Shopper Marketing - May 2017 - 34
HALL OF FAME PROFILE | CHERYL WILLIAMS
Tell us about your background.
WILLIAMS: I was born in New Brunswick
... grew up in East Brunswick ... got married and moved to North Brunswick. I now
live in South Brunswick, so there are no Brunswicks left! I'm a Central Jersey girl through
What did your parents do?
WILLIAMS: Both were in technology. My
dad was a vice president for a couple of
companies in technology, and my mom
worked her way up through data processing.
She started as a key punch operator and
eventually worked for Rutgers University,
where she was responsible for scheduling in
the computer room.
Were you on a computer as a kid
WILLIAMS: I started young in computers, although back then, remember, computers didn't exist really. In high school, I was
in an advanced math program so I took computer programming as an elective. We had a
little PDP-11 [minicomputer] in a closet that
was always short-circuiting because the air
conditioner that kept it cold dripped on it.
We had a couple of teletype machines - no
punch cards - teletype. Then I took computer science at Rutgers.
When you look at photos of those
old computer clubs, you see a lot of
tech geeks, but not many are female.
What was it like?
y SHOPPER MARKETING MAY 2017
WILLIAMS: Oh, I was very unusual. There
were virtually no women in technology,
especially at Rutgers, because computer science was part of their very intensive math
program. I took five semesters of calculus,
for example. And this wasn't some basic
business computer class; it was all hexadecimal math and that kind of stuff. And then,
being in technology and in the grocery industry - well, you know I'm used to being
the only woman in the room.
Did your parents push you?
WILLIAMS: No, I just had this passion for
technology. I was always interested in
what my dad used to bring home. He worked
for Westinghouse and went to school with
IBM to learn their programming language
and operating system. He'd bring home his
books and technology like removable disks,
and I was just fascinated. I'm not talented
when it comes to things like music, painting
or dancing, but I do believe computers are a
way to express your creativity.
How did retail come into the picture?
WILLIAMS: When I was 16 I got a job at
Macy's in the boy's department, and
worked a couple days a week in high school
and college. I worked, as a matter of fact,
until I got married because I didn't want to
give up my 20% discount.
I got an internship in Revlon's technology
department as a programmer and - I don't
know how I lucked into this - ended up as
part of their advanced manufacturing systems
group. So, that was great experience for me.