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Time to Celebrate Women in Telecommunications 

March 8, 2024

International Women's Day has arrived, and we're here to celebrate one of the amazing women who make the online world tick. In honor of International Women's Day, we interviewed Cheryl Rue, the CEO of Tri-County Communications Cooperative (TCC) in Strum, Wisconsin. Cheryl is one of only three female CEOs in Wisconsin’s telecommunications industry. The telecommunications industry, while historically male-dominated, is seeing a rise in the number of women taking on key roles. Cheryl is a prime example of this!

Cheryl started at TCC in 1989 where she worked part-time. This was perfect for Cheryl at that time, as she was beginning her journey as a young mom. As her kids grew, so did her desire to learn more about the telecommunications industry. When her second child entered grade school, she decided to take a full-time position with TCC. From there, Cheryl did a little bit of everything at TCC, from customer service to accounting. In 2009 Cheryl earned the CEO position and has been leading TCC ever since.

Looking back on her career, Cheryl is proud of being able to learn all aspects of the business and work herself from the bottom up. Her willingness to learn and grow along with the cooperative has been the key to her success. Reflecting on when she first began her career at TCC, she never imagined she would be the CEO today!  

Cheryl recognizes that she couldn’t have done this alone. She takes great pride in her team stating, “We have some really good and talented people.” Ensuring her team is taken care of is one of Cheryl’s top priorities as CEO. Her belief when it comes to leading a large team is that family comes first. Afterall, life is short, and employees are at their best when they are thriving both at home and at work. With this value in mind, Cheryl has been able to provide individual accommodations for staff who need to attend to personal matters. Sometimes that means letting staff have a more flexible work schedule or allowing someone to alter their job responsibilities while they recover from surgery. Cheryl understands first-hand how important it is for businesses to give their employees the ability to attend to family matters. Early in her career, she had to juggle a young family and later took care of an aging parent. Both of which demanded her time and energy alongside work!

When asked what advice Cheryl would give women who are interested in this career, Cheryl said, “Make sure you take care of yourself first, because you can’t take care of anything or anyone if you’re not taken care of.” Her next piece of advice is to do your best and let go of guilt. She remembers sometimes having to miss one of her kid’s baseball games or decline a conference for work, but she always prioritized what was truly important to her.  Lastly, Cheryl encourages young women to not be afraid to jump in and ask questions. While it may feel uncomfortable or challenging, working hard to ensure you don’t put yourself on an island is so important. Start small by getting to know people and remain curious. This type of growth-mindset will help set you apart put you on a path of continued learning.

Cheryl’s leadership, approach to managing her teams and hard work is inspiring. She has demonstrated how you can start small (by stuffing envelopes) and work your way through an organization by remaining curious, learning and growing with that organization. Cheryl, we applaud all your accomplishments and contributions to the telecommunications industry.