Jack Welch was born on November 19, 1935 in Salem, Massachusetts.
After graduating high school, he studied at the University of Massuchusetts and received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1957. He immediately moved to Illiois, where he receive his Master’s degree and Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
In 1960, Jack started working at General Electric for a starting salary of $10,500. He was very unhappy working for GE due to the low wages and the bureaucracy of management. When Reuben Gutoff, an executive above him, learned that Jack was thinking of leaving GE, he took him out to dinner and convinced him to stay after a four hour conversation.
After helping to invent PPO, a new type of plastic, Jack was appointed general manager of a new plastics factory. Soon after, he was placed in charge of the entire plastics division of GE.
Jack quickly rose through the ranks of the company when management realized his powerful marketing skills, becoming vice president in 1972, only twelve years from when he started. In 1977, he became senior vice president and two years later, vice-chairman. In 1981, he was chosen to be the company’s eighth and youngest CEO.
Jack quickly began turning the bloated company around. He told the company’s various businesses to be first or second in the market and demanded performance. Over his tenure, 100,000 employees lost their jobs in order to streamline the company. As a result, some people were angered by the layoffs, but it was essential to make the company more efficient. His strong attitude and leadership earned him the nickname “Neutron Jack”.
In the 1990s, Jack introduced Six Sigma into the company, which intended to increase efficiency and quality of work. The Six Sigma program’s goal is to make zero defective products, which is idealistic, but also effective.
Over his twenty years as CEO, Welch increased GE’s market value from $12 billion to over $280 billion in 2001. The once struggling company was now the biggest corporation in the entire world and also one of the most profitable. The corporation now employs about 350,000 people worldwide. Among his most noble feats was turning the company’s 350 businesses into twelve divisions of the company and reducing the management structure from twenty-nine levels to only six.