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7 Executives Who Climbed The Corporate Ladder

7 Executives Who Climbed The Corporate Ladder

The epitome of the American dream is the equality of opportunity that allows every American to start with nothing and achieve any degree of success through hard work and determination. Some of the most successful and wealthy business leaders in the world were either born or immigrated to America, but some of them started at the very bottom of the ladder and still made it all the way to the top.

Here’s a look at seven wealthy business leaders who started with nothing.

Sidney Weinberg

Weinberg served as CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE: GS) for 39 years from 1930 to 1969, but he didn’t even graduate high school. Weinberg’s first job at Goldman came when he began working as a janitor’s assistant for $3 per week at age 16. Weinberg impressed his superiors at every position he took, eventually working his way up to the mailroom then to the trading desk, then to partner and finally to CEO.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah famously grew up in extremely impoverished conditions to a single mother in rural Mississippi. At age 17, Winfrey got her first media job working as a part-time news reporter for a radio station. Winfrey eventually worked her way to news anchor for WLAC in Nashville and then moved to Chicago and launched her talk show in 1983.

After tremendous success with her talk show, Oprah became CEO of Harpo Productions in 1986 and CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. Today, her net worth is roughly $2.9 billion.

Indra Nooyi

Nooyi served as CEO of beverage giant PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEP) from 2006 to 2018, but she said her first job after immigrating to the U.S. from India was a job as an overnight receptionist that she took because she couldn't afford to buy clothes.

After completing business school, Nooyi joined Boston Consulting Group before moving to PepsiCo in 1994. She was named CFO in 2001 and CEO five years later. Today, her net worth is estimated at $80 million.

Lloyd Blankfein

Blankfein grew up sharing a bedroom with his grandmother in the Bronx. His mother was a receptionist, and his father was a postal clerk. Blankfein’s first job as a boy was working at a concessions vendor at Yankee Stadium.

Blankfein got his start in finance as a precious metals salesman at J. Aaron & Co., which was later acquired by Goldman. Blankfein began managing Goldman’s commodities division in 1994, was promoted to COO 10 years later and became CEO in 2006. Today, his net worth is estimated at $1.1 billion.

Ursula Burns

Burns was raised by a single mother who was a Panamanian immigrant living in a housing project in New York. She started her career at Xerox Corp (NYSE: XRX) as an intern 1980 before working her way up to product development, executive assistant, vice president for global manufacturing, VP of corporate strategic services, president of business group operations and president of Xerox in 2007.

In 2009, Burns was named CEO of Xerox, becoming the first African American CEO of a Fortune 500 company in history.

Andy Grove

Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) co-founder and former CEO Andy Grove came from extremely humble beginnings, growing up in Hungary and migrating to the U.S. in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution. His first job in the U.S. was working as a bus boy while he earned his chemistry degree.

Grove co-founded Intel in 1968 and eventually became CEO in 1997. Grove’s net worth at the time of his death in 2016 was roughly $500 million.

Leon Cooperman

Billionaire hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman grew up in the South Bronx, the son of two Polish immigrants. Cooperman’s father was a plumber, and he was the first member of his family to graduate college after taking out student loans.

Cooperman’s first job in finance came at Goldman Sachs in the Investment Research department, where he worked his way up to partner-in-charge, co-chairman of the Investment Policy Committee, chairman of the Stock Selection Committee and eventually CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. After leaving Goldman in 1991, Cooperman founded hedge fund Omega Advisors. Today, his net worth is estimated at around $3.2 billion.

Related Links:

How To Make Your Entrepreneurial Vision A Reality

Anatomy Of A Decision Series Highlights Skills Necessary To Climb To The Top Of The Corporate Ladder

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