Hi, I’m Erica Smith, Client Executive, and I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina, by way of New Jersey. Not many may know this, but Jersey is a soccer hotbed and where I developed my love for the “beautiful game.” Having played many years competitively for local, club and Olympic Development teams I can say (with pride) that I captained a State Championship team and earned a D1 full-ride scholarship to play at UMass Amherst. As coincidence would have it, I turned my passion on the field into my education path and majored in sport management via the prestigious Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management in the Isenberg School of Business. I strongly believe that combination — dedication to the game I love and formal education in the business of sport — was the catalyst and early training ground for my start in sales.
As I navigated career possibilities, I thought it natural to pursue a job in sport. But as I learned very early-on, you have to keep your options open and approach even an unexpected path as a chance to grow. I was encouraged by my father (a careered senior global sales leader) to look at sales as I did soccer. At first, the thought of selling seemed like such a divergence from my skill set, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. The aspects of teaming and collaboration, working diligently to tackle challenges and achieve goals/aspirations — are all critical components of the game. So when I stepped into the (inside) sales field, my competitive instincts ignited and I found myself excelling in an area where I had never thought to play. The education and training I received from UMass Amherst helped me understand the psychology of the “buyer” and how, regardless of what industry, one can gain a deeper understanding of the customer to help enable success. This is something I carry with me to this day and continuously ask myself, “How am I enabling my customers’ success, and how will that, in turn, yield my own success?” I’m also confident it’s the reason I grew quickly in the first few years of my career in role and responsibility, and certainly what led me to Gartner.
At a certain point in my early career, many of my colleagues whom I respected and adored made the transition to Gartner. They would rave about how deeply they could cultivate relationships with clients (predominately across the C-suite), the complexity of the challenges they were helping to solve, the brilliance of the team members around them — from Sales, to Research, to Consulting, to Events — and the overarching supportive and collaborative culture. It was evident that Gartner was a place where I could continuously grow, excel and practice work-life harmony. I was referred into Gartner by one of my former colleagues and secured a role working with Large Enterprise CIO organizations in the Carolinas as a Senior Account Executive. An abundance of learning came from that first role, but what stands out is that grit and resiliency will enable the most rewarding growth. Our clients have equally arduous and thrilling opportunities to influence and shape the transformation of their organizations, and this doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges. Helping my customers navigate turbulent waters and knowing when to confidently challenge their approach built greater trust and credibility to the point where I could be viewed as an extension of their team.
What I absolutely love about Gartner is everyone’s willingness to help and the sheer brilliance in my teammates and leaders across every function. I learn from my colleagues every day and am challenged to keep my skills sharp and my mindset open for continuous growth. I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors during my tenure at Gartner and what I’ve learned from them is that if you build and diversify your network (different functional roles, organizations, geographies, etc.), you’ll have many folks that will be keen to support your growth and provide the constructive (and sometimes challenging) feedback necessary for you to overcome obstacles in your day-to-day role and set you up for that next step in your career. The major differentiator has been those who have “sponsored” me, opening doors for opportunities based on the knowledge they’ve obtained about me as a person, as a contributor, as a leader and as a teammate through their mentorship. These leaders live the mantra, “We rise when we lift others,” and embody a pay-it-forward mindset. That has inspired me — and I’m sure a whole host of others — to be unapologetically ambitious and to back it up with the skills and tangible results necessary to become the next generation of leadership at Gartner.
I have been blown away by how open and accepting our leadership is to ideas that will help shape how we collectively grow as an organization. One prime example is my desire to bring Lean In (through the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation) to Gartner. With their support and through the incredible leadership of countless women at Gartner, we have created an expansive global network of Gartner Lean In Circles focused on the development of future women leaders in our business and, most importantly, on cultivating a diverse and inclusive organization. As Chair for Women at Gartner, an employee resource group (ERG), I will lead our global ERG’s efforts to provide our women associates with the tools, skills, and networks necessary to achieve their ambitions. I continue to be inspired by how we’ve rallied around the notion that we are better together – women and men – and will continue to bring Gartner to new heights.
Gartner is an organization where you can write your own script and chart your own path toward growth. There is an abundance of opportunity, but what I’ve found to be critical is to have your own personal vision for where you want to go and how you want to get there. From there, your body of work and your network will help you get to that next step.
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