Xerox: A Love Story

by Erich Van Dussen

Make no mistake: Sharon Varalli ’83 loves her husband and adores her three children. But for more than 30 years another relationship has proven fulfilling in a profoundly different way—and it all started in the School of Management, with an internship attained through perseverance as much as skill.

After changing her major from history to business administration as a sophomore (“The Federalist Papers did me in”), Varalli knew where she wanted to work following graduation. “I found out who I needed to talk to on campus,” she recalls, “and I told him, ‘I want an internship, and I want it at Xerox.’

“At that point internships weren’t offered for my major, but I guess I bugged him enough,” she adds with a grin. “Eventually they found an opportunity for me.”

That early exposure confirmed Varalli’s interest in the Rochester-based company, which at the time vied with Kodak as the region’s leading international corporation. She had also grown up hearing about her father’s experiences as a Xerox employee, but most of all “I wanted to be part of a big company that was on the cutting edge of technology. Xerox was it for me—I just knew.”

That “it” factor has been tested many times over the years, as the company’s evolving focus away from photocopiers and toward state-of-the-art digital solutions has given Varalli a tour of myriad sales and marketing departments, titles and roles.

“I call it ‘morphing’,” she says of her employer. “You can see it in the news—the company has gone through some big changes. It’s exciting to be a part of it.”

She’s spent the last three years in Industry Marketing, where communications programs are developed to support sales and client relations efforts in a broad variety of business segments. The process of matching team members to respective markets was dictated by a number of factors; in Varalli’s case, prior experience as a member of the school board in her hometown of Marion, Wayne County, suggested to decision makers that higher education would be a good fit.

Creativity and flexibility are the keys to success in her role—from the willingness to hop on a plane to lead presentations to packed houses of prospects in Seattle or New York City, to dreaming up attention-grabbers like a candy bar wrapped with a customized message (“We can make your day a little sweeter…”) or the campaign that sent each college client a card with their own school mascot on the cover.

“I have fun with my job—it’s a constant learning experience, which is what matters most to me.

“When I retire a hundred years from now,” she laughs, “all I want is to still be able to find new things to learn.”

Erich Van Dussen is a freelance writer in Rochester, New York.

Sharon Varalli

Sharon Varalli '83 has dedicated her professional life to the “morphing” technology company—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

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