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Dell EMC’s Cheryl Cook: Channel Challenge Accepted

Take the challenge

IT history was in the making in early October 2015. Dell had announced its plan to acquire EMC. Pundits and financial analysts endlessly dissected the then-record-breaking $67 billion deal while industry talking heads tossed around adjectives like “ambitious” and “risky.”

Dell EMC's Cheryl Cook

Dell EMC’s Cheryl Cook

But for the channel chiefs involved, Dell’s Cheryl Cook and EMC’s Gregg Ambulous, this deal was personal.

Who would ultimately head up the Dell EMC channel organization? That remained a mystery for eight months. Finally, in July 2016, Marius Hass, then the newly appointed president and chief commerce officer of Dell EMC, penned an open letter to channel partners saying John Byrne was the man for the job.

“I was very optimistic about what the merger might bring, but personally, our roles changed,” Cook told Channel Partners, reflecting on that time. John Byrne came in to run sales. Did it feel great? Maybe not.”

Unexpected twists and turns are inevitable in any long executive career, especially in IT. Cook has spent 25 years in the channel and IT trends and today heads up Dell EMC’s global channel marketing group, an organization she helped build.

We asked Cook what lesson she took away from that transition.

“Take a chance, be flexible and take the challenge — go for it,” she said. “I embraced the opportunity to contribute, give back and make a difference. I’m still very influential in strategy, and I’m loving marketing.”

That message is particularly relevant for women in tech, who routinely undersell their abilities compared with male peers. It’s no surprise that the oft-quoted statistic that men apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the job qualifications whereas women apply only if they meet 100 percent of them comes from a Hewlett Packard internal report.

Cook’s seen some major changes in the tech landscape. Prior to Dell EMC, she spent 12 years at Sun Microsystems during the “dot-com to the dot-bomb” tumult.

“Those were challenging business circumstances, and to be fair, there weren’t many managers who had a recipe book or playbook to navigate through some of that,” she said. “I was bringing recommendations to management, such as let’s change contracts, let’s change where we were going at the time. You had Cisco writing off a lot of inventory because the market just crashed, but Sun didn’t do that.”

Instead, Sun had to get creative.

“I’d say there was self-doubt for sure in some of the recommendations because nobody knew what was going to work,” Cook said.

Clearly, more of her ideas worked than not, because by the end of her tenure at Sun in 2010, Cook was senior vice president of global accounts and industries. “Professionally that was one of the more challenging times and it wasn’t always pleasant, but in the end, I probably took away the most learning from that experience,” she said.

STEM Drive

The oldest of three daughters, Cook had a champion early on in life — her father, a NASA engineer and scientist who worked on all of the Apollo missions.

“He told me that I could do anything I wanted to,” she said.

It didn’t hurt that Cook is admittedly …

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