representative at Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Johnsons & Johnson subsidiary. Today, he is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Johnson & Johnson. Out of 121 best CEOs in the world for 2019, Alex Gorsky ranked No. 86th. He progressed through many posts at Johnsons & Johnson, culminating in being named CEO on April 26, 2012 and Chairman of the Board on December 28, 2012. Alex is a U.S. military veteran and avid supporter of our armed forces. He served as a U.S. Army Ranger, finishing his military career with the rank of captain.

  5. Michael Corbat of Citigroup: Michael L. Corbat started in the sales department at Salomon Brothers, which merged with Citigroup a few years later. Now, he’s the current chief executive (CEO) of Citigroup. Michael Corbat ranked No. 67 in the CEOWORLD magazine’s ranking of the best CEOs in the world 2019. In October 2012, Michael L. Corbat was appointed CEO of Citi after Vikram Pandit’s resignation.

  6. Abigail Johnson of Fidelity: Although Abigail’s father Edward (Ned) Johnson III was the longtime CEO of Fidelity, she started job as telephone operator, answering phones at Fidelity, and today, she is the president and chief executive officer of Fidelity Investments (FMR), the $2.46 trillion-in-assets firm.

  7. Greg Garland of Phillips 66: In 1980, Greg Garland started as a a project engineer for the Plastics Technical Center at Phillips 66. Today, he is the chairman and CEO. Greg C. Garland ranked No. 48 in the CEOWORLD magazine’s ranking of the most influential CEOs in the world 2019.


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Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj
Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj is the CEO and editorial director at CEOWORLD magazine, the leading global business magazine written strictly for CEOs, CFOs, top managers, company directors, investors, senior executives, business leaders, and high net worth individuals.
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