Meet Tod Smith the president and general manager of New Orleans CBS affiliate WWL-TV. A New Orleans Native and St. Augustine Alumni, Smith is an incredible asset to the city of New Orleans. I met Tod in person for the first time volunteering for the tornado relief in New Orleans East. I had such a wonderful first impression that as soon as he turned his back I asked Morgan Valerie…..”Why haven’t we featured him as a Professional Spotlight?” I held a phone interview with Tod a few weeks later and it was worth every minute. Within that 45 minutes, Smith quickly moved past “what jobs he worked” to “what the experience taught him.” His approach to being a professional was refreshing and engaging, to say the least.
One of the major takeaways I learned about Tod was that he has more in common with millennials than you’d think. Over the years, he has made several career changes – a behavior typically attributed to millennials. However, Smith says, “You never know where an opportunity will lead you. Don’t ever get hung up on the thought that this is the last job I’ll ever have. Take the time to learn from where you are and take that information with you.” Tod’s career in journalism began very early. During his senior year of high school, Loyola University began recruiting communications majors by offering part-time jobs and full tuition payments. This opportunity led to Smith’s first experience with WWL in the 1980s. Of course, he didn’t stay there long, Tod went on to work in advertising for Shell in Houston and as a general manager in Arizona and Virginia. He finally returned home to WWL in June 2012.
What inspires you to wake up every day and go to work?
The ability to help make New Orleans and the surrounding area better. I get to work with the community at large and use our platform to make the community aware of what’s happening around them.
How do you manage your career and social life? Do you have to sacrifice one for the other?
It’s kind of all together. So many people helped me along the way and I feel the need to give back. I enjoy working in the community and allowing myself to be seen. I grew up in the Desire area and the younger generation needs to know that they can become whatever they want to be, regardless of where they were born or grew up.
What do you feel is lacking in the city for black professionals on all levels?
Opportunities. The business environment needs to be more diversified to create the opportunities. The city is trying to work on that, but there are not a lot of middle management jobs. I believe networking will build more access, but you need to get your name out there.
How can young professionals today, especially minorities, overcome challenges in the workplace to advance?
Changing your mindset. Moving is not the end of the world and it can broaden your experience. Sometimes people do not recognize your potential, but the new experiences may bring growth. I once had a former manager contact me on LinkedIn and told me how they regretted that I wasn’t moved faster to promotion. After I moved on from that job, I ended up getting to where I ultimately wanted to be and I learned a lot in the process. At the end of the day, the company gave up on a talent and ended up creating a determined employee for the next business.