From then to now
A bit about me…
I’m Candace Smith, our People Operations Lead for the Americas and have been at Wise for three and a half years. I support our US and Latin American offices.
I’m originally from California however I’ve also spent time living in Washington DC, Pennsylvania and Maryland. However, Tampa, Florida is now home.
An interesting bit about me is that I’m an ambivert meaning that I can very much be a social butterfly at times but the idea of hanging out at home alone, watching Love is Blind can also be the perfect night for me. So depending on who you ask about me, you may get two different answers!
From then to now
As I continue to think about my experiences leading into adulthood, I can say one of the pivotal moments in my life was attending Howard University. This is one of the historically black colleges and universities in the US otherwise known as an HBCU. It was there that I met some key people who transformed my life professionally and personally. I was met with a new layer of multiculturalism which was beautiful and invaluable. This experience also brought a deeper awareness of inequities that were happening throughout both the US and globally, as my fellow students and professors originated from all over the world and were not shy to bring their perspectives to the table. This challenged me to act and think in a more selfless manner.
Fast forwarding to post-college, I took on a managerial role in the food retail industry and wore a lot of different hats to say the least. Being in that role helped me filter out what elements were most intriguing and of highest priority to me. Oftentimes, it involved gravitating back towards the pieces tied to supporting and engaging team members through the workplace.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a variety of roles in the Human Resources (HR) space and participate in spaces to shine light on inequities and act as an olive branch to those around me.
I’m not one to brag often but last year I was named as one of the top 40 business leaders under the age of 40 within Tampa Bay by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. This honor was absolutely incredible and I’m proud to say that the foundation of my selection was heavily based upon my commitment to lifting up my community, both in and outside of the workplace. Now, with Wise, I’m grateful to continue on that track with a global presence and impact.
I learned very early on in my career three key elements. One, you need to meet people where they are and invest the time to gain at least a foundational understanding of what’s actually happening on the ground. Your team members are invaluable and deserve the quality investment of your time. Without that, you’re creating an opportunity for inequities to arise rather than planting a seed for collaboration, dedication and parallel understanding.
The second key element is that it’s critical to have at least one trusted mentor in your corner to continue to motivate, challenge and lift you up. I have been fortunate enough to have been mentored by a couple key leaders thus far who have seen potential in me before I can see it myself. One of these key leaders taught me that being a woman in leadership sometimes requires being a little fiery with purpose, while at the same being being empathetic and diplomatic. Not every situation requires this but there certainly is a balancing act.
The third element is continued education. Learning should never stop! Part of my success is due to always trying to be a sponge and constantly seeking opportunities to learn or reinforce elements that are critical to my role and the industry of human resources. Attending seminars, conferences and networking events have been enlightening for me. I also have intentionally attended professional events driven by women in leadership or companies which are woman owned to gain a new perspective that I can relate more closely to.
I’ve been fortunate to have experienced roles where I can make a direct impact in reducing inequities. One experience that particularly stands out from a prior life includes managing CARE, which was an employee sponsored non-profit program. This program was fully funded through employee donations and fundraising events conducted throughout the year. It was such an enriching experience to see our employee community and leadership team come together to rally behind those in need. The requests for assistance that came through were honestly quite heartbreaking at times and I still get chills thinking about the hardship that certain individuals endured ranging from oppression to injustice from bias to simply being dealt an unfair infringement that had coerced them in a position of hardship. This really fuelled me to keep pushing for opportunities to reduce gaps of inequity.
Presently, being a leader within People Operations gives me the opportunity to act as a spokesperson for those who may not feel represented or have a seat at the table. I recognize that I am privileged to be in a role where I can advocate for these kinds of changes. Creating a diverse, inclusive and safe space is critical, especially considering all the worldly events that are constantly evolving and their continued impact. I am fully aware (and glad) however that this is not a one woman show. We all have a responsibility to respect, educate and tactfully challenge each when we see opportunities for positive change and progression. I’m thankful to be part of the Wise journey in which these responsibilities are taken seriously and we can visibly see the embrace of equity.