Winning the 2021 Louis B. Marks Award from the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) is one of the many accomplishments of engineering pioneer Cheryl English, Vice President of Public Policy for Acuity Brands. With 40 years and counting at Acuity, Cheryl has spent her career working on behalf of innovation and sustainability in the lighting industry while also paving the way for women in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Cheryl started with Acuity in application engineering, then moved to lighting software development, testing labs, the lighting education center, and marketing. Currently, Cheryl leads Acuity's public policy and government regulation department, where she informs and updates Congress and other legislative bodies on lighting technologies and Acuity’s mission. In addition, Cheryl and her team have been instrumental in driving Acuity's sustainability programs to reduce the company's global carbon footprint. Due to the pandemic, Cheryl has been meeting virtually with congressional staff and committee leaders to discuss energy policy, taxes, tariffs, cyber security, procurement, and challenges in the global supply chain.
Cheryl's involvement with the IES spans four decades. Throughout her career, and with Acuity's full support, Cheryl has served in multiple volunteer capacities within the IES organization, most recently as the 2017 - 2018 president. To her, the IES Marks Award was the culmination of decades of service, which included serving as past president, president, and chair of various committees. She was also heavily involved in implementing light pollution and dark sky policies. In addition, Cheryl currently serves as chair of the IES Ethics Committee and is a member of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect (DEIR) Committee. Her impactful contributions to IES have added even more value to the organization, its members, and the lighting industry.
Cheryl served on the board of the National Institute of Building Sciences. She is a recipient of the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association (NEMA) Kite and Key Award for service to the electroindustry and the University of Colorado Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award.
It's hard for Cheryl to pinpoint which aspect of her Acuity career she's enjoyed the most. Still, she knows which accomplishment she's most proud of, and that's being the first woman to achieve the title of Vice President in the mid-1990s. Growing up in the engineering industry, Cheryl realized the gender deficit, especially in the construction industry. She was particularly proud to be recognized and then elevated to be a role model for the women to come into the field after her. Cheryl now invests a good deal of her energy in mentoring associates and other young professionals, cementing her legacy in the industry she loves.
Below, we asked Cheryl about her advice for women looking to build careers in STEM and her interests beyond the workplace.
Do you have any advice for recent graduates starting their careers?
Engage with associates in the field and follow your passion. You can learn so much from other seasoned professionals, and they are anxious to help young professionals. Attend conferences and programs to build your network. As you progress in your career, you don’t have to follow a traditional path. Instead, find what you love, and make a case for new opportunities to create change.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
I was an avid motorcyclist years ago – although I have given it up at this stage in my life.
These days, I love to kayak and have turned that passion into one of the top fundraisers for the Alzheimer’s Association in the Georgia/North Carolina/South Carolina region. In 2021, my fundraiser was #4 in Georgia and #7 in the region. You can view my story and photo at http://act.alz.org/goto/CherylEnglish.