Before they were running global businesses, these MPWs had more mundane jobs such as selling shoes and waiting tables. Guess who worked as a lifeguard at the local pool?
Company: Alliance Boots
Global MPW rank: 21
Ornella Barra’s first job was working in a pharmacy in the town of Chiavari, near Genoa in Northern Italy. Barra, now chief executive, Wholesale and Brands for Alliance Boots, subsequently managed the pharmacy, and then bought it.
Company: Allianz Global Investors
Global MPW rank: 32
Allianz Global Investors CEO Elizabeth Corley says her first “proper” job was as a filing clerk at Sun Alliance (now Royal Sun Alliance, a British insurer), though she did have an earlier gig selling shoes.
Global MPW rank: 33
After graduation from Bandung Institute of Technology, Pertamina CEO Karen Agustiawan took a technical position with Mobil Oil Indonesia. At the time, a mother of two, she was the only woman oil technician/worker in the Arun oil exploration field in Aceh, Indonesia.
Company: Olayan Financing
Global MPW rank: 43
Lubna Olayan, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Olayan Financing, recalls: “My first job was in 1979, when I joined the JP Morgan training program as a trainee financial analyst in NYC.”
Global MPW rank: 50
Indiana native Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, says “high school summers were spent as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a local pool.”
Company: Wolters Kluwer
Global MPW rank: 38
Wolters Kluwer CEO Nancy McKinstry got her first job at the age of 13, working at a summer camp kitchen in the small town of Portland, Connecticut, where she grew up. “At 6:00 am I would help the cook make breakfast, then walk back home, and return to help with lunch and later dinner. The job helped me appreciate a strong work ethic and to really think about what I wanted to do; food services didn’t seem a good fit.”
Global MPW rank: 23
When she was 14 years old Annika Falkengren, CEO of Swedish bank SEB, packaged goods at a grocery store during two weeks of summer. Through her teen years she also worked for a big Swedish bookstore chain, Akademibokhandeln. “I really liked that there was a lot of discussions about literature and authors among the staff,” she says. “I learned from them and discovered the pleasure of reading.”
Company: Thomas Cook
Global MPW rank: 35
Harriet Green, Group CEO of Thomas Cook, say she first paid job was as a waitress at a pub that was part of a chain. The corporation ran contests for “up selling” — getting customers to order extra appetizers or buy a more expensive wine than planned. “My specialty was to sell a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape at a cool £35 back then, nearly twice the price of a meal,” she remembers. “The tavern was in the country so I would target the jockeys!”
Global MPW rank: 46
After finishing her degree in history and politics at Kent University, Carolyn McCall took her first job teaching history at Holland Park School in London. She says, “Like all first jobs you learn quickly and develop skills which stay with you throughout your career. In teaching I learnt from other teachers how to be a clear and good communicator. I was always in competition with some sport lesson so I had to make things interesting, and I had to manage time well. I also learnt how to remember names and empathize with the kids I taught to get the most out of them. These are all learnings I’ve taken to every role since.”