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Leading Xerox To Continued Success, Ursula M. Burns Is A Powerful Executive

The tech sector and the business world continue lack gender equality at the highest levels of the corporate ladder.  Many of the biggest tech sector companies – and some of the largest, most profitable, companies in the world – have upper management and/or Boards of Directors that have no women.  While change is coming slowly to the tech sector, some companies are moving at a more progressive pace.  A few companies, like Xerox, are able to proudly tout the fact that their Board of Directors and upper management are more diverse than others.  Ursula M. Burns makes that case easily for Xerox.


Ursula M. Burns is the chairwoman and CEO of Xerox.  Burns took the reins at the head of Xerox from Anne Mulcahy, with whom she worked closely for almost a decade prior.  Ursula M. Burns ascended to CEO in 2009 and she took over as Chairwoman of the Board less than a year later.  Since her promotion, Ursula M. Burns has worked diligently to maintain and grow Xerox, which is no small feat given that the company has annual sales of twenty-three billion dollars!  On her watch, though, Xerox continues to thrive in an increasingly turbulent market.


The daughter of Panamanian immigrants, Ursula M. Burns grew up in New York City.  There, Burns attended the Catholic high school, Cathedral High.  Upon graduation, Ursula M. Burns enrolled at the Polytechnic Institute at New York University.  Burns studied mechanical engineering at NYU and earned her B.S. in 1980.  Ever the diligent student, it only took Ursula M. Burns a year to earn her Master’s!  Burns went to the prestigious Columbia University for her graduate work.  She graduated in 1981 with her Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.


Between her undergraduate and graduate work, Ursula M. Burns took a summer internship at Xerox.  That internship would launch her entire career as she was hired by Xerox immediately upon earning her Master’s degree based, in part, on how well she performed during her summer internship the year before!  From there, Ursula M. Burns’ story is a surprisingly simple one.  Burns spent her twenties working at Xerox in product development.  While Xerox dominated the photocopying business, she was an integral part of the team that continued to innovate new and better products.  She did that until 1990, when she redirected her focus to management.


In 1990, Ursula M. Burns became the executive assistant to a senior executive at Xerox and she continued to prove her worth.  After a series of rapid promotions, arguably because of how quickly she grasped management concepts, Burns ascended to Vice President for Global Manufacturing.  A year later, Ursula M. Burns was promoted to Senior Vice President.  In that role, she and Anne Mulcahy began working closely and during Mulcahy’s tenure as CEO, she groomed Burns to be her natural successor.


Rising from a summer intern at Xerox to the head of the company, Ursula M. Burns truly is an amazing executive.



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