Tieisha Smith, Chief Administration Officer Infrastructure Tech Marsh & McLennan
Written by Sonakshi Pandey
Women Who Code Podcast — Episode 35 | Spotify — iTunes — Google — YouTube — Text Version
Nonlinear Paths to Leadership with Tieisha Smith, Chief Administration Officer for Infrastructure Technology at Marsh & McLennan. Then, Machine Learning for Gesture Recognition with Ying Liu. Followed by, Thinking About Career Goals with Winna Bridgewater.
Sonakshi Pandey, Data Analytics at Google and Cloud Track Lead at Women Who Code interviews Tieisha Smith, Chief Administration Officer for Infrastructure Technology at Marsh & McLennan. Tieisha talks about her non-linear path to leadership, how her time at Marsh & McLennan has helped her achieve her goals and her advice for future leaders.
Tell us about your career journey.
My career has been a series of happy accidents. I did not know what I wanted in my career. My initial major was computer information systems. As I started taking the courses, I found that programming came easy to me, but it just wasn’t something that I was interested in. I switched my major to business with a concentration in marketing, and somehow I still ended up in tech. I started my career in support. I worked at a help desk and supported an application that was used by insurance agents. I had learned that application so well that when an opportunity came up on the QA team that tested that application, they tapped me for it. I think this was the first of many roles that I accepted in my career where I didn’t have direct experience, but I was able to leverage transferable skills.
After a few years, I moved on to another role, I became a business analyst. Then I moved on from that company and I started with the company that I’m with today. I took a step back just to get my foot in the door at this company. I started back in support again, but it was a lot more of a technical role. I was doing things that I had not done before. After a while, I think about two years of being in that role, I became a manager of that team. Then we went through a re-work, so we became more of a shared services organization for IT.
At that time, I had started learning ITIL. My entire career had been on the software side of things, now I was moving into infrastructure, which is completely different. I was moving into process management, also completely different. I asked to be on the change management team even though I didn’t have any relevant experience. Someone thought enough of me to say, “You know what, I’m going to give you a shot.” After about a year, I was promoted to the Global Lead of that team.
When I started to finish up my MBA, I started thinking that I wanted to manage a bigger team. I wanted to get more involved in budget and strategy. I took a different role and was responsible for service delivery and end-user support. That role was pivotal in my career because it prepared me for the role that I’m in now. I’m managing the operations for the IT organization. Once again, it was a role that I didn’t have direct experience in. Every role that I had taken in the past had prepared me.
How has Marsh McLennan been supportive of your career ambitions?
Marsh & McLennan has been very supportive of my career ambitions. One of the things that were very attractive to me about Marsh & McLennan was the benefits that they offer. I have been able to obtain several certifications and complete an MBA, all debt-free. I’ve had a number of mentors and sponsors, both formal and informal, that have aided in my development. I’ve also worked under managers and management teams that created a culture that I felt enabled me to be open about my career aspirations. I can’t speak enough about how Marsh & McLennan has aided in my career ambitions.
How did you get into leadership?
Getting into leadership took years of preparation. You have to work at this. You have to build a reputation of being forward-thinking and doing great work. I broadened my skill set, got my MBA, and took different roles. Those things were important in my journey, also building and maintaining relationships.
What is your superpower?
This is an interesting question. I think I may have two superpowers. My creativity has served me well in my career. Talent development is another superpower for me. I enjoy seeing my team members develop and flourish in their careers. The company is only as good as its people and I enjoy helping others reach their goals.
What is your advice for women who want to get into leadership roles?
Understand the skills and experience required for the role you want. Be intentional with the moves you make in your career. Seek mentors and sponsors. A mentor is going to help you develop, help you be able to navigate. A sponsor is going to be that person that opens the door for opportunity. Raise your hand for stretch assignments and roles. Don’t be afraid. In my career journey, every role that I’ve taken, I didn’t have direct experience in. I was successful because I believed in myself.
What are you passionate about outside work?
I love music. I’m an avid concertgoer. A new passion that I’m developing is building furniture. Completely different from what I do in my career.
Any pro-tip for women in tech?
Always operate with integrity. Being a woman in tech is not easy, and if you’re a black woman in tech, it’s that much harder. You have to be the best. That means knowing your stuff, being invested in learning, and being committed to life-long learning. Technology is always changing. Stay curious, ask questions, and be open to new experiences. Pay attention to your money. That’s something that we don’t talk about enough. Make sure that you take advantage of what your company offers, in terms of investments and savings.