Imagine starting your career in an entry-level position and making it up the ranks to CEO. These impressive businesspeople have done it at Fortune 500 organizations.


Mary T. Barra

General Motors

Entry-level gig: Barra started at General Motors in 1980 as a General Motors Institute co-op student. She was 18 years old and was placed in the Pontiac Motor Division. She ended up graduating with a degree in electrical engineering, followed by an MBA. Moving up the ranks: In 2014, Barra, then 53, was named CEO. She’s been chairman of the GM board of directors for four years. Barra’s held many titles at GM, including vice-president of global manufacturing engineering and plant manager of the Detroit Hamtramck assembly plant. Her net worth is estimated at about $51 million.


Doug McMilon


Entry-level gig: McMillon has worked at Walmart for about 30 years — he started when he was a teenager. His first job at the company was loading and unloading trucks at a Walmart distribution centre for an hourly wage. (Apparently he earned $6.50 an hour.) Moving up the ranks: He was named president and CEO in 2014, but McMillon held many positions in the decades leading up to his big promotion, including president and CEO of Walmart-owned Sam’s Club. At 53, he is the youngest CEO to run the company since its founder, Sam Walton. His estimated net worth is $120 million.


Ursula Burns


Entry-level gig: In 1980, Burns landed a mechanical-engineering internship through Xerox’s graduate engineering program for minorities (which paid a portion of her post-secondary education). She was 22. Moving up the ranks: Named CEO in 2009, Burns became the first African-American woman to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She held the position until 2016. She was also chosen by US President Barak Obama to lead the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education Coalition in 2009. Five years ago, her net worth was estimated to be $1.3 billion.

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