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Jeff Bezos rang up orders at McDonald’s. Marissa Mayer was a grocery store clerk. And Phillip Lim was a sales associate at local California kids’ clothing store.
Those business leaders aren’t the only ones whose first jobs were less than glamorous. Google published the summer job sagas of 20 of their top leaders. Notably, several rang up orders at McDonald’s, while other jobs were as unusual as playing in a string quartet or planting trees.
See what Google leaders were doing before they joined one of the world’s most ubiquitous companies:
Jeff Dean, head of Google AI, was in a string quartet
“We weren’t very good, but people were looking to do weddings on the cheap. They excused our lack of musical quality because we were young and charming.”
Corey DuBrowa, VP of Global Communications and Public Affairs, worked as a grass seed farmer
“Because of this job, I had a farm license to drive a $250,000 tractor before I had my state driver’s license!”
Ana Corrales, VP of Global Operations and Google Store, started her own scrunchie business
“At 15, I started a business that sold hair scrunchie to a Costa Rican national supermarket chain. My team and I covered every job from cutting fabrics, to sewing and developing final packaging, to managing the finances.”
Don Harrison, President of Global Partnerships and Corporate Development, was a prolific tree planter in his native Nova Scotia, Canada
“I planted more than 250,000 trees over several summers, plus, I was chased by black bears twice and was charged by a moose.”
VP of Diversity Danielle Brown had a more typical summer job as a lifeguard
“Being in the sun and in a pool for eight hours a day came with occupational hazards. I had a perpetual sunburn and a perfume of chlorine and sunscreen that was impossible to shake.”
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki was a temp around Palo Alto
Richard Pohle/WPA Pool/Getty Images
“A temp agency sent me to work at various local jobs each summer, and once I was sent to the Palo Alto Sanitation Company. I filed papers and answered the phones — often it was someone upset that their garbage hadn’t been picked up, and I’d radio the garbage trucks to return to the house.”
News Products VP Richard Gingras was a flyboy at The Providence Journal.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A flyboy is someone who catches stacks of papers as they come off the presses.
“It was a deeply frenetic but oddly satisfying job, if you could keep up. Done at dawn, we’d head to a Rhode Island beach and sleep.”
Jacqueline Fuller, President of Google.org, also worked at McDonald’s
Several people hustle past a new McDonald’s McCafe coffee shop May 1, 2001 in Chicago, the first McCafe located in the United States.Getty Images
“I worked the register and drive-thru but couldn’t work the grill, where you earned more, because only guys got those jobs.”
Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf was a coffee refresher
“At age 14, I was paid $1.10 an hour to replenish coffee grounds in automatic coffee makers. The inside looked like an eight-cylinder airplane engine!”
SVP of Global Affairs Kent Walker was a salesman at a backpacking shop
“I learned that stats about down-fill ratios are less effective than talking about how a sleeping bag kept you worm while cross-country-skiing in Mt. Lassen. (Plus, I met some wild characters from a team when Palo Alto was transitioning from Joan Beez to Silicon Valley.)”
A Cincinnati native, Brand Solutions President Kirk Perry spent time as a truck driver and a bartender
“I learned to respect every profession. Many jobs in this country are back-breaking with long, lonely days — I never take for granted that this kind of work is key to making the economy run.”
Read about the summer jobs of nine more Google leaders on Google’s blog.