IT professionals are finding themselves in a time of unprecedented change, both within their companies as well as at home. Moving forward requires a delicate balancing act between running business day-to-day and staying authentic, while also transforming the company and, maybe, the way they lead.
"I have to be myself because I can't be anyone else. I wouldn’t be good at it," Cheryl Cook, senior vice president of global channel marketing for Dell EMC, told the audience at The Channel Company's 2018 Women Of The Channel Leadership Summit West.
Cook's keynote Wednesday -- titled "The Art Of The 'And'" -- highlighted how IT executives can adjust to change while opening their minds to new roles, opportunities and even adversity.
Cook has enjoyed a successful career in the IT space, starting as a system engineer, moving into sales, and now, marketing. She's spent seven years at Dell EMC, and prior to that, Cook worked for Sun Microsystems for 12 years.
While always a self-proclaimed, confident, "glass-half-full person," arriving at "authentic" took some self-reflection. After losing her mother to cancer, Cook had to ask herself if she was running her own race, or just the corporate race, she said.
"I just let go," she recalled. "I didn’t realize how hard I was holding on and how tense I was. The more I consciously chose to embrace and commit to things that mattered to me, the more my authentic side came through, and more opportunities came, too," she said.
An authentic company, or even teams within a company made up of authentic people, projects trustworthiness that is apparent to those external to your company, such as partners and end customers, Cook said.
When Dell completed its mega-merger with EMC, Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell pulled some of Dell and EMC's best employees and put them together on a cross-functional integration team. This diversity led to an important cross-pollination of different points of views. And the mutual respect that the employees had for each other helped the company move more quickly through the integration.
"We had opportunities for an epic fail -- it was one of the biggest tech mergers -- but instead we've had success," Cook said. That's because everyone on the team brought their own personal experiences to the table, and those different experiences helped to "calibrate" the group, she added.
Just as diversity and inclusion are important for a transforming company, so is flexibility. Cook encouraged the audience to consider new roles, and how their prior experience could be a boon in a new position or within a different department. A changing tech world is also having an impact on job descriptions and working cultures, another factor executives must embrace, she said.
For her part, Cook's tech experience from her engineering days is helping her today in her marketing role. At the same time, she's making it a point to master Skype, since Dell EMC is embracing a more virtual work environment.
"We have to be adaptable with how we work with our teams, even if we don't share the same physical space," she said.
Transformation doesn't stop after the workday ends, Cook said. "I need to feel like what I do matters. You need to understand what makes you tick," she said.
Knowing your "why" and identifying passion projects inside and outside the office will build your authenticity and keep you open-minded, she said.
"When you have a passion, it shines through," she said. "You might end up in a position you didn't see yourself in."