*LOS ANGELES, CALIFONIA – Dawn Sutherland is the Vice President and Controller for the United States Solutions Group’s Western Sales Operation for Xerox Corporation, which she joined in 1982 after completing a MBA summer intern program. There she is responsible for A total revenue of $985 million dollars and 15,000 employees. She obtained her Masters Degree in social work from Atlanta University and her B.S. from Boston College. She was born in Jamaica and raised in New York.
Veronica: What women have inspired you personally and professionally?
Dawn: Personally, it was my mother. She always stressed that education was our only way out of poverty and the way to escalate ourselves. Unfortunately she didn’t really live to see me at this time in my career and the things she instilled in me fulfilled. Professionally, I always admired the activism and work of C. Delores Tucker. At that time she was one of the few black women in government. Her commitment to the community was inspiring.
Veronica: What was life like growing up for you?
Dawn: My life was pretty amazing. I have 4 brothers and 2 sisters. Based on today’s standards, we were poor, I didn’t know it then because Mom made sure I had everything I needed to purse my education and participate in activities like piano lessons. I was the baby of the family; my mom had me when she was almost 50.
Veronica: Everyone has a defining moment in their lives they can point to. What’s your?
Dawn: In 1977 I went with Crossroads Africa to do community work in West Africa. I found that the people there were so appreciative for the smallest things and they were always happy. I wanted to do something and give back. I decided to use my passion for collecting black
artifacts and dolls to expose the African American community in the States to Africa. Now I host exhibits of my collection and encourage people to be collectors. Every two years I go back to Africa and take various items to the village. I have helped several young people in African to finish their education as result of that trip. And I’ve helped one young lady, who finished school in Ghana, and she now attend Spellman. That visit changed my life.
Veronica: What is the most challenging part of your career?
Dawn: Making sure there is a balance between work and my personal life. Sometime I don’t leave the office until 10:00 p.m. But I have to exercise to manage my stress. So it’s a scheduled item on my calendar every day from 4-7 a.m. I am at the gym as early 4:30 a.m. But my headquarter office as well as the bulk of my counterparts are on the East Coast. So there are times when I may have to have a meeting at 5:00 a.m. While at the gym between my yoga and weights, I may have to participate in conference calls. But between 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. is my cycling class and things are usually wrapped up by then. Another challenge for me is taking time to mentor my young mentees who have sought me out. I give back to them so they don’t get off track. And I’ve learn to use Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with them.
Veronica: What would you say has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
Dawn: When I did my assignment in Glouster, England. It lasted four years. I was the first African American in the history of Xerox to do an expatriate assignment. I went as a Controller. It was a completely different culture. But I learned so much from the people there. It was a test for me to get out of my comfort zone and it showed my colleagues at Xerox my range of skills and abilities. I was also able to connect with relatives of my mother’s family that migrated to England from the islands.
Veronica: What concerns you the most and pleases you the most about young people today?
Dawn: The fact that they don’t understand their history and where they come from. They need to understand that connectedness. If they did they would make better decisions. When I talk with them, I let them know I didn’t get here by myself. I also spend a lot time trying to recruit and encourage them to pursue a career in finance, something many African Americans don’t consider. On the other hand, I am pleased the entrepreneurial skills of our youth. They want to work for themselves. Today’s young people are also smart, self-determined and fearless. I do admire that.
Veronica: Any parting thoughts?
Dawn: It’s important to have a passion outside of your work and a support system. For me my need to give back and do some kind of service in the community is so important. That is where I want to leave my legacy.
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