10 Minutes of Inspiration with Cheryl Razzell, Global Head of Internal Services Engineering at Yammer, Inc - Microsoft

Inspire interviews Cheryl on her career journey in the Tech sector.

Cheryl Razzell Headshot.jpg

Tell us a little about what you do.

I am a strategic but also hands on leader. I run a department within Yammer (part of Microsoft) that build internal tools for our engineering team. I also work on managing projects internally within Microsoft to better the organisation. I have over 20 years' experience working in Technology and use this experience to think of new ideas, constantly trying to evolve my team and our remit. I am a mentor to my team, helping them grow and encouraging growth. I am also a mother of two children aged 16 and 7 so, balancing the important work-life balance.

How did you get to where you are today?

It's a long story that starts with me leaving school with no GCSEs and trying to find my vocation in life. I started out as a receptionist in a London gym that I found on a notice board in my local job centre. Then I joined Apple after my brother who worked across the hall at Microsoft suggested I apply for a role as a call handler.

I grew quickly at Apple because of my curiosity in computing. I was promoted to working as a support agent by my boss who picked up on my ability to fix customer issues. I went from answering calls and typing up personal details to a tech support agent within a few months.

I've always had a logical mind and found it easy to apply this logic to computers and technology. In my career, I have had many roles working in some large organisations, with a hunger to succeed. My claim to fame during my time at Apple was becoming the first-ever female Mac Genius. I've also held roles at the BBC and News International before joining Microsoft.

How has your life experience shaped you as a leader?

I have had amazing mentors throughout my career and their guidance and support has helped me along the way. I like to think I take the best qualities from my previous leaders and apply them within my team. Life has taught me many things, but to listen to others has been the most important lesson and always be open to being challenged. With a balance of the good and the bad, it has helped me lead my team on our journey. I learn as much from others as I hope they do from me.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your career?

Losing a job is hard on anyone. I am currently on my third redundancy due to office location. Each time I have been affected by a redundancy I choose to use this to my advantage. It has led to me starting a small business of my own and taking on new challenges that I may have passed over. Each time I feel it has made stronger with a drive to aim higher.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

I have worked in so many streams of technology. Don't be put off by stereotyping, there are plenty of great fits in tech for women. Try a few options to see what is right for you.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?

Take risks! I live by this rule and am not afraid to take a risk. Also, allow yourself to fail. It is the only way to learn. I have taken many risks and these have been some of the best decisions. I've never been one to play it safe!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Feeling like they are able to speak with an equal voice to men. This was a huge issue for my in the beginning. I have learnt to speak up and get involved.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Ginny Rometty the CEO of IBM.  I see IBM taking on brave new strides and this is all due to Ginny's guidance. It's great to see a female leader taking on an exciting new world!

What's on your reading list right now?

I keep up to date on tech news to stay alert to trends in the industry.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Keep true to yourself. Don't let others knock your confidence. You know your strengths and weaknesses, play to both and improve your weak areas don't shy away from them. 

Follow Cheryl on LinkedIn.