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Impactful Internships: The Rise to CEO/President

Updated May 2, 2019

We have always believed that investing in promising students is a wise investment. It turns out, we’re in good company. These top technology professionals started by working their way up through the corporate ladders from intern to CEO, founder, president, and other critical roles in these companies.

Steve Jobs

steve jobs

When Jobs was only 12 or 13 he looked up Bill Hewlett in the Palo Alto phone book and called him asking for parts to build something. Hewlett picked up the phone and talked to the tween Jobs for 20 minutes about his interests. According to Business Insider, Jobs ended up not only receiving the parts he wanted, but a summer job working at Bill’s company, Hewlett- Packard. It wasn’t a prestigious job, just assembling frequency counters, but Jobs was ecstatic. His first day on the job he exclaimed: “his favorite thing in the whole world is electronics.” It was at this job that Jobs met the future business partner of Apple, Steve Wozniak.

Mary T. Barra

Mary Barra

Barra holds the title as the first female CEO of a major global automaker, General Motors. Her roots are deep in the company when she served as a factory floor student intern. She held various roles in the company throughout her career, working her way up from plant manager, executive engineer, head of human resources, and head of product development.

Dennis A. Muilenburg

Dennis A. Muilenburg

Muilenburg is the CEO of Boeing, where he began as an intern. From there he became the Head of the Defense and Space Business, then Chief Operating Officer and President.

Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns
Long before becoming CEO of Xerox in 2010, she was a mechanical engineering summer intern at the company in Norwalk, Connecticut. In high school, a guidance counselor suggested a career in nursing, teaching or as a nun, but Burns pursued mechanical engineering at NYU followed by her master’s at Columbia. Between her internship and becoming CEO, she worked in multiple areas of the company including product development and planning. Her work did not go unnoticed and she served as Assistant to the Vice President and then the President along her journey. She is now the CEO at VEON.

Daniel Hesse

Daniel-Hesse
Hesse had his eyes set on AT&T. He was eager to work there as an intern, but realized the company recruited exclusively from Harvard and Wharton School of Business and Hesse was at Cornell. Upon request, his sister traveled to Harvard, as she lived in the area, to gather information on the recruiters. Hesse wrote a letter to the recruiter and landed the internship. He eventually became the President and CEO of AT&T and later the CEO of Sprint. He went on to serve as Director of Adknowledge, PNC Bank, and now Akami Technologies.

Stacey Cunningham

Cunningham went from New York Stock Exchange’s intern to COO and now President. She is the first female leader in the NYSE’s 226-year history. As an industrial engineering student at Lehigh University, she started at NYSE as an intern. Just two years later she was one of only a couple dozen female employees among the thousands of men on the NYSE floor.

Patrick Waddick

patrick-waddick

Waddick began his Cirrus Aircraft career as an intern. He rose through the ranks and held titles such as Chief Engineer, Vice President of Engineering, and other various chief operations officer roles. He is now the President of Innovations and Operations with the company.

Li Mingyuan

Li Mingyuan

Baidu is one of China’s largest search engines, and Li Mingyuan began as as the Vice President at the age of 30. His employment at Baidu started just nine years before as an intern.  Mingyuan attributed a successful young people’s organization to understanding what the millennials want and need – including flexible work hours, casual dress code and nap rooms. Mingyuan serves as VP of Baidu from 2013 to 2016.