What do you know about McDonald’s President?

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I must admit, I thought man in the yellow suit with the red hair was actually steering the McDonald ship. I never gave much thought to the corporation behind the Ronald McDonald image.

So, as I was reading an article McDonald’s boss health crusade, I became fascinated with the rags to riches story of McDonald’s latest president.

Jan Fields actually started her career as a McDonald’s fry cook and now she is Number 25 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list.

The seventh of eight children raised inย tiny Vincennes, Indiana, she grew up skinny and dreamed of being a nun, then a lawyer. But she met a guy, married young, had a daughter, and was driving to an interview for a secretarial job at a construction company when, at 23, she stopped at McDonald’s for a Coke and spotted a “Now Hiring” sign. It was, in fact, the first time Fields ever ate in a McDonald’s. She and her husband, who had enlisted in the Air Force, were so poor that they couldn’t afford to eat out.

Accepting a job on a whim and starting at $2.65 an hour, she went home that first night and cried — “a disaster” until they moved her from cooking fries to serving customers at front counter. “Never quit over one thing or one person,” she advises. Rising rapidly through the ranks, she was propelled by a remarkable discipline and a down-home, inspirational leadership style.

Because of her own slow weight gain that she attributes to lack of exercise, not McDonald’s food, she has become the force behind the new healthier McDonald food choices, possibly changing the face of fast food forever.

New products like smoothies and oatmeal have helped expand McDonald’s customer base and profits, and the stock recently reached an all-time high. Meanwhile, McDonald’s announcement last week that its restaurants will serve fruit or a vegetable with Happy Meals and cut the portion size of French fries signifies “our first step toward creating serious change,” Fields says.

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