Ursula Burns grew up in a housing project on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and now runs Xerox
Burns was raised by her single mother in a housing project in Manhattan, an area known for hub of gangs. Her mother ran a daycare center out of her home and ironed shirts so that she could afford to send Ursula to Catholic school. She went to NYU, and from there became an intern at Xerox.
In 1980, Burns first worked for Xerox as a summer intern, permanently joining a year later, in 1981, after completing her master’s degree. She worked in various roles in product development and planning in the remainder of the 1980s throughout her 20s.
In January 1990, she was offered a role of an executive assistant to a senior executive and then on quickly rose through the ranks. In June 1991, she became executive assistant to then chairman and chief executive Paul Allaire. In 1999, she was named vice president for global manufacturing.
In 2000, Burns was named a senior vice president and began working closely with soon to be CEO Anne Mulcahy, in what both women have described as a true partnership. Nine years later, in July 2009, she was named CEO, succeeding Mulcahy, who remained as chairwoman until May 2010.
She’s now Xerox’s CEO and Chairwoman. She’s the first African-American woman to be the head of a Fortune 500 Company.