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From Executive Assistant to CEO

From Executive Assistant to CEO

The New York Times has a great article about Ursula Burns, the new CEO for Xerox. She has held many different positions throughout her 30 years working for the company but what is particularly interesting to us here at ProAssisting is how Ursula was mentored in the executive assistant position by her two different bosses.

During downtime, they would talk with Ursula about her communication style and how she could round off some of her edges so she performed her job better. Here is a key section of the article:

He offered her a job as his executive assistant. It was January 1990, she was 31, and the offer felt like a dead-end. “Why would I ever want to do that?” she answered, assuming that the title meant secretary. The job was much more, of course. She would travel with Mr. Hicks, sit in on important meetings, help get things done. She accepted, and, Mr. Hicks remembers, they talked a lot about leadership. Mr. Hicks, a vice president overseeing marketing and customer operations, explained the need to manage people in different ways, not to intimidate them, and to make them feel comfortable by listening carefully.

And then this too:

Later, the phone rang. Mr. Allaire [Xerox’s President] wanted to see her in his office. She figured that it was not good news. But Mr. Allaire wanted to poach her from Mr. Hicks, so she could be his executive assistant. They, too, would talk about leadership during down time. He didn’t want to discourage her candor, but, like Mr. Hicks, he offered tips about how to be more effective—“like giving people credit for ideas that they didn’t have, but you sold to them, to give them ownership,” Mr. Allaire recalls advising her.

These working relationships are a perfect example of how much more the position of executive assistant can be and what that can lead to in the future. Finding the right boss who took the time—when there was time—to mentor her was key to Ms. Burns’ future success. You too can make the transition from executive or administrative assistant onto the career path of your choosing and when you think you can’t, just remember Ursula Burns and how she did it.

Read the original post here.