I decided to forego Wharton’s math workshop prep session, despite knowing that all new first-year students were required to score above 50 percent in order to start school. Then, four days before the test, I found out the questions involved calculus — which I had never encountered. I bought every calculus book I could find, crammed, and jumped for joy when I scored a 53 percent.
Andre Smith enjoys accepting high-pressure challenges that test his ability. “I do not shy away from a good opportunity to grow,” he says. As vice president of Boost Mobile, the flagship brand for Sprint’s prepaid group, he’s currently responsible for growing the overall business. He and his teams target new customer segments, reinvigorate distribution partners, increase brand loyalty, and enhance the profitability.
Smith credits U.S. Army basic training with teaching him the value of teamwork. “I was only 17 at the time, and, about two weeks into our training, the drill sergeants selected me to lead the platoon of approximately 40 trainees, from various social and economic backgrounds.”
As one of the youngest members, Smith quickly learned the importance of demanding excellence of himself, plus the need to be disciplined and true to a set of core values. Smith received two letters of commendation at the end of basic training, and, today, he still follows a leadership philosophy based on those fundamental lessons.
“I hold myself to a core set of values that are shaped by my faith and my constant aspiration to become a better man,” he says. “Those are deeply rooted in my passionate commitment to excellence and unshakable focus to overcome business challenges. I’m constantly challenging my team to look for opportunities to creatively convert the ambiguity of change into a competitive advantage. This requires me to foster an environment where opinions matter — including those from our broader employee group and our customers.”
John Carney, senior vice president for Consumer Marketing, praised Smith’s leadership capability when nominating him for the Eagle Award. “Andre has an 11-year history of outstanding personal performance matched by a legacy of exceptional leadership,” wrote Carney.
Legacy is meaningful to Smith, which is why he continues to give back to his community through organizations such as The Guadalupe Center, a nonprofit serving Kansas City’s Hispanic community. Prior to relocating from Missouri to his new home in California, he was also appointed by the mayor of Kansas City as a commissioner for the Kansas City Housing Authority. In that capacity, he helped provide safe housing and empowerment tools for residents of public housing.
“I was raised in inner-city public housing,” Smith acknowledges. He remembers not only the challenges in that tough and often violent neighborhood but also the many people who provided a helping hand and words of encouragement.
“I believe that it is my duty, if not my life purpose, to ensure that I cycle back to provide a helping hand for others who are just starting to dream beyond their current reality. Looking back, I attribute my success to hundreds of small encounters with very special people who either nudged, encouraged, challenged, or threatened me to move out of my comfort zone and rise to the occasion. They were and continue to be true angels placed in my life at select times to keep me on the path.”
CareerFOCUS Magazine and the National Eagle Leadership Institute® salute 2011 Eagle Award winner Andre Smith