Chicago native Don Thompson is now CEO of McDonald’s, the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast-food restaurants. He recently accepted the position as the former Vice Chairman and CEO Jim Skinner retired after 41 years with the corporation. Prior to this, Thompson had been president and COO of the chain, which has more than 33,000 locations serving approximately 68 million customers in 119 countries each day.

Thompson, 48, became president and COO of McDonald’s in January 2010. In that capacity, he directed global strategy and operations. Previously, he served as president of McDonald’s USA from 2006 until 2010. In that role, he was responsible for the strategic direction and positive business results of the nearly 14,000 restaurants in the U.S.

Thompson has been with McDonald’s 22 years, beginning with the company as an electrical engineer in 1990. Even as a youngster Thompson showed great promise. While still in junior high school, Thompson, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, was tapped for the Minority Engineering Advancement Program (MEAP) at Purdue University’s School of Engineering and Technology. The program was designed to provide minority students with exposure to technical careers. During high school, MEAP provided counseling and summer jobs in their sponsoring companies, such as Indiana Power and Light. After graduating from Purdue, Thompson accepted a position with Northrop Defense Systems (Northrop Grumman). After Northrop, he joined McDonald’s in 1990.

According to Thompson, his mentors over the years have included Raymond Mines and Charlie Strong, U.S. senior vice president at McDonald’s. In 1998, Mines became the highest-ranking African American at McDonald’s USA when he was named executive vice president of franchise relations for McDonald’s Corp. Mines has since retired.

McDonald’s revenues come from rent, royalties and fees paid by the franchisees, as well as sales in company-operated restaurants. Its revenues grew 27 percent over the three years ending in 2007 to $22.8 billion.