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Local Profile’s 2023 Women in Business: Cheryl Orange

The annual Women in Business Summit is scheduled for September 8, 2023

Women in Business brings together over 600 influential women from various sectors such as global enterprises, non-profit organizations, small businesses and government agencies within the North Texas community. It serves as a platform to celebrate, unite and empower the leading ladies of the DFW area.

On September 8, 2023, women across North Texas have the opportunity to connect with notable guest speakers, participate in enlightening panel discussions and meet like-minded professionals.

Meet one of our speakers:
Cheryl Bevelle-Orange holds the position of managing director and chief information officer at FedEx Custom Critical. With over 25 years of experience in her field, she commands the Information Technology strategy, operations, applications and infrastructure that underpin the FexEd Custom Critical enterprise. In 2022, Bevelle-Orange authored the book The Courage to Continue: Navigating Your Corporate Journey — aimed at providing first-generation corporate success and offering leadership tools to guide team members toward their professional goals. 

What is the biggest challenge women face in the workforce? How can they overcome it?
There are several challenges women face in the workforce. Two of the biggest challenges are pay equity and representation. Women are still underpaid for the stellar work we do. Stats show most women leaders are mid/lower-level leaders and very few at the highest levels. We are making progress but not at the rate we should be making. 

What's your biggest motivation?
My biggest motivation is trying to pave the way for the next generation of women leaders. I am working to have them to start from a better advantage point than I did.

How do you change a company's culture to promote inclusivity and diversity?
Changing a company's entire culture is a daunting task. We have to start to do what we can do and hopefully, we have a ripple effect and others join in. Things you can do is start or join BRTs and actually work. Create programming that makes a difference and goes full force. In BRTs you have those who are like-minded and you aren't trying to change by yourself, you have a support group that works together to create change. 

What are you leaving for future women now that wasn't there before?
I recently wrote a book The Courage To Continue: Navigating Your Corporate Journey and the goal was to share tips, information, examples and exercises that will help women to have a documented navigation guide so they don't have to start from a blank slate.

What was the most difficult decision you’ve made in your career so far?
One of the difficult decisions I've made in my career so far was to take a promotion opportunity and move to a new discipline, new city and new leadership level all at the same time. It was a test of flexibility and adaptability.

What was your breakthrough moment?
One breakthrough moment for me was understanding the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. A mentor is a trusted counselor or guide who is experienced in his or her field of expertise. A sponsor in the corporate world is someone who stages, introduces and publicly supports and opens doors for you. When I understood the difference, I was able to solicit appropriately and use them appropriately. This changed the trajectory of my career.

What advice do you have for women hoping to break through? 
Keep moving forward, small step by small step and don't get discouraged. You are enough!  

How do you promote a healthy environment for yourself and your employees?
I lead with openness and transparency. It's healthy to be able to professionally speak openly. I also am an advocate of physical and mental wellness. We must take time for ourselves which promotes a healthy environment.

What is your most noteworthy achievement as an agent of change?
One of my most noteworthy achievements as a change agent is transforming an entire company from a waterfall development methodology to an agile development methodology with the introduction of lean portfolio management. It was a huge challenge as it was not only a process change but a mindset change. 

What are you most proud of?
As a change agent, one of the things I'm most proud of is creating a program called "My Sisters Keeper" where the senior women African American leaders are working with mid-level African American women leaders to ensure they have the skills needed to succeed at the next level. It's a 12-month program with a strenuous syllabus that gives the mid-level leaders skills and confidence to navigate successfully. It also allows a group of like-minded women to find their tribe. They are able to connect and create a space where ambition, drive and support thrive. This group is not about excluding men but about appreciating the unique challenges of women.

How long should you be willing to fail before you succeed?
Failing is a part of our growth journey.  It's a time we have to push ourselves to become better. I don't think there is a timeframe that says to fail three years and the fourth year you will be successful — it doesn't work that way. If we continue to learn from each failure we will eventually find success. 

If you had to start all over again, what would you do differently?
If I had to start all over, I would spend more time understanding the corporate culture, do more networking and building relationships, figure out my entrepreneurial expertise earlier and take more chances.

What would you keep the same?
Having a business and IT perspective has served me well. To be able to understand both sides is a plus when trying to collaborate and bring solutions to customers. I love the corporate setting and being able to help in the community.

What do you do if you find yourself in situations where things are not going the way you want them to? 
I usually start to think about the "why.” Why are things not going my way? Should I start to think about things differently? Should I take a quick break, clear my mind and come at it from a different angle? Once I go through that process, I start to formulate a plan to collaborate to a win/win or a win/not lose.  

What's the best advice you've received in your career? Who gave it to you?
At one point in my career, I transformed myself by moving from a manager to a director, from Tennessee to Texas, from Marketing to IT and became an empty nester (my last child went to college). I had the skills but was terrified of all the changes. My boss at that time told me to pull it together and sit in my seat! I belonged in that seat and my unique skills were needed at the table. I felt valued and needed. That helped me to have confidence that I was there for a purpose and that I needed to use all the unique skills that I had to get through any challenges that came my way.

Who is your biggest role model?
My Bigma. She was a widow and raised 6 children by herself. What she taught me was discipline, as she was on a strict budget but she fed her children and managed to purchase real estate on her minimal means; perseverance as she was a housekeeper but she continued to move her agenda forward, she got her GED at age 88; finally, she taught me to have a vision. She would always tell me to shoot for the stars and even if you don't hit the star you are shooting for you will be closer than you've ever been. I took from that to dream big. Have a big vision for your life.  

How can you be a role model to others?
I strive to model the way for others and to pay it forward.  I talk a lot about that in my book, The Courage To Continue: Navigating Your Corporate Journey

What is your motto?
Faith, family and friends. This motto keeps me grounded and focused on the most important things.

What book do you recommend every professional woman read?
The Courage To Continue: Navigating Your Corporate Journey by Cheryl Bevelle-Orange, Winning Now, Winning Later by David M Cote, How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead, Expect to Win by Carla Harris and You've Been Chosen by Cynt Marshall.