Here’s what 3 high-profile CFOs learned from their first jobs

Those first steps in the workforce can sometimes set you on a path you didn’t expect.
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First jobs are often tools of necessity. You’re a teen looking to achieve some semblance of independence and freedom (or maybe just looking for your own source of income as the bank of mom and dad begins to dry up).

You don’t take a job because it’s a step along your career path. You take it because it’s available. But along the way, you pick up a skill or learn something that helps you decades down the road. That’s true for everyone from line workers to the C-suite.

We got a bit curious about how the CFOs of some of the nation’s biggest companies got their start. What first jobs did they hold—not in their postcollegiate days, when they had their eyes on a lifetime occupation, but in those early formative years? And what, if anything, did they take away from those positions?

Here are a few of their stories, edited for length and clarity:

Lainie Goldstein, CFO, Take-Two Interactive Software

I worked in a pharmacy that was opened by my cousin when I was around 15 years old. I worked the register and back in the pharmacy, where I helped count the pills.

It taught me a work ethic at a young age. My father was very strong on having a work ethic and making your own money and making sure you understood the value of a dollar. He was a doctor and not someone who was going to hand out the allowance without you working for it.

I really liked it. I sort of thought about becoming a pharmacist, but when I got into college, I got straight into the business school…[and realized] accounting is more about thinking logically than math.

Pascal Desroches, CFO, AT&T

My very first job was as a junior counselor at a summer day camp when I was 14. I was responsible for a small group of campers ages 6 to 12; taking them on day trips to museums or the zoo, playing at the pool, and, of course, making sure they had fun! As the CFO, it is my job to be a good steward with the capital we’ve been entrusted with. I strongly believe the lessons I learned in accountability, management, and leadership during my time as a camp counselor have benefited me throughout my career, and continue to benefit me to this day.  

This was the first time in my life that I was truly accountable for the well-being of others (besides siblings). It was my job to keep them safe, motivated, and supported. Learning to take accountability and understanding the gravity of what I was being trusted with was an incredible lesson to learn so young in life. Also, part of my job was planning the days’ activities—and sticking to a schedule. Being trustworthy and dependable are both valuable traits in good managers. And not to mention, the ability to problem-solve…which, as a teenager leading small children, was a daily occurrence.

I took my job as a counselor very seriously, and understood the influential role I played in a lot of these kids’ lives. Because of this, it became incredibly important to me to always act with kindness, optimism, and patience—and to learn how to lead and motivate a team with the right interpersonal dynamics.

Ian Borden, CFO and executive vice president, McDonald’s

My first job in high school was working part-time at my local public library in Parry Sound, Ontario. This job taught me the importance of self-discipline; I had a lot of autonomy in my role, so it taught me how to interact firsthand with customers and find the motivation to get things done without distractions.

While I was already a big reader, it exposed me to so many more book topics and categories than I would have otherwise seen, ultimately instilling a lifelong interest in reading and continuous learning.

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