Madison Alder Maurice Cheeks’ career as a technology executive — currently, he’s VP of business development at MIOSoft — goes back to middle school, when he took computer classes or even fixed a cordless phones.
“Ever since then, I had this desire to understand how technology works and actually how to build technology,” Cheeks says. Learning technology and loving it, he knew even then that “the future of jobs is all going to be technology.”
The first time Cheeks experienced technology in the employment world was working his favorite high school job, selling cell phones out of a mall kiosk.
“I liked interacting with strangers, I liked technology so it felt exciting to me to be able to offer this to people,” he says.
While studying computers in high school, Maurice knew that he wanted to work for a computer company. Growing up in the diverse Chicago suburb of Matteson, big companies such as Apple and Microsoft were “non-existent” and were only prevalent in places like California. He didn’t have a vision of his dream of working for a computer company becoming true until one day when he found out that Apple Campus Rep Programs were recruiting on campuses. That’s when he decided, “I want to work for Apple.”
The only problem was that there were no Apple Reps on the campus of Cheeks’ alma mater Eastern Illinois University. With the determination to make his dream come true, Maurice “spent a year trying to chase down” the Apple employee that is responsible for the state of Illinois, later finding out that it was a woman named Roberta. Roberta was a big inspiration for him. “I wanted to do what Roberta did, I wanted to work for apple, work with schools”, he said, “that’s what brought me to Wisconsin.”
Not only was working at the mall kiosk a technological experience for Cheeks, but also a political one.
“That was probably my first taste of sales and also politics, right?” he says. “This idea of shaking hands and interacting with strangers, and getting to know them, being able to sort of quickly ask questions and listen. To think about okay, what is it in your life that I might be able to be helpful for.”
Cheeks was also inspired to go into politics by Barack Obama, before he was president. Cheeks describes the time in 2006 when Barack Obama spoke at his college and how it was the “first experience thinking about the potential impact of politics.”
Obama’s ambition was inspiring to Cheeks. “I saw how strongly he believed that government could be a part of helping people, the government could play a serious role in shaping a stronger society,” he says. “I could look out for more people and anticipate the future and needs of our society.”
Seeing Obama speak was also surprising on a racial level. “I never thought of a politician that looked like me,” he says. He describes this experience as the point in which the seed was planted that “politics are interesting.”
Cheeks was first elected to Madison’s Common Council in 2013, and has already been mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate, but he hasn’t thrown his hat in the ring just yet. After just being re-elected to the city council this past April, Cheeks says, “I’m just focused on doing the best work that I can for my constituents”.
While Maurice describes working full time and serving on the Council as “hard to juggle”, he has a hard work ethic passed down from his father.
“My dad worked two jobs my whole life”, he says. “Working a full time job and serving on the city council is a tremendous amount of work, but it almost seems normal because that’s the way I was raised.”
When asked his opinion on the current proposal to name the City County Building being Obama, Cheeks says, “Barack Obama’s legacy is worthy of a larger community discussion.”
The name isn’t much of his focus though. Cheeks says that he’s “much more interested in us not using that building for a jail than I am putting Barack Obama’s name on that building.”
So what should be done instead? “I think there will be certainly a time where we have a community discussion about the best way to honor one of the best presidents America has ever had,” says Cheeks. “Whether we name a school after him or a park.” Cheeks thinks that in order to ensure great significance, this needs to be done with community engagement and insight from the Obama Foundation, and that whatever is done, “needs to be flattering to Obama legacy.”
This profile was produced by a student journalist in the Madison365 Academy. To learn more and to support our educational programs, visit madison365.org/academy.