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People Shape Smith: Fostering a Culture of Continued Learning

Explore the development of Smith’s learning and development program, with vision that shaped what it is today, and what that means for Smith’s people and our customers

As a leading independent distributor of semiconductors and electronic components, Smith recognizes that our success stems from the expertise of our people. Earlier this year, we took a significant step in our commitment to employee growth by creating our new Learning and Development department, led by Lisa Cairns, Vice President of Learning and Development.

Lisa, a seasoned learning expert with a PhD in linguistic anthropology, spearheaded the development of our innovative and award-winning e-learning platform, Smith University. This initial success grew to include numerous virtual and in-person programs for all roles at Smith. Today, the Learning and Development department is creating and implementing cutting-edge AI tools that will guide the customized development of all Smith employees.

In the video below, Lisa will walk us through the journey of Smith University, from its inception to its current status as a hub of knowledge and growth, and share how this platform keeps Smith in the lead:

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Explore the development of Smith’s learning and development program, with vision that shaped what it is today, and what that means for Smith’s people and our customers.


Employee growth and development have always been at the forefront of Smith’s business ideals. However, with consistent quality being of the utmost importance to Smith’s business, a bridge connecting our diverse global workforce became a pressing need as more Smith locations opened their doors.

“As our offices expanded, and as our employee base expanded, keeping in touch with what everybody’s individual needs were, was just that much more of a challenge,” explained Lisa.

Bob and Lee Ackerley, Smith’s Co-Founders and Directors, recognized that the solution was democratized learning—ensuring that all employees had equal access to a base of knowledge, allowing us to provide consistent service to every customer, regardless of locale. Smith University was brought forth in response to this urgent need.

Democratized Learning

At the center of Smith’s democratized-learning initiative was the belief that education must be accessible, inclusive, and, most importantly, tailored to individual needs. Inspired by our commitment to fostering a culture of uncapped career growth, Smith University helped to invigorate and ensure professional development globally.

“We wanted to ensure that people have access to think about where they can go, what they can do, and dream about their future selves in ways that we aren’t able to predict,” Lisa shared. “It’s for this purpose that careers and individuals at Smith are fruitful, exciting, and impactful, which comes around and helps us be that to our customers.”

Overcoming Challenges and Creating Content

Smith University quickly became an easily accessible library of knowledge, and employees benefitted from the vast resources available to them. Still, keeping up with demand was a challenge for the team.

“The fact that there is this need and trust is a good problem,” explained Lisa. “It speaks to the growth mindset that is really a part of Smith.”

Likewise, team members from the Learning and Development department are driven by a growth mindset in their own jobs. Content creation is a rigorous task for a team putting together a variety of courses for all departments. To stay up to date on the latest advancements in learning and development, Lisa opts to create and strengthen her ties to external communities, such as CTDO Next, which acts as a visioning board for the Association of Talent Development.

“The exchange of ideas and our ability to challenge each other helps me stay on top of what is needed internally, and what is available externally,” Lisa said.

Reaping the Benefits

From the moment a new employee joins Smith, they have access to a wide array of courses featuring experienced Smith employees discussing the market and sharing their expertise.

“Tenured managers and team leaders relay that they see the new employees settle into their positions and be more successful so much faster with greater satisfaction and confidence than they felt they had when they started,” Lisa shared. “That means people are building their capabilities and impact at Smith, which in turn helps us realize bigger opportunities and better solutions for the people we serve.”

Smith University’s Future

Artificial intelligence has seeped into many facets of our lives, and Smith University is no exception. Recognizing that machine learning is brimming with potential to advance customized professional development, the team has been developing proprietary AI-driven solutions within the platform.

“We can’t be the guidance counselor for all employees at Smith, yet every single employee deserves the chance to have someone who’s really thinking about them,” Lisa explained.

By arming our employees with customized learning journeys, Smith is solidifying our commitment to providing comprehensive services for our customers.

The evolution of Smith University is a direct reflection of our commitment to our people and to elevating the customer experience to remain a trusted industry leader.

Follow our blog, YouTube channel, and LinkedIn page for more industry news, analysis, and insights.


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