Working Your Way Up the Ladder: Learning from Louis Chenevert, Karen Kaplan, and Doug MicMillon

There is something to be said for people that slowly work their way up the ladder in their selected profession. In this day and age, it often seems that once a person graduates with a special degree from a high-ranking college, they are often placed in charge. However, as most would tell you, no matter the educational degree, it is no match for actual experience. Real life situations and years of experience are much more important for leadership qualities than having a recent diploma from a respected school. Give me a leader that has experienced it all through the years instead of a 23 year old fresh out of college. Below are some people, from Brian Krzanich to Louis Chenevert, that have worked their way up in their career and achieved great results.

Doug McMillon

Wal-Mart employs over 2 million people worldwide. One percent of the adult workforce in America is employed by Wal-Mart.  It would be very easy to get lost in the shuffle of 2 million people. Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, has been in charge since 2014. But he didn’t start off with a cushy desk job just out of college.

McMillon first started working for the company by loading trucks at one of their distribution centers while he was a teenager. Loading trucks is hard work and is not a glamorous job. Many loaders say they are only going to do it for a year or two until they find something better, and before they know it, they have been there for 15 years. McMillion moved on to being an assistant store manager and filled in with various roles at the company. McMillon had goals, though, and he became the youngest CEO ever at Wal-Mart.

Brian M. Krzanich

Brian M. Krzanich joined Intel as a process engineer in 1982. He worked there for about a decade until he nearly lost his job. Just like all of us at some point, he made a mistake and it almost cost him his job with the company. “I wiped out the output of an entire factory for a week,” he said. “I’m lucky to be employed at Intel, sometimes I say.”

Quite a number of people that make such costly mistakes immediately start looking for another job. They worry that their next mistake will be their last. Instead, Krzanich buckled down and continued on with the company. His determination paid off when in 2013 he was made CEO and elected to Intel’s board. Going from nearly fired to running the company must feel pretty good. If you are ever in a similar predicament at your job, just bring up Krzanich as a reason why you deserve a second chance.

Karen Kaplan

Being a receptionist for a company is pretty low on the overall totem pole of command. Even the maintenance guy receives more respect most of the time. However, that did not stop Karen Kaplan from rising through the ranks. She joined Hill Holliday, a successful advertising and communications agency, as a receptionist so she could try raising money to go on to law school. She decided to stay on and see how far she could go. Eventually, after working just about every job in the company, she became CEO of Hill Holliday. “I was going to be the best damned receptionist in history and that’s how I approached the job,” she said in a 2014 interview with Fortune. “I took it really seriously. I didn’t just bide my time out there.”

Mary T. Barra

Mary T. Barra originally got her foot in the door with General Motors at 18 years old when she joined them as a co-op student in the Pontiac Motor Division. Many kids do this type of thing in high school once they become seniors. They get little jobs here and there through the co-op program at the school. Barra turned it into something much more.

After 34 years with the company, she became the CEO of Pontiac. Let that sink in for a second. She was the first woman ever to be in charge of a major car corporation. Car corporations are ordinarily a man’s world. Barra kicked down the door of the stereotypes. She states that people should look forward to achieving more with their current company. “The people looking over their shoulder and wondering about their next job are the least successful,” she said. “There’s no decision you should ever make that would embarrass you if it became public.”

Louis Chenevert

Louis Chenevert, Former CEO of UTC

Louis Chenevert had just graduated college in Montreal when he landed his first real job with General Motors in production. After 14 years there, he had risen through the ranks to become the general production manager. But he was not done there. Louis Chenevert switched over to Pratt & Whitney, a major aerospace manufacturer. After a few years, he became the president there in 1999.

Then he changed paths again and started working with United Technologies Corporation (UTC)–which we’ve talked about here. UTC is just one of the biggest conglomerates on the planet with their hands in many billion dollar businesses. Louis Chenevert became president and CEO there in 2008 as well. He rose up through three different companies during his varied career, and twice became the CEO and president. Not a bad track record at all.

Paula A. Marshall

When taking over a family business, it is not always easy to gain respect from the other workers there. For many, the company is just an inheritance that they are due to receive down the road. However, Paula Marshall approached things a bit differently. She started working at the family business, the baked good company Bama Companies, in 1984. She was a production line worker as a teenager. She continued there for 12 more years learning different jobs in the company. Once her father retired, she was named CEO. Under Marshall’s leadership, the company continues to experience good growth.

About Brandon Ferguson 363 Articles
Brandon has been browsing and sampling what the web has to offer. He sifts and sorts the good from the bad. Drop him a line if you want to ask anything at all! Always happy to help.

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