Chief Operations Officer
Mountain View, CA
I'm young and know I’ll still make mistakes, but the last few years have given me the confidence that I can shape my career and my life.
In October 2008 I felt incredibly lucky. I was about to start working at one of the top law firms in the country, and I felt like the world was mine for the taking. But after two years of drafting documents, I realized I’d lost my passion for the law. Not knowing quite what to do and afraid of diverting too far off course, I decided to switch to another tried-and-true profession, investment banking.
After teaching myself financial modeling at night and enduring countless rejections, I landed a coveted banking job. Luck had seemingly struck again. Yet within a few months, I realized that my passion was not in finance, law or the corporate world, which felt hierarchical and driven by outdated models. I felt lost. I was scared of my next step, of making another “dumb decision.”
I plowed forward because I knew I wanted to be passionate about my career. I started thinking about the times I was happiest at work. They all involved thinking critically about a deeply analytical and scientific problem. I needed to be somewhere it was cool to think that way, and I realized this meant a huge career shift: I wanted to work in technology.
Everybody was against it. Many saw it as me leaving a prestigious and cushy position for an unknown and risky future. My friends panicked for me. My parents, whose opinion means everything to me, were dead set against it. But I knew what I wanted to do — what I had to do.
I took a leap of faith and landed a job in Silicon Valley. The day I received my offer letter, a friend tried to get me to reconsider my decision. He told me that I had invested too much time in the law (and then in moving to banking) to move off the path. I liked and respected him, but that night I picked up a pen and signed my offer letter.
I have never looked back. I finally have a job that I love. I'm young and know I’ll still make mistakes, but the last few years have given me the confidence that I can shape my career and my life. I am thankful for the journey and look forward to a lifetime of destinations.
Despite early disadvantages, a young woman finds her footing in the field of engineering.
Ursula M. Burns
Chairman & CEO
Pursuing a graduate degree leads one woman on an unexpected journey.