Who We Are

Stories of Who We Are: Cheryl Filipek — Serving Through Music

 

Snapshot

  • Job title: Technical Account Manager
  • Years at VMware: 2 years and 9 months
  • First job: My first “paying” job was working at a pro shop of an exclusive health club in Chicago. As a 17-year-old selling power bars and Gatorade, a huge highlight was getting a high five every other week from Michael Jordan (who was a member).
  • Fun fact: I have big musical background. I’ve traveled across the country to catch live concerts of one of my favorite singer-songwriters: Jason Mraz. I’ve caught over 100 live performances.
  • Favorite social distancing activity: I met a big group of friends traveling to concerts, and I’ve stayed in touch with them virtually. Once a month, we dress as characters from a murder mystery and solve it together. Recently, we had a Halloween-themed “Terror in Transylvania” party, and I was the Bride of Frankenstein!

This is a treasured picture with singer-songwriter Jason Mraz from the first show that I attended in 2003. I have since attended at least 100 Jason Mraz concerts across the country.

What’s your role at VMware?

As TAM (Technical Account Manager), I make sure that my customers, the employees of the State of Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology, have access to VMware training and enablement in order to efficiently work with our products. My team helps drive the adoption of our products and helps keep everything running smoothly.

With my team, I’m building the VMware Innovation Head Start Program for the State of Illinois. My unique background—a high school band director—is one of the reasons that I was chosen to work on this project as it will cater to young persons’ currently incarcerated in Illinois. In addition to VMware certification, this program is developed for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice covers wide-ranging topics to help these young people land on their feet. This includes how to build a compelling resume and guidance on a business-appropriate dress code. I am so proud of this work!

Can you share more about your background as a veteran?

From 2000 to 2010, I had the honor of serving in the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest, formally known as the 566th Air Force Band (AFB). Through music, I had the opportunity to entertain service members and civilians across the country. This was the military’s way to give back to the communities who support local bases and to let people know that the armed forces were there to support them in many ways. Most people aren’t aware that the military has jobs like a musician, but every job found in the civilian world is also in the military. As an example, several veterans that are here at VMware were in network security and communications.

My first year as part of the Air Force Band in the year 2000.

“Our military bands are the highest caliber ensemble that a musician can play in.”

I enlisted after I finished my bachelor’s degree, which was unusual. Typically, someone with a post-secondary degree would become a commissioned officer. At the time I enlisted in the Air National Guard, I was a high school band director that wanted opportunities to perform. The 566th AFB was previously local to Chicago and just relocated to Peoria, where I was stationed all 10 years of my enlistment. Once a month, I would rehearse and perform throughout the Midwest region. Occasionally, I would augment other military bands for performances all over the country.

I spent a wonderful and formative decade as part of the 566th AFB. It is also where I met my husband—we were assigned to the same squadron. I was the oboe player in the concert band, and he was the drummer in the rock band. I look back at the experience with fondness and pride while serving our community. Our audiences ranged from local residents to veterans living in VA homes and also military ceremonies, like governors’ inaugurations or visiting dignitaries.

Circa 2001: My husband and I met in the Air Force.

How did you arrive at your career at VMware?

I’ve had a unique and diverse background as a band director for 15 years, as well as part of the military for a decade. My career in technology began in 2010 at Apple. When I came to VMware in 2018, I knew this was a special place: “a community inside a company.”

It is meaningful to me how VMware demonstrates its commitment to be a force for good. I feel supported by my team and the broader VMware community — and I love that all of us have access to opportunities to make a difference in ways that matter to each of us.

In this photo, I conducted the Chicago All-City Orchestra at Symphony Center in 2012.

This is a montage of the music I’ve created as a teacher and performer.

What inspired you to join the Veterans@VMware POD?

It may seem obvious that because I’m a veteran, I wanted to get involved. The truth is “you don’t have to be to belong.” I’m a member of several PODs at VMware, and I passionately advocate for inclusion for our demographic PODs.

Most people often hold incorrect assumptions about a military background. There is such diversity amongst veterans, too. When I share the fact that I was in the Air Force, people ask me if I flew planes. The Air Force recruits dentists and musicians like me, and people are hired to flip burgers. The military teaches you that leadership is not about glory; it is a responsibility and a mission.

The wonderful thing about the veteran community is the inherent quality to put the team first. It’s about the unit, and that camaraderie remains a big draw! It’s amazing to see veterans from around the world come together. We love VMware, and we are proud of our time in the military.

It was an honor performing with the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest at the Wisconsin capitol (Madison, WI) in 2002.

Winding down on a challenging and unpredictable year, what are some of your reflections and hopes for the next year?

This year, the whole world was caught off-guard. We retreated to stay home, and most of us were stuck behind a screen. We can’t be with our loved ones and friends. We can’t travel or see the world.  So, I hope that this feeling of isolation, while it may be temporary, does not alter the way we care about the world outside our little bubble. I’ve held the belief for a long time that if everybody were to make an effort to look beyond their own life — circumstances or privilege — to care about someone else and to make the world a more equitable place, we would all be so much happier!

“We don’t all have to save the world through grand gestures. Doing little things, it adds up.”

This is my beautiful, large family at a basement party I hosted in 2019. I can’t wait for all of us to be together again.

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