(Courtesy of Joe McFarland)

Every great manager or director has to start somewhere: Joe McFarland, executive vice president at Lowe's, began as a sales associate in the light bulb aisle of Home Depot. But before that, he spent six years in the Marine Corps as an aviation mechanic. When he left the military in August 1993, he knew that his technical skills were not relevant: "No one was looking for someone to fire a .50-cal out of a door. My technical skills weren't as important as my people skills."

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