When Gail Evans was pushing a mop at corporate offices, most would not bet she would ascend to the C-Suites of blue chip corporations. So reports CNBC.
But Evans did just that, steadily climbing to top C-Suite positions at Kodak, Bank of America, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft. Evans grew up one of five siblings raised by a single mother in Rochester.
"I was very happy being poor, because I didn't know any better," Evans says. "We didn't have computers, we didn't sit in front of computers, we learned to play together—I was happy. But I knew that there was something more than where I lived.”
Evans attended Hobart and William Smith College in NY for three years, but dropped out after her junior year to work as a custodian and support her family. That experience prepared her in a way that likely eluded most C-Suites executives.
“I built a lot of character as a custodian,” Evans said in a 2015 commencement address at Nazareth College. “It is amazing how people treat you when you are there to pick their garbage up every day.”
Evans' big break came after a manager at Kodak, Dianne Newhouse, saw her at a computer and asked what she was doing. “I told her I was a janitor, but that I was going to school full time and I wanted to become a software engineer or in technology,” Evans recalls.
Newhouse asked Evans a week later if she could help her team learn new software. “Man that was the best day of my life, or one of the better days of my life,” she says. "I still did the janitorial work, but three hours of my shift I was able to teach her leadership team on ways to use [Microsoft] Excel to calculate a lot of their input and output and volumes of the film that was coming off the line.” Evans would eventually rise to the position of chief technology officer at Kodak in 1999.