Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

The woman behind McDonald's hiring blitz

April 4, 2011: 1:08 PM ET

Courtesy: McDonald's

by Patricia Sellers

Too often, the boss can't relate to the workers on the front line.

Not so at McDonald's (MCD).

McDonald's U.S. president Jan Fields, who today announced plans to hire 50,000 new workers in a single day,  started behind the counter, cooking fries.

Her humble beginnings make her the most remarkable success on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list.

Before she started her career, cooking fries for $2.65 an hour, Fields grew up in Vincennes, Indiana, the seventh of eight kids educated in a four-room schoolhouse.

The tiny Catholic school, Old Cathedral, produced a couple of other corporate stars in addition to Fields. Her older brother, Jim Brocksmith, is a former deputy chairman and COO of accounting giant KPMG; he is on the boards of AAR (AIR) and Sempra Energy (SRE). Former UPS (UPS) CEO Mike Eskew, now a director of IBM (IBM), was schooled at Old Cathedral too.

Fields went on to a local community college, getting a job at McDonald's to pay her way through school. While she dreamed of becoming a lawyer -- vowing to quit her McJob each year -- she soon got out of the kitchen and into management...and moved up so swiftly that she never had time to earn her college degree.

It all worked out. Fields, now 55 and No. 25 in Fortune's MPWomen rankings, oversees 14,000 U.S. McDonald's restaurants with 650,000 workers. That number will rise to 700,000 come the big hiring day, set for April 19. Here's Fields talking about her hiring blitz with CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow:

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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