Ursula Burns, the new head of Xerox, had a nice write-up in The New York Times. Here's an excerpt:
What were her big influences before she joined Xerox? The answer, she says, is “150 percent my mother. My mother was pragmatic, focused and extremely, exceedingly practical, and she was the ultimate self-determining person.”
Her family (her father was never in her life) lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan — “when it was really bad, when the gangs were there and the drug addicts were there.”
Her mother made ends meet by looking after other children. She also ironed shirts for a doctor who lived down the street and cleaned his office, bartering for things like medicine and even cleaning supplies. She had many sayings — and she repeated them, often in blunt terms, over and over.
“Where you are is not who you are,” she would tell Ms. Burns and her brother and sister. “Don’t act like you’re from the gutter because you live in a place that’s really close to the gutter.”
There were clear expectations.
“She was very, very black-and-white and very clear about what responsibilities we had,” Ms. Burns recalls. “One was that we had to be good people. And the second thing is that we had to be successful. And so her words for success were, ‘You have to give’ — and she would say this all the time — ‘more than you take away from the world.’ ”