Inside Edelman is an ongoing series that spotlights our colleagues who are doing extraordinary work across our network. This year's International Women's Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge and we’ll be spotlighting our female leaders, the challenges they’ve faced personally and professionally and how they’ve overcome them.

Who is a woman you admire as a challenger, and how do you carry on her legacy?

There are many women I admire. One of my sheroes is Shirley Chisholm who was a politician, educator and author. In 1968, she became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York's 12th congressional district for seven terms. She became the first Black candidate to seek a major party's nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Chisholm was an incredible example of strength and courage and she remained "unbought and unbossed." She emphatically said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair." I carry out her legacy by always remembering that I belong at any table. We can’t allow anyone’s presumptions or expectations to box us in. We have to shake ourselves of others’ expectations and our own fears and walk in our power! And sometimes we even have to shake some tables!

What advice do you have for a woman starting her career?

Always follow your passion and it will propel you to your purpose.

Don’t let fear consume you. It’s natural and healthy to have a bit of fear but don’t let it paralyze you or stop you from being you and fulfilling your purpose. The goal is not to be fearless, but courageous. Your voice may tremble but speak. Your knees may shake but move!

Be open to and embrace exploring new and different opportunities. You may not have all of the answers as you begin your journey. Many women (like me) want to have it all figured out—know A-Z and the beginning to the end—before you even get started. Give yourself grace and be open to possibilities. It WILL all work together!

Can you tell us about a time when you challenged a colleague and/or client? How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?

One of the toughest client assignments of my career involved me moving to Bentonville, AR to work on a major reputation management campaign. I lived there for nearly a year, coming home two weekends a month and worked 12 plus hour days. It was challenging on many levels, but it was one of my most valuable professional learning experiences. What I gleaned from that assignment and what it positioned me to do later in my career was unimaginable. During this period, I focused on the major impact the work would have, leaned on my colleagues who were there with me, and stayed connected to my village at home via technology.

How do you build your inner resilience?

I build my inner resilience through my spiritual faith and prayer. It grounds and guides me in everything that I do. Additionally, the understanding that I come from a lineage of Black women who thrived despite all challenges, obstacles and odds fuels me to keep going.

What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received in your career?

I’ve received so much great advice in my career. First, know your worth. Know that you are more than enough—just as you are and don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.

Second, don’t fear failure. Believe me, you will only regret the time you think you lost, the lessons you missed or the opportunities you passed up because of fear. There is just as much, if not more learned from failure than success. I have embraced that I don’t ever lose—I win, or I learn.


About Trisch Smith

Trisch Smith is the Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.