Teresa Smith is the manager of the Albany Welcome Center in downtown Albany.
For weary travelers who visit the Albany Welcome Center, Teresa Smith and the staff often provide their first impression of Albany.
She intends to make it a lasting one.
Their technique seems to be working. She remembers an encounter with a couple from Albany, N.Y., who enjoyed their time in Albany and their experience at the welcome center so much that they’re now one of the more avid subscribers to the center’s newsletter. They frequently send e-mails asking about upcoming events and checking on their “sister city.”
Smith shared this story and more recently in an interview with J.D. Sumner.
Q. What was your first job?
A. My first job was working in a jewelry booth at Albany Mall. I remember that I was so embarrassed because my parents were actually some of my first customers because they were so excited for me. I really enjoyed that job. It was in the center of the mall. I met several people throughout the day so working in jewelry, it was just awesome.
NAME: Teresa Smith
POSITION: Manager, Albany Welcome Center.
FAMILY: Married with an 11-year-old son.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Monroe High School and Darton College and is working towards a Business Administration degree from Albany State University.
Q. What did you buy with your first paycheck?
A. Well, actually J.D., I didn’t spend my first paycheck, I saved it with a few others to assist my parents to help me to purchase my first computer.
Q. What is your primary source of motivation?
A. I believe what keeps me motivated is the satisfaction I get from serving my community. I’m hometown grown and I feel like it’s a privilege to work in the position that I’m in and to actually give back and assist with improving, entertaining and I guess just being an asset to the overall city.
Q. What led you to this position?
A. I’ve worked several years already in the hospitality industry, working in retail and restaurants. And I believe my past experiences only led me into this position. For the past four years I’ve worked progressively in the CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) where I’ve served in many roles and I’ve learned several responsibilities and learned numerous functions of the CVB. So, to wrap it up, I guess I’d say that being in this position was pretty much a given for me.
Q. What activities or hobbies did you have in high school or college?
A. I was in cheerleading and also I was a band member. I was in the Monroe High School Marching Band. I played clarinet. I participated in other science club stuff; I was a science fanatic. I love science and I participated in science clubs in high school, not so much in college.
Q. Have you had any role models?
A. I would say that I’ve been very fortunate to have several role models and mentors throughout my educational and professional career. But ultimately I would say that my parents are the model for my work ethic and they have instituted several qualities that have developed me in leadership, developed me into being a good leader.
Q. What types of activities do you enjoy doing on your off time?
A. I’m reading constantly. I also took a new interest in running. I work out with my husband a lot and I love attending his performances. He’s a musician so I often just follow him around and go to his gigs and things. My son is very active and I’m very supportive of him in my free time. He’s active in football, baseball and pretty much changing his interests — probably every other week we’re doing something new.
Q. Do you have a favorite work-related gadget?
A. My iPad. It is great because my workdays are so busy and I’m constantly on the go so it keeps me organized and it has great apps for out-of-the-office usage.
Q. What book are you currently reading?
A. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and I read a lot of Joyce Meyers’ literature. She is very inspirational and she does teach quality Christian leadership I overall admire her morals and values in leaders. I also read my Bible daily and I don’t begin my work day until I have read my devotional reading.
Q. If you could meet a famous person, who would it be?
A. I would say that I would probably like to meet First Lady Michelle Obama. I admire Michelle because she addresses herself as a mother first. It’s hard for women to balance both their career and their families so to see someone in the highest position in the United States of America be able to do that successfully is very inspirational for me. I do value her initiative — the let’s make a move initiative — to assist parents in promoting a healthier lifestyle for our children.
Q. What’s the best thing about your job?
A. The best thing about my job is meeting new people. Like I said previously, I just really consider it a privilege to be able to promote Albany and that being the focus of what I do.
Q. Being at the welcome center, have you met anyone that you’ve forged a lasting connection with?
A. I had a couple who came in ... when they came in the door they said they were from our sister city in Albany, N.Y. And they told me about all the interesting things ... and just loving our rich southern heritage. They were so warming and they were a funny couple and I got them actually to host a visitor’s spotlight. They got on our newsletter sign-in and so they’ve been communicating with us back and forth.
Q. What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
A. To be honest, I really enjoy my job. I would say that the biggest thing that has kind of been a blessing and a curse is the travel in my job because I have a family. Because I do have a family it does get difficult to pick up and go to these conferences but luckily I have a husband who has been very supportive of me and very understanding of my need to be out of the office to promote Albany.
Q. What is the one trait that a business leader cannot be without?
A. Courage. I believe courage is essential in facing competition and handling business challenges and failures. I don’t believe you can be an effective leader without courage. I try to remember Winston Churchill’s quote regarding courage: “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all of the others.”
Q. What is the most effective technique you’ve found to deal with employees and colleagues?
A. I coach my employees. I make them feel like assets to the organization. I seek their feedback, encourage new ideas. I praise them for the individual contributions and I definitely try to lead by example. There isn’t anything I ask them to do that they won’t see me doing as well.