South Orange, N.J.
As a basketball-playing tomboy growing up in West Philadelphia, Penn., Cheryl Walker-Robertson despised the etiquette classes her mother made her attend. Reintroduced to the subject years later as a flight attendant for Pan American Airlines, she had a change of heart. “The Pan Am training was very intense,” says Walker-Robertson. “Flying — I had new clients in different cultures every single day — I loved understanding what we had to face, what people would be like, and what we should expect culturally.”
Today, Walker-Robertson combines her PanAm training and experience in sales and marketing in her role as executive vice president of Odyssey Media, a marketing and communications company serving C-level executive women worldwide. Similarly, her training is reflected in Protocol International, a successful business she founded in 2000 to educate others about etiquette, protocol and civility, serving as its executive director. She co-authored The Power of Civility, which offers practical suggestions for incorporating civility into work and life, and writes for a host of trade and business publications.
Walker-Robertson earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Saint Augustine’s College and has studied under Dorothea Johnson, protocol adviser to the Washington, D.C., diplomatic community. She holds certificates in management, negotiations, and cultural competence from Penn State University, Notre Dame and Berlitz, respectively. Her first business, Postal Pal, was a graduation present from her parents, Dennet and Larcena Walker. “I always felt like I had a safety net no matter what risk I took or what direction I went in,” says Walker-Robertson. “Even if I failed I could always count on my parents. They’d always dust me off and push me back out there.”
She provides similar support to women starting their own businesses in urban areas in the United States and overseas. “Women-owned businesses could be the key to economic development in [underserved] communities,” she says.