HR & Management


The humble first jobs of 10 famous business leaders – and one nation’s president

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Homebrew Ventures co-founder Hunter Walk took to his account to solicit CEOs to share their first jobs ever – after clarifying that he had worked at a children’s bookshop. We collected some of the responses he received.

(1) Michael Dell, CEO of Dell

At the age of 12, Dell took a job washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant to earn money to grow his stamp collection. He was promoted to busboy, but was later lured away by a higher wage at a nearby Mexican restaurant.

(2) Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy

Dickerson said that he did some good old-fashioned lawn-mowing with his brother. He was eight and his brother was 12. Together they took care of 25 lawns.

In his blog, he wrote: “My older brother and I ran a successful lawn care business. My dad didn’t just give us the equipment to start and run our business. He explained the basic principles of business to us when we started out, loaned us the money to buy our lawn mowers, and made us pay the money back from our earnings.”

(3) Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo

Before she took the helm at Yahoo, Marissa Mayer worked as a clerk at a local grocery store. It was there that she learned the importance of working quickly; the only way to work in the coveted express lane was to be able to scan 40 items a minute, she once told CNN.

(4) Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

When Branson was 11, he already decided it was time to start his own small business.

“With my best friend Nik Powell as my partner, we set about breeding budgerigars,” he said in a LinkedIn post. “We saw a gap in the market to sell budgies as they were very popular with kids in school at the time. However, they kept multiplying quicker than we could sell them, and the school holidays were coming to an end…”

Read more lists about business leaders:

(5) Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett started out delivering newspapers for The Omaha World-Herald at the age of 13. On his first tax return, he claimed his bike as a deduction. By the time he graduated from high school, Buffett had earned $5,000 (£3,244.67).

(6) Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn

Weiner started his working life by “shovelling snow off of driveways” and, much like Buffer, “delivering newspapers.”

(7) Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Bezos created his own first job. While in high school, he and his former girlfriend Ursula Werner launched the Dream Institute – an educational summer camp for fourth, fifth and sixth graders. The course taught students everything from Gulliver’s Travels to black holes in space.

(8) Bret Taylor, co-creator of Google Maps and former CTO at Facebook

According to Taylor, he changed oil, pumped gas and cleaned bathrooms at a petrol station. He further stressed that “cleaning bathrooms at a gas station motivates you to attend college.”

(9) Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix

After high school Hastings took a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door to door. He was accepted to Bowdoin College, but chose to defer his enrolment for a year to keep selling vacuums. “I loved it, strange as that might sound,” Hastings told the Bowdoin Orient in 2013. “You get to meet a lot of different people.”

(10) Beth Comstock, CMO at General Electric

Comstock claimed to have worked a Rubbermaid factory line. In a blog post writing about her experience there, she said: “I was working with injection moulding machines that produced spatulas, beer mugs and huge trash bins. This wasn’t the I Love Lucy chocolate factory job; it was hot and the pace was intense.”

(11) Barack Obama, president of America

Believe it or not, Obama worked for plenty of private companies before he became the US president. Some of his jobs included scooping ice-cream at Baskin-Robbins, being a telemarketer, working at construction company, and even selling island trinkets in Hawaii.

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