Meet Lindy Smiley, SVP and Global Head of Starwood Property Trust, as well as the Co-Chair of TCI South Florida. We asked Lindy to share some of her background, how she got started in her career path, what advice she has for other women who are just starting out, and how being a part of TCI has benefitted her. Here’s what she had to say.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your background, please?
LS: I was always very business-focused and knew I wanted to get a business degree, but I didn’t want to only work with numbers. At the time, human resources was really becoming more of a profession and less of a back office function. So I decided to major in business with a concentration in HR.
Q: What made you interested in pursuing a career in business?
LS: The dream that I had was to become a newscaster or professional interviewer, but I realized that that would be a challenging lifestyle. I’ve always loved talking to people and asking questions—I dreamed of having my own show one day. So it was marrying the corporate world business side with the human side of things.
Q: Who were your role models/mentors?
LS: As I was starting out my career in New York and worked for Moody’s Investors Service and Morgan Stanley, a couple of women I reported to really inspired me. They were successful in their careers while balancing families. I really looked up to those qualities.
Q: What are some work/life balance tips you could share?
LS: It’s important to have a good support system—whether that’s your husband, babysitter, or someone else. You can’t be everything to everyone at the same time. When my role got bigger, I knew I had to make a really big commitment from a time standpoint. That meant going home when the job is done, not rushing out at 6:00. Sometimes you have to make a sacrifice for a certain period of time. But that doesn’t meant it’s forever. It’s impossible to be really successful at your job, be home, have dinner on the table, and be at all of your kids’ events. Accept when you can do things and when you can’t. Learn to say no to things.
Q: What do you accredit your success to?
LS: I’ve always been very disciplined. I get things done. Sometimes I’m disciplined to a fault. For example, if there’s a party and it’s going late, I’m not going to stay late to the party so I won’t be able to get up in the morning. But I’m okay with that because for me, it works. In order to keep equilibrium in my life, I have to have that schedule. I get up at a certain time, exercise, and work at certain times. That’s what works for me. Everyone’s personality is different, but being disciplined, organized, and not procrastinating is helpful. There’s a saying that “it’s better done than perfect.” I’m okay living with something being good enough versus being perfect.
Q: Can you think of a particular project or accomplishment that was a turning point for you in your career?
LS: I think when I moved into the head of HR role, that was a huge turning point for me because it was really taking me to the next level. It was very scary because I was going to be in charge of things that I didn’t really know that much about, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I learned so much in such a short period of time.
Q: What advice would you give to other women who may be starting their own
business venture or are trying to get their foot in the door in your industry?
LS: One thing that I really believe in is that the harder you work, the luckier you get. Coming into the work force, do what you’re asked—don’t feel like anything is beneath you. Go in with the right attitude. You’re going to learn something from everything you do. Even the grunt work is important, and you have to grind it out in order to get to the next level. So don’t diminish that grunt work in the beginning.
Q: Have you experienced any hardships being a woman in a field dominated by men?
LS: I’ve always tried to focus on being the best that I can be and not focus on the fact that I’m a woman. I appreciate the fact that there are differences between men and women and try to use those differences and similarities to help a situation rather than have them be a hindrance.
Q: How has being a part of TCI benefitted you?
LS: I think it has allowed me to give back to the community. When starting out, it’s very much me-focused—moving ahead and becoming successful. Then you get to a certain point where you’ve reached that goal and want to help others. For me, it was about helping other women come along, and this is giving me the avenue to do that.
Q: Can you provide an example of how being a member of TCI has helped you overcome a challenge or problem you may have faced in a tech-driven business?
LS: When I was part of the Executive Forum, one of the things that we had the opportunity to do was present a current challenge and talk it out with the group to get different perspectives. This allowed me to meet with women from different industries and professions and help them see things differently, too. My resources within my organization are somewhat limited, so being part of TCI and part of the forum broadened my network.
Q: How important is it for you to have a community where you can gather with like-minded women and exchange ideas?
LS: It is really important because when you come into work every day, you’re in your routine and with the same people. The thing I love about TCI is that I’ve had the chance to meet so many really talented women in so many different areas. It’s such a diverse organization in terms of the industries we tap into and the careers these women have. When you’re in a larger city like Miami, this is a way to make the city a little smaller and connect you with really talented people.