Q&A with CREW Atlanta Chapter Director Katie Smith

December 30, 2020

As a way to get to know the CREW Atlanta leadership better, we have been interviewing the board members on their thoughts on CREW Atlanta, the commercial real estate industry, workplace issues and life in general. This month, we caught up with CREW Atlanta Chapter Director Katie Smith.

Q. How has COVID-19 impacted your business?

The coronavirus pandemic, of course, has been a challenge for us. We’re a member-driven organization that absolutely thrives on in-person networking. Luckily, CREW Atlanta was up for the challenge to continue to provide programs, events and networking while making sure that our members are safe. We are all so fortunate to have this virtual platform that allows us to connect and stay connected. We are constantly evaluating the situation and will always do what is best for our members.

Q. What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?

I have always loved all aspects of design, including home and clothes. In fact, I have friends who I help with their home d├ęcor or fashion finds. I’d love to work for or even own a business that helps with both. I think it’s so important to feel confident both in your home and outside of your home.

Q. What do you like about working at CREW Atlanta?

I am fortunate to work alongside so many leaders in commercial real estate – and not just leaders, but female leaders! It’s very empowering and an opportunity that I certainly don’t take for granted.

Q. What keeps you up at night?

Honestly, COVID! I used to be a good sleeper but now, as a mother, wife, daughter and leader, all that’s changed. As a planner and type-A personality, it’s a real challenge to find balance and to operate in the unknown.

Q. What is the most important thing you’re working on right now?

We are currently building out our five-year plan for CREW Atlanta. It is the perfect time to focus on what should stay the same, what we should improve upon and where we want to go as an organization.

Q. What makes a successful leader?

A successful leader is one who is able do a good job choosing her team. She’s able to make good choices, and then lets her people do what they do best. A good leader empowers and doesn’t micromanage.

Q. What commercial real estate trend is top of mind?

Right now, it’s the shift away from “co-habitation,” or what most of us think of as the open office plan. Tenants want to feel safe in their work environments. This gets as detailed as spaces smelling “Clorox clean” and having highly visible cleaning crews. It’s really a complete rethinking and redesign.

Q. What is your best advice for women in commercial real estate?

I’d advise those just starting out to get a mentor in the industry – someone mid- to senior-level who is trustworthy and can help guide your choices. It’s not easy, especially because women are still underrepresented in commercial real estate. And of course, join CREW Atlanta!

Q. What are you most proud of?

Several years ago, I made a conscious decision to quit complaining about the negative things in my life and focus on making things better. That shift to an improved quality of life led me here to CREW Atlanta, and it’s made me a better person all around.

Q. What are your favorite words of wisdom?

Not to be corny, but “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Those words really permeate my professional and personal outlooks.

Q. Who is a mentor or a personal hero?

My father is my hero! He’s such an amazing man. He’s always positive, he’s encouraging, he’s successful. He’s really tall but is, in fact, a gentle giant. He’s been a huge supporter of me having a meaningful, successful career.

Q. What keeps you busy outside of work?

My family, of course. Exercise is really important, too. I thrive on the social aspects of it as well as the physical and mental benefits. And importantly, exercise allows me to pursue my love of food and wine! It doesn’t matter if it’s Waffle House or Atlanta’s finest restaurant, I love to eat! I love being surrounded by friends and sharing those experiences.

Q. What is your last book read, interesting article read or movie seen?

I love “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. It’s her story of being raised homeless in a dysfunctional family and overcoming those challenges to graduate from college and write a wildly successful memoir.

Q. What is your favorite travel destination or place you hope to visit?

St. Simons Island is a second home to me. I grew up going there with my family, and my husband and I were married there. When I cross that bridge, my blood pressure drops, and I’m overcome by calm. It’s the best!

Q. What would you like to share about your family?

We’re extremely close and very protective. I can tell them anything without fearing judgement and I completely trust their confidence.

Q: What has CREW done for you?

CREW has stretched me in the most positive ways. This organization keeps me on my toes. It pushes me outside of my comfort zone. It’s really helped me grow professionally as well as personally.