Cheryl Cook

Leading the Next Generation

UF Computer Science Grad Inspiring #WomeninTechnology

As a young girl, Cheryl Cook watched her father, a NASA engineer, working many Apollo missions. This ignited in her a great passion for technology, a passion that would drive her to study computer science at the University of Florida, fuel an outstanding career in technology, and propel her as a vocal advocate for women in technology.

As a University of Florida student, Cook (BSBA ’85) divided her time between Tri-Delta sorority functions, jam-packed with fellow women students, and late-night study sessions in computer labs, with nary another female in sight.

“I didn’t look like anyone else in my classes,” she said.

Undeterred, Cook cut her own path, graduating with a degree in computer science and building a career that now serves as inspiration—and support—to women in technology. 

In her current role as Senior Vice President of Global Partner Marketing for Dell Technologies, Cook spearheads development and strategy for their Global Partner Marketing organization, but she began her career as a presales engineer, managing installations and customer implementation for NCR in Dallas, Texas. With her trademark combination of “glitter and grit”, she transitioned to sales, ultimately rising to Director of Sales, and held several sales management roles over the following 14 years.

Earning a reputation as an innovative, adept leader, she advanced to the role of Senior Vice President, first at Sun Microsystems, where she oversaw $6 billion in global enterprise solutions revenue, and then at Nuance Communications, managing sales across all lines of business.

Cook’s abilities did not go un-noticed, and recognition followed, including membership in CRN’s 50 Most Influential Channel Chiefs, Top 100 Channel Sales Leaders, and Power 100 Women of the Channel.

Yet, granting all this, Cook found herself in a familiar situation: like her UF computer science classes, she was often the only woman in the room. “Where are all the other women?” This situation, she decided, needed to change.

Being in the tech industry, Cook knows change—whether it be digital transformation or board room diversification—is possible.

So, when fellow technologist, optimist, and advocate for women, Michael Dell, rang ten years ago, Cook jumped at the opportunity to join Dell Technologies, where transformation is, quite literally, the name of the game.

At Dell, regardless of her role – Vice President, Global Channels and Alliances; Vice President, Enterprise Solutions; or Senior Vice President – she remains a vocal proponent of women in business and technology, driving the change she wants to see in the world. As founder and executive sponsor of the Dell Technologies Women’s Partner Network, Cook leads a global community that empowers women in channel through resources, relationships, and events.

Given Cook’s ability to manage—and even excel at—change, it’s no surprise that she took 2020 in stride. Normally connecting with Dell Technologies partners in person around the globe, she pivoted to providing partners with the tools, resources and training needed to engage customers and drive sales in a virtual, digital world.

“…Digital has transformed the buyer’s journey, and to survive, businesses have to follow,” she said. “It’s digitize or die. Sales teams cannot sell the way they used to, and in marketing, we’ve known for a long time the way people buy has changed – consider your own shopping: think Amazon!”

Doubling down in 2021, her team is leveraging AI technology to help partners drive efficiency and create more personalized, relevant, and timely digital interactions with customers.

Helping partners overcome challenges motivates Cook, and she thrives on employing her resources, network and people skills to drive positive change.

“Dell has always been about how to leverage your voice for good,” she said. “I’m inspired and grateful for how we’ve showed up this year, supported partners and customers and given back to our community.”

Looking back on her journey from lone woman in computer class to Senior Vice President at the world’s largest infrastructure company, Cook has key advice for young women:

“If I had a conversation with 21-year-old Cheryl, I would tell her, ‘Your gut is right, your instincts are right. Listen to them and be your own advocate. If a man and a woman are applying for the same role with 10 criteria, a woman feels she needs to check all the boxes, but a man feels he only needs to check 50 percent. We feel we need to have it all baked, but jump in: the water is fine, you’re not done learning. You’ve got this.’”