From joining Xerox as an intern in 1980, Ursula Burns moved steadily through the company to become chief executive officer in 2009, and chairwoman until her retirement in 2017. She remains one of the most successful women in US corporate history and the first black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company.
Forbes ranked her as the twenty-second most powerful woman in the world in 2014. She was adviser to President Barack Obama, led the Whitehouse STEM programme from 2009 until 2016, and also served as vice chair of the President’s Export Council. She has held numerous board positions for some of the world’s largest multinational companies, and is widely respected for her contribution to community, educational and non-profit organisations over many years.
If you are really passionate about ‘this thing’ that you are doing, and you work really, really hard at it, and you put all of your energy into it, then you will find success and you will find happiness.
I was once told that I had three strikes against me – I was black, I was a girl and I was poor. But I was also raised to believe that I could do whatever I wanted and whatever I set my mind to achieve. My mother would tell me, ‘There are lots of possibilities out there. Just go out and try!
It’s about working hard, being bold, speaking up, taking initiative and taking responsibility about your future. The more you do this, and the more you put yourself out there, the further you increase the chances of good things happening for you, and the more you make your own luck.
Help your children to see what they can do rather than tell them what they can’t do.
Where to buy
Read more from Ursula Burns and the other 21 exceptional contributors to this book
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Explore other contributors
Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE
Multiple gold medal winning Paralympic Athlete, campaigner and politician
Martha, Baroness Lane-Fox CBE
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Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (1948 – 2020)
Enormously respected religious leader, philosopher, and award winning author