In an informative session of Spelman College’s Black in the C-Suite Courageous Conversations series, Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox, shared her inspiring story with a rapt audience. As a pioneering Black woman in the corporate world, Burns’ dialogue bridged the gap between seasoned leadership and budding potential among Spelman’s students.
The conversation, led by President Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, traversed Burns’ early life challenges, her rise to corporate leadership, and the indelible lessons she learned along the way. By recounting her personal and professional journey, Burns highlighted the pivotal role of seizing opportunities, cultivating supportive relationships, and fostering a culture of continuous learning.
Why this video is important
We selected some main points from the interview which is over 1 hour long.
- The conversation at Spelman College, as part of the Black in the C-Suite Courageous Conversations sessions, featured Ursula Burns, a trailblazing Black woman leader, sharing her journey to corporate leadership. The initiative aims to provide insight and inspiration to Spelman students from Black women leaders in corporate America.
- Ursula Burns, who rose from an intern to CEO at Xerox, emphasized the importance of seizing opportunities, being curious, and taking risks in one’s career. She shared her belief that one’s current situation does not define their potential and stressed the importance of engaging with and learning from all individuals in a workplace, regardless of their position.
- Burns discussed the challenges and pressures of balancing personal and professional life, underscoring the importance of carving out time for oneself. She reflected on how mentorship and supportive relationships, including her late husband, played crucial roles in navigating her career and personal challenges.
- Reflecting on her upbringing in a poor urban environment, Burns highlighted how her journey, driven by a strong educational foundation and supportive mother, defied societal expectations and limitations often placed on individuals from similar backgrounds. Her narrative encourages individuals to break beyond structural and societal barriers to explore their full potential.
- Addressing her material wealth, Burns acknowledged a sense of guilt, which she mitigates by sharing her wealth and providing support, advice, and help to others. This reflects her broader ethos of giving back and supporting the community, extending beyond financial assistance to include sharing knowledge, experiences, and time.