Kiley Smith (’04) believes in giving back, whether it’s helping underprivileged students in Philadelphia or entrepreneurs in Santiago, Chile. She spent five weeks on a sabbatical from Ernst & Young to travel to Santiago and provide advice to a start-up software company. A mathematics major with double minors in international studies and political science, she has worked with Ernst & Young since graduating and is now a manager in the Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services practice in Philadelphia, Pa.
How were you selected for this program?
For the past six years, Ernst & Young’s Corporate Responsibility Fellows Program has sent high-performing managers and senior managers from the U.S. and Canada to assist entrepreneurs in emerging markets. The entrepreneurs are identified by Endeavor, an international non-profit organization, as high-impact business opportunities with the potential to create substantial customer value, jobs and economic activity in emerging markets. I was selected for the highly competitive program based on my on-the-job performance, my commitment to corporate responsibility and volunteerism, as well as strong recommendations from my colleagues on my ability to succeed in the environment.
What did you do while you were in Chile?
I lived in Santiago for a five-week business advisory project, free of charge, for an emerging market entrepreneur in the academic software sector. This was one of my most challenging career experiences to date! Not only was I helping a dynamic business achieve its goals for growth, I was also adapting to a different culture, learning the nuances of doing business in an emerging market, and finding ways to engage and energize a diverse management team.
Within my first week as a CR Fellow, I could already see the growing pains that the entrepreneur faced trying to transform the start-up business into a multinational software company. Through strategy sessions with the top executives and intense interviews with key stakeholders in each operating unit, the entrepreneur and I developed a set of adaptable and sustainable performance metrics to measure the success of the business as it progressed. I also facilitated the company’s first leadership training and strategy meeting for all company executives – which produced some great introspective analysis on leadership and helped strengthen relationships within the team.
I know you studied abroad when you were at Wake Forest; did that experience help prepare you?
Foreign travel was always a passion of mine. During sophomore year, I studied abroad in the South of France and was immersed in the culture by living with a French family. Living and studying abroad was an amazing opportunity that sparked my interest in new and diverse economies. Recalling my experience in France, I jumped at the chance to live and work abroad again, this time in an emerging market in South America.
Did you see other parts of the country?
Yes! My colleagues and I traveled on the weekends to see the true beauty of Chile. The locals in Santiago were eager to tell us the best places to visit and we followed their lead. Chile is such a geographically diverse country with beaches, deserts, the Andes Mountains, vineyards and Patagonia – the only challenge was where to start! My favorite weekend trip was to Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. We traveled by plane, boat and car to get there, but it was well worth it. We hiked through mountains, valleys and glaciers, saw wild horses, llama and even flamingos. A highly recommended trip!
Has this inspired you to seek out other opportunities to work abroad?
I have always been an avid world traveler and my experience in Chile has opened my eyes to the complexities and thrill of living and working in an emerging market. As a result of the program, I have sought out additional experience in such markets and was able to work on a project in Bulgaria. My professional goals include continuing to work in emerging markets, including projects in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and potentially Eastern Africa.
During my Fellows experience, I realized that my growth as a professional and as a leader is best fostered not just at my day-job for work, but through the volunteer opportunities and service to the community available to me. It is these volunteer opportunities where I have committed a piece of myself and my career, which continue to most strongly shape my professional development.
I know you’re involved in some volunteer programs in Philly; is Pro Humanitate a big part of your life?
Pro Humanitate is a theme that I have always lived by, even prior to Wake and having a title. I was taught humility and respect for others from my amazing parents, and my time at Wake allowed me to expand my community experiences even more. I have made sure that a significant amount of time in my career is focused on community development, and Ernst & Young has allowed and encouraged me to do so. Through Ernst & Young and College for Every Student, I volunteer as a mentor for underprivileged students in Philadelphia and assist mentees on the path to college through a program called College MAP (Mentoring for Access and Persistence). During this program I learned about the challenges in the Philadelphia public school system and that 40 percent of students who begin high school in Philly will drop out. As a result, I recently joined the fundraising committee of a local non-profit in Philadelphia, YouthBuild Charter School, which provides high school dropouts a chance to earn their diplomas while learning vital job skills and providing valuable community services through an intensive one-year program.