Karen Kaplan, the CEO of advertising firm Hill Holliday, had humble beginnings. The 53-year-old told Business Insider recently her journey from being a 22-year-old receptionist with the firm–part of one of the largest ad conglomerates in the world–to becoming CEO.
Kaplan joined the company in 1980, and said that she was teased by two other girls who worked there.
“They come on my second day, and they stand in front of my desk,” Kaplan told the website. “They’re looming over me with hands on their hips with their little headbands, and I remember they were like, ‘Just so you know, just because you’re out here and everyone can see you, you are still on the bottom of the totem pole. You are below us, you are below the guy in the mail room, you’re below the guy who delivers the packages.’
Kaplan said of that the two girls, who worked in the switchboard room, “one married a rich guy.”
“The other I lost track of,” she said. “Maybe jail.”
Kaplan said that she started with no experience in advertising but she eventually learned.
“You can make your mark in every single job,” Kaplan said. “I still run into people today who remember me from when I was a receptionist who say, ‘You were the best damn receptionist in the history of receptionists.’”
“There is no one who has worked harder or who is better positioned to lead Hill Holliday to new levels of growth and success. She was born to be CEO of Hill Holliday, and I am absolutely thrilled to hand the reins over to her,” former CEO Mike Sheehan said in a release, according to Bizjournals.com.