Kristen Smithwick joined Thought Leader Select as its director of research operations in 2006. Kristen leads sales, marketing and strategic planning in her current role as vice president of the company. A 1998 graduate of Duke University, Kristen spent the first seven years of her career as manager of membership services at a North Carolina firm providing best practice benchmarking services to the biopharmaceutical, medical device, and health care industries.
The Thought Leader Select Blog recently sat down to catch up with Kristen Smithwick to learn about her background and how she makes her professional contribution to the work of Thought Leader Select.
TLS Blog: Good morning, Kristen. Tell us why you joined Thought Leader Select.
Kristen Smithwick: After seven years working to help a small company grow its market share, I wanted a new, different challenge in my career. I saw a great opportunity at Thought Leader Select—I loved the concept that Paul Meade and Lisa Smith (Thought Leader Select’s founders) had put together. This concept—providing unbiased, objective data on key opinion leaders to assist pharmaceutical companies in developing new medicines—was something we all thought the industry really needed. I had worked with Paul and Lisa at my previous company, and I appreciated Lisa’s sharp-minded approach to research and Paul’s big-picture, strategic mindset.
TLS Blog: How does your academic background and/or professional career inform your work at Thought Leader Select?
Kristen Smithwick: I learned a great deal from seeing the inner workings of the small company where I worked, as well as from consulting with some of the largest firms in the health care industry. Seeing the revenue cycles at a smaller company helped to prepare me for our business development at Thought Leader Select, and working with larger companies enabled me to plan for our future growth. Working with pharmaceutical companies for seven years prior to joining Thought Leader Select gave me the insight to understand their needs for business development as well.
My academic background at Duke included intensive work in organizational behavior. My time at Duke taught me how to analyze problems and find solutions. I studied people, particularly how groups of people collaborate to achieve goals in business. I’ve found that my education left me adept at fulfilling all of my roles at Thought Leader Select—connecting with clients and organizing cross-functional groups within the company to drive the success of our business.
TLS Blog: What do you like most about your work at Thought Leader Select?
Kristen Smithwick: I really like studying the aspects of our business that really make us tick—the ways in which we operate effectively and the constant learning that helps us to plan for and execute all of the growth we’re currently seeing and in the future.
Strategic planning is something I really gravitate toward and get energy from with each passing week. I thrive in our brainstorming sessions, when we take ambitions that once seemed like dreams and make them into reality. I love facilitating these meetings and being a part of them—I’m surrounded by people who are both dreamers and doers, with an array of skills and experiences.
TLS Blog: One more question—how do you spend your free time away from your work at Thought Leader Select?
Kristen Smithwick: I like filling my life into buckets—work, family, and connecting with my community in Washington, North Carolina. My many roles at Thought Leader Select keep the work bucket pretty full, and being a wife and mother of three children keeps my family bucket pretty full, too!
In my spare time (and people do wonder, myself included, how I have any!), I enjoy giving my time and energy to my community in a way that’s not driven by money or ambition. I just like to help people who have needs. And I try to plug into community efforts that reflect my professional skills—planning and executing strategies for improvement. In the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed volunteering in early childhood development and, more recently, working on our local school improvement team.