We first introduce you to Trish Smith, CEO of Springwell and share a bit about how Trish has turned opportunities into career building experiences and why she hopes you will stop by in person or virtually to say hello to her.
How long have you been working in human services/how did you get into the field?
My work in human services began by chance when I decided to take opportunities that were presented to me. When I graduated from college with a degree in sociology and education, there were no teaching positions available due to supply exceeding demand. I accepted a job as an assistant to an education professor and in that role had the opportunity to take graduate courses. As an undergrad, I was an advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and I also worked in a supportive employment program. These experiences led me to take some counseling courses. I liked them and continued to complete a master’s degree in counseling and human services.
When it came time to find a job I wanted to move from New York to Boston with my best friend. I got a job as a Protective Services worker at an ASAP. I did that for 2.5 years and then was a supervisor for 4 years. At that point, I wanted to move back to New York to be closer to my aging grandparents. I joined the New York Department of Health to work on the Medicaid waiver. Ironically, while in New York, I met my now husband and he lived in Massachusetts. In 2010, I moved back to Massachusetts to be with him and joined Springwell as a Quality Manager. That role led me to becoming COO at Springwell in 2013. In 2017, when the CEO, Ruth Beckerman-Rodau, started planning for her retirement, I gave the idea of becoming CEO myself serious thought and decided to apply for the job.
What originally interested you in this work?
From my work with rape and domestic violence victims, I knew it was important to me to help individuals who are in difficult situations. I was drawn to work at an ASAP because of the Protective Services Program. In that first ASAP role, I learned about all the services available to assist older adults. I was impressed with how Massachusetts is different from other states in that it is dedicated to prioritizing the needs of older adults. I became enthusiastic about the ASAP network.
What do you see as the most important elements of your role?
As CEO, I have a diverse set of responsibilities making sure we meet certain standards, are following many regulations and that we always work in an ethical manner for the well-being of older adults. While these are clearly vital, it is equally important that I make sure that staff have the tools they need to do their job of supporting our consumers. I do all I can to make sure employees are able to their jobs.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love seeing people grow, learn, and move further in their careers. I am proud of hearing about how people I have supervised in the past have grown and the new roles and challenges that have undertaken.
What is one piece of advice you would share with someone who is facing challenges of aging?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! We are all aging, and we don’t know what it is going to be like as we move through the stages of growing older. It is different for everyone, and everyone has unique needs. One 75-year-old may have very different needs from another 75-year-old. Ask questions and learn about resources before you need them. It is always more difficult if you wait until there is a crisis before planning.
What are you most excited about regarding the merger?
We can offer more programs to more people in twenty-two communities because we have more resources available. We have a wider area to recruit volunteers and to provide volunteers to help older adults. We now have an LGBTQ coordinator as a resource. While we need all our staff, we have achieved some economies of scale at the executive level. Further, with more people we have more flexibility to use people’s time differently when needed if someone is away from work for some reason.
What is most challenging for you about the merger and how will you address the challenge?
With the growth from the merger and the ongoing safety challenges of COVID, I don’t know many staff members as well as I would like to. While we benefit from more resources with the merger, the growth in size makes it harder to connect with individuals. To address this challenge, I am going to meet with small groups and teams regularly to get to know them and hear what they need. It is important to me that even with the growth, we maintain that personal touch of a small organization.
What is one thing you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?
I love to travel and explore new places. While COVID has slowed down my travel, my goal is to visit all 50 states. I equally love cities and rural exploring. My travels have included some significant road trips including one when I had a wonderful time traveling from Kansas City, Missouri to Iowa then onto Nebraska and then Kansas.
For those at Springwell/BayPath who don’t know you, what is one thing you would like them to know about you?
It is very important to me to know all my colleagues in the organization. I have an open-door policy and truly welcome people to stop by and see me whether it is just to say hello or ask a question that is on your mind. If my door is open, I welcome you to pop in and if my door is closed because I am in a meeting, please call, and leave me a message so we can connect. If you aren’t in the office, please feel free to call on my direct line.