Working in corporate America is one thing, but working on the boards across several corporations is another. Ursula Burns went from CEO of Xerox to sitting on various boards for companies including Boston Scientific, the University of Rochester, the MIT Corporation, American Express, Exxon Mobil, Uber, Waystar and more.
During her tenure at Xerox, Burns was the first among Black women to serve as a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company and also become the first woman to succeed another as the head of a Fortune 500 company.
On AfroTech’s Black Tech Green Money podcast listeners get a treat after Burns joined as managing partner at Black Ops Ventures and Pathbrite founder Heather Hiles during AfroTech Executive in Brooklyn to shed light on her roles across the different boards.
Burns explains what it was like working across several corporate boards during the conversation and the answer might shock a couple of folks.
“Fortunately two of them were easy,” said Burns. “One of them was American Express, one of the best run companies out there. The board was phenomenal and so you could actually do that and you could do another one. That’s not to say that it wasn’t time consuming, but it was an easy time, you know what I mean. It was not a crisis. Another company board that I was on had a crisis and it took a lot of time and then the third was in the middle. It’s not the kind of thing you do a lot of, and you don’t get rich and famous from it.”
Managing A Crisis
Not every board is smooth sailing. Burns explains what it has been like working for a brand like Uber where she still serves on the board today.
“They were in a lot of trouble and it wasn’t because of profitability, you know the story. It was just a crazy place, a crazy culture. Crazy leadership actually, maybe good as individual people. I never got to know them, but together they were definitely not a group of people that you wanted to hang out with a whole lot,” Burns continued.
For more on her breaking down the Uber timeline, plus more on how corporate boards work and how to become a part of a corporation’s board listen to the full Black Tech Green Money episode.