Not Just Copiers: Xerox’s Managing Director of Global Accounts, Dale Sedgwick, Is a Problem Solver

August 13, 2012  |  

Xerox is distinctive, not just because it’s on big-time lists and has big-time clients. The company is also the only one to have a chairman and CEO, Ursula Burns, who is African American. Burns is the first black woman ever to run a company the size of Xerox. And she took up the position from another woman, Anne Mulcahy, in 2009. Burns has said of herself, “I’m a black lady from the Lower East Side of New York. Not a lot intimidates me.”

When Burns was named to the top spot at Xerox, BusinessWeek talked up the opportunities that the company’s diversity initiatives opened up for its staffers. “You have a culture where having women and people of color as candidates for powerful jobs has been going on for two decades,” Harvard Business School professor David Thomas said at the time.

Sedgwick also says that the company is “committed to diversity.” But just because she and Burns have made it to the top doesn’t mean that diversity is any less an issue.

“I’m in an environment where I still look around the room and I’m the only African American at the table,” Sedgwick says. “It happens when I’m with my clients and when I’m at Xerox as well. It’s not something that you take for granted.”

Quite simply, Sedgwick says she doesn’t let it bother her. Back in high school, she was one of the only girls in math classes with a group of guys. So being the “only one” doesn’t really faze her anymore.

“Don’t let the fact that you’re an African-American woman or African-American person be a barrier. It doesn’t need to matter,” she says. “Know who you are and  bring your A game. Don’t stop to think that you may look different.”

And Sedgwick doesn’t stop. She says striking the right work-life balance is work in itself, even though she’s a single woman who isn’t juggling work and family at the moment. “If you don’t allocate the time, you’ll find yourself never cultivating those relationships,” she says. “Even turning off the BlackBerry, that’s a decision.”

Still, Sedgwick says she works a lot, and relies on faith to help her manage the pressures of being an executive at a top company. Also, take it light.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously,” she says. “If you don’t bring your best, then you have the right to stress.”

And, she says, “Stay true to who you are. Your work is an aspect of your life, not your whole life.”

Finally, “You have to be flexible. Recognize that change is a way of life.” Change happens even if you’ve been with the same company for 26 years. One day, you’re in sales; another day, you’re the managing director of global accounts.

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