NEW YORK (Reuters) - When some veterans of American finance told Reuters about their first jobs, they never expected it to become an Internet meme.
But there is obviously something inspiring about the humble beginnings of successful people, because our article (here) rocketed around the Web with the #firstjob hashtag.
Brian Rogers may be chairman of mutual fund giant T. Rowe Price Group Inc, for instance, but he regaled us with tales of being a lowly retail stock boy. Drexel Hamilton’s president, Jim Cahill, reminisced about picking up empty soda bottles along the docks in Manhattan and shining shoes for 10 cents a pop.
Meanwhile, Metropolitan Capital Advisors’ co-founder Karen Finerman was bossed around as a gofer at Creative Artists Agency, while Ariel Investments Vice-Chairman Charlie Bobrinskoy slung Coca-Cola, peanuts and beer at Chicago Cubs and White Sox games.
We checked in with another group of finance gurus, just in time for the August jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department.
Name: Abby Joseph Cohen
Title: Senior U.S. investment strategist, Goldman Sachs & Co
First job: Mail sorter
“My very first job was when I was 17, for the Post Office out at Kennedy Airport. I worked at a conveyor belt, picking up packages that had been sent by air mail and tossing them into the right bin. If you’ve ever seen me, you know I‘m not very big or strong, at 5‘2”. But there I was loading and unloading trucks, and hauling 40-pound sacks of mail around. I got very buff that summer.
“This was in the summer of 1969, and there was no subway to Kennedy back then, so as a Queens girl I took the bus out every morning. Even though I‘m at Goldman Sachs now, sometimes that first job still pops into my head - particular in the summertime, when I remember sweating in that airplane hangar.”
Name: Bob Doll
Title: Chief equity strategist and senior portfolio manager, Nuveen Asset Management
First job: Newspaper delivery boy
”I must have been 12 years old at the time, lived in a Philly suburb called Churchville, and delivered the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, which no longer exists. I only had two days off a year, July 4 and Christmas Day, and did that for six years starting in the seventh grade.
”I had my own little bicycle with a basket on the front of it.
”That job really taught me how to handle money: I spent 10 percent of what I made, gave away 10 percent and saved 80 percent for college. I ended up paying for a third of my college that way. Another third was covered by a scholarship from the Evening Bulletin itself.
Name: Jack Bogle
Title: Founder, Vanguard Group
First job: Pinsetter
”I had a few jobs when I was very young, but the most backbreaking one was setting pins in a bowling alley in a fire hall in Sea Girt, New Jersey, in 1942 when I was around 13 years old. I have never had a job in my life that I thought of as work - except for that one.
”It wasn’t very complicated, but it was so hard. Sisyphus had it exactly right: They knocked ‘em down, you picked ‘em up. There was no way you could ever make any progress.
”I did that for six months after school, and got around 50 cents an hour. Finally, technology outmoded me, when they brought in automatic pinsetters.
“Working at such a young age taught me about the most important things in life: Get there on time, take responsibility and do the very best you can. And when you’re through doing that, do a bit better.”
Name: Doug Kass
Title: President, Seabreeze Partners Management
First job: Nader’s Raider
”I was getting my master’s at Wharton at the time, and Ralph Nader had gone to Princeton University to debate. I went up to him at a cocktail party afterward and said, ‘Mr. Nader, I’d like to work for you.’ In those days, in the ‘60s, we all had social consciences. Working for Ralph Nader was the equivalent to getting a job with Goldman Sachs. He said, ‘Send me your resume.’
”So one night, after getting drunk at a bar called Smokey Joe‘s, I finally went to bed around 3:30 in the morning. At 6 a.m., Ralph Nader calls me, and said he needed someone with a business background to work on a project with him. At first, I thought it was one of my friends screwing around with me.
”After that, I started to work with Nader at the Center for the Study of Responsive Law. I ended up co-authoring the book ‘Citibank’ with him, which gave me my entree into the investment business.
“His assistants were all called Nader’s Raiders. None of us had our own offices; it was all open workstations. I remember sitting next to another young guy, Mark Green, who would later run to be mayor of New York City, and a pimply-faced red-haired kid by the name of Michael Moore.”
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