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June 19, 2012

I Started at the Bottom… Now I'm the Boss!

Meet four power players who started on the lowest rungs of their companies and made it to the very top. Here, they reveal their secrets to parlaying entry-level gigs into corner offices.

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Kate Gutmann
President, Worldwide Sales, UPS


While a senior at Siena College in upstate New York, Gutmann landed a marketing internship at the Albany offices of UPS. Afterward, the company offered her a junior sales job. Today, the 43-year-old mother of two runs the company's massive international sales force.

TIP #1: BE OPEN TO RELOCATING. "I've had 10 different positions and moved seven times. At one point I was assigned to Brussels to oversee marketing for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, which was far out of my comfort zone. I was married with two kids, and everything was a challenge. But I always saw these moves as opportunities and jumped at them."

TIP #2: MAKE SURE THE DECISION MAKERS KNOW YOUR NAME AND WHAT YOU DO. "I was based in Atlanta—I'd already moved two or three times at that point—and was hoping to get promoted to a vice president position. But the person making the decision didn't know me at all, which can happen in a big company. So I wrote a memo—'Why Kate Gutmann?'—explaining who I was and why I should at least get an interview. It was a little courageous and scary at the time, but it worked. I got the interview and eventually landed the job."

TIP #3: SEIZE AMBITIOUS PROJECTS—EVEN WHEN THE ODDS ARE AGAINST YOU. "When I was 28, a customer from a Fortune 500 company wanted me to sell directly to their headquarters in Japan. I was a young American female—would older Japanese men accept me? It just wasn't done then. For that reason alone, it would have been easy to let the opportunity go. But I was so determined. I read three books on Japanese culture and studied up on everything, from what suit to wear to traditional gifts to bring, even what color paper to wrap them in. I went over there, led the presentation, and won the sale. From that point on, I was on everybody's radar."

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