Cheryl Vedeo is the CEO of Apex Learning. Her background as a software engineer, marketer, and senior manager gave her a solid technical foundation. It was at Apple, as the head of the K-12 education division, that she was introduced to education in the technology space. Cheryl holds a BA in Mathematics from Wheaton College, in Norton, Massachusetts, and an MBA from Northeastern University, in Boston, Massachusetts. She serves as a trustee of Wheaton College and is on the board of directors of the Washington Technology Alliance.
SM: Cheryl, to get started, could you tell me about yourself? Where are you from and what kind of upbringing contributed to where you are today?
CV: I grew up in the Northeast, in Massachusetts specifically. I was a math major in college. I went to Wheaton College. I graduated in 1974, and the most interesting thing to do at that point was to go into what was called computer programming and software engineering. I initially went to work for New England Telephone Company. Very shortly after that I went to work at Digital Equipment Corporation, otherwise known as DEC.
SM: DEC was a very popular employer in Massachusetts at the time.
CV: Definitely. They were a very large and up and coming computer company. I was there for nine years, the majority of that time as a software engineer. I then became a software engineering manager and ultimately moved into a product management role. While there I went back to school at Northeastern University and joined their high-tech MBA program. I earned my MBA while I was still at DEC.
Shortly after that I decided it was time to try another experience. I went to a much smaller company in a new segment of computing, technical workstations. The company I joined was Apollo Computer. I worked in product marketing and product management at Apollo Computer for four years. At that point I was recruited to Sun Microsystems. Apollo and Sun were the two main competitors in the technical workstation space at the time. I switched posts and moved from Massachusetts to the San Francisco Bay Area.
I spent four years at Sun and became VP of Product Marketing at Sun. I worked on all sorts of products ranging from hardware products like desktop workstations and high-end multi-processing servers to software products. The last role I had at Sun was heading up a small business unit focused on networking and connectivity products. I had move from product marketing into more of a general management role.
I was then recruited to Apple. I went to work at Apple and joined them to be the VP of product marketing for Apple USA. Two weeks after I joined Apple, there was a major re-organization and they eliminated my position and my group.
SM: What year was that and who was running Apple?
CV: That was in 1992. John Sculley was running the company. Having been recruited to a position that I was very excited about it was a very interesting experience to have that role eliminated just weeks after joining. What they asked me to do was manage the K3-12 education business in the United States. At the time it was a $1 billion business. That is how I got involved in education. I spent the next two years at Apple running that business unit and learned an enormous amount about education, education as a market for business, about the potential for technology in education and I have always said that I was very fortunate that my introduction into education and education technology was at Apple at that period of time. Apple had the best of the best in terms of educational technology at the company. I had the opportunity to learn the education space from real experts.