Lawyer, Businesswoman, Politician
Corporate chief executive Ursula Burns was born on September 20, 1958 in New York City to Olga Burns. She attended and graduated from Cathedral High School before earning her B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York in 1980. Burns went on to receive an M.S. degree in engineering from Columbia University in 1981. Burns began her career at Xerox Corporation in 1980 as a mechanical engineering intern. The internship was one facet of a minority education program initiated by the recently-founded Xerox National Black Employee Association. She transitioned into management in 1991 and became executive assistant to Wayland Hicks, then chairman of Xerox. Between 1992 and 1997, Burns served as the vice president and general manager of the Workgroup Copier Business in London. Burns returned to the United States in 1997 and was assigned as the vice president and general manager at Xerox Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. In 2001, Burns was appointed senior vice president of the document systems and solutions group, a position she left after one year to become senior vice president of the business group operations. Burns was the first woman to ever be named as the senior vice president of the business group operations; and, in 2007, she was elected president of Xerox. Burns was promoted to CEO two years later, and chairman the following year, making her the first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 Company. After her retirement from Xerox in 2017, Burns was named chairwoman of the Dutch telecommunication services company, VEON, Ltd. The following year she was appointed CEO, holding both positions until June 2020. In June 2021, Burns released her book, Where You Are Is Not Who You Are.
"I learned my voice throughout my life and there's a point where you can't go back. This is all you know."