We had the good fortune of connecting with Shirley Anne Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Shirley Anne, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
In the beginning of my career, I followed the expectations of being the first one at the office and the last one out. I worked more than the 40 hours per week. Over time, I realized that I needed to create a better work-life complement. It’s never truly a balance but rather a complement of each other. There is a time and place for everything. I truly enjoy my dedicated “me time” and my dedicated family time. This is the time where I put my work phone away, I don’t look at emails and I focus on truly being present.

COVID has truly changed this narrative. As a wife and a mom, I had work, kids, husband, and personal space all collide into one, but it truly taught me to appreciate the time that I spent focusing on each thing individually. I believe it made me far more focused and intentional on how I allocate each minute.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Personally, I am most proud of being a woman of color in leadership in the nonprofit space of Atlanta. There are not too many of us. People of color are in the minority in the nonprofit space. I could not imagine doing anything else that was not in service to others. I have thoroughly enjoyed a career in this industry, and I am looking forward to the many more years to come. It is my hope that we can encourage more people of color to pursue advancement and leadership.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As a former resident of Buckhead, I absolute adore Buckhead and all of its options. You can dine, drink, and play among many other things. I would probably take my kids to Chastain Park followed by dinner at Tacos &Tequilas and then maybe a little retail therapy.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give a shoutout to a former boss and mentor, Jacques Murphy. A couple of years ago, Jacques encouraged me to pursue ideas that, at the time, were considered unconventional in the fire industry. For example, no one locally had tried to implement a girls’ fire camp to introduce young women to careers in the fire industry. Jacques just kept telling me to move forward. After some time, I was able to implement the camp in the City of Atlanta. The camp is now known as Camp Ignite. In its inaugural year it introduced 16 young women to the fire service. One of those young women has now officially applied to the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.

Jacques gifted me a book called “What Do You Do With an Idea” and included a personal message inside. The book nearly brought me to tears. It was such a beautiful sentiment and a great way to celebrate bringing an idea to fruition.

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Image Credits
John Glenn for Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation

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