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Cheryl Hancock Makes One of Greatest Career Moves- Pursuing a Graduate Program for Herself

When Cheryl Hancock, the SVP director of learning and development for a regional bank, realized that her role as full-time working mother would be changing with her youngest child graduating from high school, she knew it was time to make a move – for herself. 

Today, she’s a proud student in Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies Project Management Masters program. 

In this Q&A, Cheryl reflects on the journey to making this decision, and how important a decision it was professionally and personally.

Cheryl Hancock headshot

Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies (Wake SPS): Tell us a little bit about your career. 

Cheryl Hancock (CH): I started working in financial institutions in 1997 before then moving into learning and development in 1999. Today, I work as the Director of Learning and Development for Carter Bank & Trust. 

I am responsible for making sure that training is developed and delivered to both new and existing associates. My team and I work on all projects throughout the organization providing direction for training development and execution.  

Wake SPS: Why did you decide to pursue a Masters degree in Project Management at this time in your career? 

CH: Early in my career, I was introduced to Six Sigma through a Design for Six Sigma project.  I loved it. I ended up earning my Greenbelt [in project management], and I was hooked on the methodology. 

When I decided to pursue a Masters in Project Management, the time was just right.  I am a working mother, and I have always been very involved in my children’s lives. Until now, I did not feel the time was right because I could not devote the time required for a grad program. And I did not want to miss out on anything with my children! Now that my youngest is a senior in high school, I can start focusing on myself. 

Additionally, this was the first time I have seen this program offered as a masters program, and it really excited me.  Wake Forest University has done a great job of allowing someone with a full-time job and home responsibilities to work through this program –  everything is online and built out in short cycles.    

Wake SPS: What’s your most insightful or important technical lesson you’ve learned so far that you’ve been able to apply to your work? 

CH: One of the most important lessons that I’ve re-learned is the power of building the right team to make sure the general management of the project is properly aligned. While all parts of a project are extremely important, if the initiation and planning are not properly done the execution will not be successful. As well, I love the Critical Path Method – this helps to better define a timeline as opposed to just “guessing” when the project will be complete.

Wake SPS: What have you learned about yourself through this learning process/journey? 

CH: I have learned I can do it.  I have learned I have better time management than I realized, and I can “have it all”.  I have continued to perform well at work.  I have still been able to be present in my children’ lives while also doing well in school.   

Wake SPS: What excites you about the future? How has the Project Management program helped you with that? 

CH: I did not commit to this program in hopes of a better job or more money. I did this program for me.   I did this because I wanted to better myself.  Project Management is a methodology that can be used in all aspects of your life, professionally and personally. Taking on a Masters program has kept me engaged and “young”.  It gives me hope for a future beyond raising children.  It re-introduced me to me – doing something for myself.  Showing my children you never stop learning and growing.  It has helped me remember anything is possible at any time in your life.  Life is not linear; it is always changing and going in all kinds of directions. With that said, I am excited about the unlimited possibilities with a Masters in Project Management.

Wake SPS: What’s your advice to someone looking to pursue graduate studies right now? 

CH: As a learning and development professional, I can tell you that one thing the COVID-19 pandemic taught us is that people can learn and be successful outside of the traditional classroom. Going back to school is scary, but programs today are built to support the full-time employee and parent. So, go for it! Do not let your age intimidate you. Take it one step, one day and one class at a time.  Don’t try to plan out every detail up front.  It can get overwhelming, and if you just breathe and take one step at a time ALL will be great. 

Years ago, an executive told me something that I live by: “Control the Controllable”.  Best advice I have ever received. Trust that the rest will fall in place after you take a move for yourself.  


To learn more about the Wake SPS’s Project Management program, read more here