The question: What was your first job and what did it teach you that helps you today?
I was the controller for a summer camp in Maine. The owner had somewhat of a lack of oversight of its finances, and I quickly learned that understanding where all the dollars go and instituting performance metrics for individual contractors was an incredibly important tool for improving earnings.
Daniel Ades, managing partner, Kawa Capital Management
My first teenage job was as a lifeguard. I always loved swimming, but at 5 feet and 100 pounds, I didn’t know if I could pass the rigorous test. When I successfully carried a 200-pound, suntan-lotion-covered man out of the lake on my back, I learned to never shy away from a challenge.
Christine Barney, CEO, RBB Communications
My first job was working at my father’s apparel company at 16 during my summer vacation. I admired how dedicated he was with his work — a perfectionist. I learned a lot from his work ethic, which has been a big factor in my success today.
Richard Behar, founder and president, Capital Clothing Corp.
My first job was at McDonald's working on the counter — “Welcome to McDonald’s. How can I help you? Would you like fries and a Coke with that?” At that job, I learned how important it was to work, how much fun it was to get the job done no matter what the job was, and how if you did the job correctly, other opportunities would come quickly. I was promoted to be what they called a “star” — that was a PR person for them that went to children’s hospitals to play with the kids... I learned the importance of teamwork, the pride of doing the job right, and the reward of getting a paycheck.
Alice Cervera Lamadrid, managing partner, Cervera Real Estate
My first job was as a salesgirl for Foot Locker. I worked there full time for two years starting the second semester of my sophomore year of high school. There were two Foot Lockers at the mall, and I worked at the smaller one. I was paid $7.15 an hour plus 7 percent commission on all multiple sales, and 2 percent commission on regular sales. I was number one in sales for the city my first full year, which taught me several lessons: 1. Learn how to work the system (i.e., I never sold anything that wasn’t a multiple sale); 2. In business, you can always find win-win scenarios if you just look for them; 3. Hard work pays off. At the age of 15, I was responsible for myself. I bought my first car at 16 and never looked back. I have worked since then to grow my dreams and I know no one will ever out-work me.
Pandwe Gibson, executive director, EcoTech Visions
My first job was working as an accounting clerk for Bell Canada right out of high school. It sparked my interest in accounting and financial management, which has served me well through my working life.
Julie Grimes, managing partner, Hilton Bentley Hotel
Doing maintenance management work in my father’s real estate development business when I was in junior high school. It helped teach me to work hard, be humble and strive for perfection.
Victor Mendelson, co-president, HEICO
My first job at age 12 was working at my parents’ Canton Chinese restaurant on U.S. 1 and Southwest 67th Avenue in South Miami. It taught me about being responsible, working hard and not living off the family name. Working hard couldn’t be faked, and this experience taught me how challenging it is to earn a dollar and the importance of working with people of different ethnic, educational and socio-economic backgrounds.
Abe Ng, founder and CEO of Sushi Maki
When I arrived here from Cuba at age 15, I worked three and sometimes four jobs to support my brother and myself. I’d get up a 4 a.m. to go to school using public transportation. After that, I’d iron clothes at a dry cleaner, then wash cars at a car wash, and end my day stocking inventory at a department store. I spent more hours working than going to school, and I only slept a few hours a night. These jobs taught me the value of hard work and perseverance and, most importantly, the imperative of going to college. My schedule today is just as intense as it was when I was a teenager, and I attribute my strong work ethic to these early experiences. I also understand firsthand how difficult it is to work while going to school, and I have tremendous empathy and compassion for the large majority of our students at Miami Dade who are working like I did to create a more prosperous life for themselves.
Eduardo Padrón, president, Miami Dade College
As a teenager, I worked at a beachside arcade — handing out quarters and fixing jammed pinball machines. Every morning, my first task was to crawl up and down the boardwalk hammering down the nails sticking up from the wooden walkway (so they didn’t get caught in a customer’s shoes). It taught me that there’s someone out there doing each and every job — big or small — and that every person’s contribution makes a difference. To this day, those nails remind me that sometimes the smallest details have the most valuable impact on the customer experience.
Joanna Schwartz, CEO and co-founder, EarlyShares
My first job in Miami: I worked as a hostess at the Sonesta Beach Hotel. I was 17 and my parents didn’t want me to have a job, but I applied and got the job without telling them. I just wanted to make money to buy clothes — I’ve always been motivated by fashion — and I made a lot of friends there.
Alina Villasante, founder, Peace Love World clothing
Editor’s note: This will be updated as more responses from CEO’s are received.