Imagine hearing that you’ve been promoted and named a rising star in your industry on the same day. That is exactly what happened to Kesley Smith, ’16, MS ’18 this fall.
A graduate of the college’s M.S. in Business program, Smith was promoted to director of business development and corporate communications at Greenleaf Book Group in August and was notified that she was named a Publishers Weekly Star Watch 2020 Honoree the same day.
Those that know Smith wouldn’t be surprised to hear of her accomplishments just two years after completing her graduate degree. Full of enthusiasm and energy, Smith has been driven to succeed throughout both her educational and professional career.
Since becoming a Roadrunner in 2012, Smith fell in love with San Antonio and the UTSA campus. She earned her bachelor’s in public relations in Fall 2016 and moved ahead with her educational goals and joined the M.S. Business program in 2017.
“Finding the MSB program was a blessing,” said Smith. “The faculty made themselves consistently available to us. And, I met some of my best friends in that program. Being in a cohort with so many different people who come from different backgrounds was inspiring. We were all working toward a common goal.”
Smith credits the program with helping her develop both her leadership skills as well as learning to work as part of a team.
Six months prior to graduation she began looking for a new career in Austin. She worked full time as a senior digital marketing specialist while she was in the program. The position with Greenleaf Book Group appealed to her because of her love of books, her ability to grow professionally and her alignment with the company values. She began her role right after graduation.
“This job tests my creativity and innovativeness,” said Smith. “I’ve had to learn the ropes of the publishing industry. There have many different learning curves. But, as a newer role within the company, I’ve been able to help shape this position.”
Smith is responsible for Greenleaf’s brand both on and offline. With her background in digital marketing she was able to increase the company’s social media presence, increase traffic to their website and spearhead a number of digital marketing initiatives to attract new business. As head of the submissions team, she brings in authors and works to develop new strategic partnerships.
Through her two years with the company, Smith names three accomplishments that she values the most. First, within three months of starting her role, she launched a health and wellness imprint for the company, Well Spirit Press. Her boss had tasked her with attaining this goal within the first year.
Next, the company has seen their best author submission numbers within the past year under Smith’s guidance. Bringing in new authors through a variety of channels (social media, lead generation, brand awareness and outreach) is a key role of her department.
Finally, she was able to build Greenleaf’s social media presence from the ground up. Under her leadership, social media impressions have been consistently up at least 10% month over month for a year straight.
Wanting to help other students succeed when they enter the workplace, Smith had a few tips for current students.
“Don’t restrict yourself to apply for positions that you think are out of your league” she said. “Before starting a new position, do a lot of research and ask how success will be measured in that position. Be proactive, be collaborative and be a self-starter.”
Smith’s future plans include expanding her professional skill set, working to establish an organization to empower young girls and ultimately authoring a book of her own in the self-help space.
“I’m grateful for the mentorship and support that I’ve had from my CEO,” said Smith. “She has helped me grow as a professional as well as a person and as a leader. I’ve been able to grow with this company and thrive somewhere that embraces and respects my creativity.”