Suzanne Smith

MBA '08

Founder and Managing Director
Social Impact Architects

What do you do professionally?

I'm a serial social entrepreneur who is driven to help the social sector. Our team enables organizations to leverage entrepreneurial principles and create higher impact, higher performance strategies by applying three core principles: engaging in thought leadership (@socialtrendspot; a weekly blog on my website), teaching the next generation of social entrepreneurs, and running a consulting firm (Social Impact Architects) to work alongside organizations as they effect change.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

Aha! moments – my parents were teachers, and I love the moment when I've taught someone a "way of working" that gives them that Aha! moment and their viewpoint is forever changed.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

Time management – however, I think that is an outdated way of viewing it. Instead, I challenge myself with "energy management;" in other words, how to best utilize my finite time and energy toward my social mission and still enjoy a fulfilling personal life.

What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite?

I love traveling domestically and internationally, and I'm five states away from visiting all 50. Last year I worked in Alaska, and this year will give a speech in Montana (and plan to tour Wyoming and Idaho while I'm there). Every community embraces social entrepreneurship in principle, but engages it in different ways—my job is to connect them with something they know and to help shift their perspective and then take action.

What is the best professional advice you've received?

Too many examples to list! I have a mentor who has been with me since my mid-20s, and he has coached some of the top executives for Fortune 500 clients. We happened to sit next to each other on a flight, and I experienced one of the best conversations of my life. He magnanimously offered to take me on as a pro-bono client, since I worked for a nonprofit. He encouraged me to separately classify my goals as professional (you + work), personal (you + family), and private (just you). Every year I decide on 1-2 things in each category. I don't focus first on the goals, but focus on the feelings I want to cultivate in each area and derive my goals from that feeling. We still talk regularly and, believe me, he keeps me accountable to those goals!

Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?

I'm doing it!

What do you like to do outside of work?

Anything that I haven't done before—rafting, skydiving, or exploring a new place. Spending time with friends and my 6 (almost 7) nieces and nephews.

What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Fuqua?

On my very first day then-Daytime Dean Bill Boulding said, "There is no growth in comfort, there is no comfort in growth." I had my own Aha! moment and now pass that quote on to my students and clients.

Who was your favorite professor?

Outside of my muses in the Social Entrepreneurship area (Greg Dees, Paul Bloom, Cathy Clark, and Matt Nash), among whom I could never choose, I loved Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational and leading researcher in behavioral economics. It was his first year back at Duke, and I was just a sponge in his class. I still use his principles to stun my students and clients. I also never forgot his lesson on "Opening and Closing Doors." He is a genius, and I am privileged to know him.

What is your favorite Fuqua memory?

Fuqua Fridays! After a tough week of bending my mind and pushing my physical limits, it was great fun to unwind with others. It was even better when followed by FuquaVision, our version of SNL.

What does Team Fuqua mean to you?

Team Fuqua = a great sense of community. Knowing that there is always someone, whether from my class year or another, who is one e-mail or phone call away—and is willing to respond within 24 hours to help me. You can't beat that!