Former jobs of the CEOs of the largest 50 public companies
For many people, the idea of the American Dream is fading. According to Hearth Insights’ 2017 State of the American Dream report, less than 1 in 5 Americans feel they are living the dream of owning a home, starting a family, and working in a fulfilling career. About 50% of Americans feel they will not achieve any part of the American Dream.
Despite this, as of 2017, 46% of Americans feel they are on the way to achieving the American Dream, compared with 17% that believe it is out of reach. The way the American Dream is defined has changed a bit, in that more Americans feel that having the freedom to choose how to live, having a good family life, and retiring comfortably are more important than being wealthy, having a successful career, and owning a home.
It was not so long ago that the American Dream revolved around securing a good job, working your way up the corporate ladder, raising a healthy family, owning your own home, and retiring with enough money to maintain your standard of living and to leave something in your will. The idea of the American Dream was one of social mobility and elevation—that people could find success if they just worked hard enough.
To help illustrate this concept, Stacker looked at the biographies of the chief executive officers of the 50 largest public companies in the United States to understand how they succeeded. The stories of these CEOs are as varied as the people themselves. Some, for example, created the product that they now preside over. Others are lawyers or executives brought in to correct problems in the C-suite. Most, however, started in entry-level positions and worked their way up. The companies on our list are the top 50 on the S&P 500.
With wage disparity becoming a growing issue in this country and with most Americans refusing to believe in rags-to-riches stories, it is important to note that most of the CEOs profiled on our list did not come from wealthy families. Access is one of the largest drivers of social mobility; sometimes, the difference between a poor man and a rich man is that someone gave the rich man a chance to prove himself.
Read on to find out which CEO actually resents being the head of his own company.
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#50. Broadcom Ltd: Hock E. Tan
- Company market cap: $109.9 billion
Before helming Broadcom, Tan Hack Eng served as managing director of Hume Industries. From there, he was head of Pac-Van Investment. After working in several financial and C-suite positions at various companies, Tan was selected as CEO of Integrated Circuit Systems. Integrated Device Technology would buy Integrated Circuit Systems, only to become Avago in a buyout, to finally merge with Broadcom. Tan remained the head of each company during the transitions.
#49. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc: Marc Casper
- Company market cap: $110.6 billion
Marc Casper started his career as a strategy consultant for Bain & Company. He would eventually join Bain Capital before becoming the Americas president of Dade Behring Inc. He then moved on to be president and CEO of Kendro Laboratories before joining Thermo Fisher Scientific as its president of the Life Science section of Thermo Electron in 2001. He worked his way up and assumed the title of president and CEO in 2009.
#48. Union Pacific Corp: Lance Fritz
- Company market cap: $111.6 billion
Lance Fritz started his career working at Fiskars Inc., Cooper Industries, and General Electric. Fritz’s first position with Union Pacific was as vice president and general manager for energy in Union Pacific’s marketing and sales department. He moved up to executive vice president for operations and vice president for labor relations before becoming company president in 2014.
#47. Texas Instruments: Richard Templeton
- Company market cap: $114.6 billion
Richard Templeton’s career started at Texas Instruments, where he worked his way up in various areas of the company. He would take the reins of the company’s semiconductors sector in 1996 before becoming the chief operating officer in 2000. In 2004, Templeton became CEO, and in 2008, he became the company’s chairman of the board of directors.
#46. Honeywell International Inc: Darius Adamczyk
- Company market cap: $114.8 billion
Polish-born Darius Adamczyk started out as an electrical engineer for General Electric before moving on to Booz Allen Hamilton, Ingersoll-Rand, and Metrologic. At Metrologic, he would reach the position of CEO before Honeywell bought the company in 2008. At Honeywell, he would join the C-suite as president of Honeywell Process Solutions and later president and CEO of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. Adamczyk became CEO in 2018.
#45. Philip Morris International Inc: Andre Calantzopoulos
- Company market cap: $115.6 billion
Andre Calantzopoulos started his career as a business development analyst in Philip Morris International’s Business Development Department. An odd choice, perhaps, as Calantzopoulos has an electrical engineering degree and studied robotics. After two years, he transitioned to the Area Operations Department. From there, he became a senior executive for PMI in central Europe. In 1999, Calantzopoulos, who was born in Greece, became president of PMI’s Eastern European region, and in 2002, he was named president of the entire company. In 2008, he became chief operating officer, and in 2013, CEO.
#44. Starbucks Corp: Kevin Johnson
- Company market cap: $116.2 billion
Kevin Johnson started his career as an engineer for IBM. In 1992, he joined Microsoft as an executive and would eventually be named president of the Windows and Online Services division. In 2008, Johnson moved to Juniper Networks as CEO. In 2013, he announced his retirement and was succeeded in 2014. Following Howard Schultz’s announcement that he would retire as Starbucks CEO, Johnson—a board member—was chosen to take on the role.
#43. International Business Machines: Virginia Rometty
- Company market cap: $117.6 billion
Virginia “Ginni” Rometty started off in 1981 as a systems engineer for IBM. She worked her way up, becoming the head of global sales, marketing, and strategy, before she was general manager of the Global Services division. After working to negotiate and facilitate the purchase and integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers IT consultancy, she was invited to the C-suite, ultimately being named CEO in 2012.
#42. Amgen Inc: Robert Bradway
- Company market cap: $124.4 billion
Before joining Amgen, Robert Bradway was a health care industry investment banker with Morgan Stanley. He became the London managing director in 2001. Bradway joined Amgen as a vice president in 2006 and became an executive vice president and chief financial officer in 2007. He joined the board of directors in 2011, became president in 2010, and was named CEO in 2012.
#41. Paypal Holdings: Daniel Schulman
- Company market cap: $126.5 billion
Daniel Schulman’s career started with AT&T, where he was an account manager. He worked for the company for more than 18 years, eventually joining its Operations Group. He became president and CEO of Priceline.com, and from there was invited by Richard Branson to be the founding CEO of Virgin Mobile USA. Next, he headed Sprint’s Prepaid group until he joined the executive team of American Express. In 2014, he became the CEO of PayPal.2018 All rights reserved.