Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc.
New York, NY
When Cheryl Stokes, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, reflects on career-changing opportunities, she cites what she describes as “the opportunity of a lifetime”: a fellowship in the Leaders for Manufacturing program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with which she completed dual master’s degrees in management and in engineering. She holds a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Kettering University.
“Studying with the likes of Peter Senge, Ed Schein, Art Kleiner, and others who were part of the MIT Organizational Learning Center helped change my career trajectory from engineering to consulting in leadership, learning, and culture, areas where I remain involved to this day,” she says.
Another pivotal experience was a position as an internal consultant at The Coca-Cola Company, where Stokes found an executive mentor who had built the Coca-Cola Learning Consortium. Stokes ultimately became her deputy. “In that role, I helped shape strategy for the Consortium, traveled extensively with my mentor, and had exposure to and engagement with CSuite executives, which gave me invaluable experience that helped shape my career,” she reveals.
Stokes later worked alongside the same executive to help create the executive development consulting firm, Duke Corporate Education. Today in her role at Heidrick, Stokes works to help organizations develop high-performing leaders and to enable “the human side” of digital transformation. “That’s where the challenge is: Getting people to work in new ways, and leveraging tech to be more impactful,” she notes.
Away from the job, Stokes engages in what she calls her “personal purpose” work to help nonprofits, including the American Cancer Society and the Life Enrichment Center of Wake Chapel. She hopes to establish a foundation through which she would overhaul the water system in her hometown of Flint, Mich., and provide healthcare, financial, and other services to the underrepresented.