Paypal CEO’s first paycheck was $208, now he makes millions
PayPal CEO Dan Schulman is now worth millions, but he started his
career with a paycheck of just $208.
Schulman made a modest salary and was an assistant to an
account executive at AT&T for his first job in 1981. He
stayed at AT&T for 18 years and worked his way up to run a
team of 40,000 people, overseeing the core consumer
His executive office was so big, it had its own bathroom in it.
Schulman went on to run Priceline, Virgin Mobile, and now PayPal.
Schulman says his corporate climb came down to grit and a
difficult personal moment that served as an important career
“Eventually, through perseverance and some luck and a lot of hard
work, [I] rose to become the youngest member of the operating
group,” Schulman told
Business Insider on our podcast, “Success! How I Did It.”
But while he was at AT&T, his sister died and Schulman took a
leave of absence. When he returned, he found his team had not
only remained loyal, but they had done an incredible job without
much oversight. Schulman made sure their hard work was
recognized, and that he didn’t steal credit.
“I realized my team had really hung in there with me and I just
realized that what we had accomplished was completely what they
had accomplished,” Schulman said.
“I gave them full 100% credit. I think what I learned there
is giving credit to others actually attracts more and more people
to your team because they want to be a part of that team … In
many ways, leadership is about defining reality and inspiring
hope, but if you have these great people around you and they know
that what they do is going to be recognized, it can be incredibly
Below, listen to Schulman tell the story of how he
took three companies public during his career, or keep
scrolling for a transcript detailing his rise through AT&T
from a $208 starting paycheck.
Subscribe to “Success! How I Did It” on Acast or
iTunes. Check out previous episodes with:
Here’s the part of the interview where Schulman discussed his
Shontell: Your career got started, it
seems, at AT&T. In the early ’80s you joined — and did I read
that your first job was $14,000 pay?
Schulman: Yeah, yeah.
Shontell: So that was at AT&T?
Schulman: I think my weekly paycheck was
something like [$208], biweekly or something net. I still have it
somewhere. I spent the first 18 years of my career at AT&T
and it was a wonderful place that kept me moving all the time. I
mean I started off as entry level a position as you can get at
AT&T. I was an associate account executive, which means I was
an assistant to an account executive, and account executive was
just the salesperson at the time. Then I became an official
account executive and then a sales manager and then a product
manager and eventually, through perseverance and some luck and a
lot of hard work, rose to become the youngest member of the
I ran AT&T’s consumer business, which at the time was a $22
billion revenue stream, $8 billion of EBITDA and 40,000 people or
so and I was 39 when that happened. And then, to my parents’
chagrin, because they thought that was like the best job in the
world, this big office that actually had a bathroom in it and
they couldn’t imagine anything more that their son could do, I
left to join a startup, an internet startup, which really
Shontell: You had a bathroom in your
office? That’s how you know you’ve made it.
Schulman: I did. Never since and never want
one there again, but yes, that was a big part of being a senior
officer at AT&T.
Shontell: But that’s a really impressive
path. I mean, it’s 18 years but you start in this kind of
humbling job, you have your first paycheck still that was [$208]
and then you become its eventual president, managing 40,000
people. What do you think are the steps that you took that were
the most important to help you climb that corporate ladder?
Schulman: I do think there’s no substitute
for really hard work. But I think the thing that launched my
career at AT&T, I had a pretty tragic thing happen in my
family. My sister died and I was leading a big team at the time
and I had to take time off. It was a difficult, difficult time
and when I came back, I realized my team had really hung in there
with me and I just realized that what we had accomplished was
completely what they had accomplished. I gave them full 100%
I think what I learned there is giving credit to others actually
attracts more and more people to your team because they want to
be a part of that team because they know that it’s a team that is
going to work together as one team, nobody’s going to try to take
credit over somebody else. In many ways, leadership is about
defining reality and inspiring hope, but if you have these great
people around you and they know that what they do is going to be
recognized, it can be incredibly powerful.