Ashley Schmidt is a person driven by passion. And when she realized she could combine her business skills with her drive to make a difference so naturally in the healthcare industry, the field took her heart. Now the President of Women in Healthcare, Inc., this big thinker and mother is working to get more women into the work she loves.
Schmidt shared how she navigates having so many career passions, how she balances her professional life and her life as a parent, and how her mentor helped her get where she is today. She also spoke clearly about why healthcare is such a unique place for women to be.
"Healthcare is fantastic," she said. "It has to be the most interesting industry I have ever worked in."
Fairygodboss of the Week: Ashley Schmidt
President of Women in Healthcare, Inc.
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
When I was younger, I always knew I wanted to be a part of something that made a difference. As a child, I had a very narrow mindset about what that meant. I knew I wasn’t going to be a doctor or a social worker or any of the roles that we traditionally think of for helping to make our communities better. My skill set was in business, a role not traditionally thought of as changing the community for good. When I found myself working for an architectural firm, I started to focus on healthcare. At that point, it hit me. These buildings were more than just buildings — they were healing environments that shaped the community. They had a more complex business structure than most organizations and things were changing fast. I realized this was an area that I could apply my business skill set and make a difference.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
I have a tremendous amount of passion. I don’t claim to be the smartest person in the room, but if I am in the room, I am doing it with all my heart. Since I was young, I’ve loved my friends fiercely and I’ve put my heart into my job. I do the same for my family and my children. I can’t help it; it is who I am. It’s also how I selected my career path. If my heart isn’t in it, it isn’t for me. I love my little life and at the end of the day, I am proud of the decisions I have made and the compass I have followed. I am proud of the mother I am, the wife I am, the friend I am and the professional that I am. It is not easy, but I see my success as the fact that I do it all and I am still proud of who I am in all these roles. Don’t get me wrong, some days I feel like a crappy wife or a bad mom or question how talented I am. But the dust settles and I am able to look back and hold my head high!
What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
Personally, Women in Healthcare isn’t my full-time job. I have an incredible and fulfilling job working for HKS architects and helping to build and shape these healthcare communities. I am also getting my master’s degrees and have two small children and a wicked commute. My hurdle, and the hurdle of so many others, is time. Time to make all this happen, to carry out the vision for the organization and to provide the value to our members and chapters that they deserve.
The problem with passion is you can feel it for a lot of things, all at one time, and everything feels like a priority. And today — maybe it is smart phones, maybe it being over committed or maybe it is just who I am — I am never not on. When I decided to start Women in Healthcare, I knew that would take over my down time. When I decided to go back to school, I knew it would be even harder. Making the decision to do these things, knowing that I would miss things — things for my kids, my friends, my loved ones — was one of the hardest realizations I had to come to. But I know why I am doing them. I know which direction my compass is pointing and what makes me tick and I do all this to better that mission. I don’t make everything, but I am present when it counts and I have to be ok with that.
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
Joann Petillo. In the beginning of my career, Joann was a motivator, a mentor and someone who I could always be real with. As I grew, she was my champion and she believed in me more than I believed in myself at times. She is all about women helping women and reaching back and bringing other women up to the top with her. She is the best example of a Fairygodboss!
What do you do when you're not working?
My babies are my passion. I am in awe of them always and I live for my time with them. It can be exhausting, but days with them are always my most fulfilling days.
If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?
Ellen Degeneres. I think she is fantastic!
Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?
“Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa.
Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
If it isn't a comedy, then it is a gangster movie. My library ranges from “Pitch Perfect” to “Goodfellas.”
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a deserted island?
Can I admit I hate to read? Successful people don't say that, do they? I listen to books. I do it to be better, not because I enjoy it. It is an act of discipline.
Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
Soooo many home goods. SOOOO MANY! All the throw pillows!
What is the No. 1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Some of the most overwhelming stats I have seen are the percentages of individuals who advance in their career due to an internal sponsor. It could be one of the most important factors to moving up within your organization. Finding a sponsor can be complicated and a bit awkward, but it assures that someone above you has trust in you and an understanding of your skills and aspirations to stick their neck out for you.
Why do you love where you work?
Healthcare is fantastic. It is always changing. It has to be the most interesting industry I have ever worked in. These institutions — who previously were in the business of treating patients — now have to be in the business of community health, real estate and mergers and acquisitions all while serving their patients and staff. We are seeing more MBAs at the top now, we’re advancing more women into leadership and we’re building teams of diverse backgrounds to run these complicated systems. My mission is that I want to see more women at the top. Through Women in Healthcare and HKS I am able to see these visions out while making a greater impact on the community and in healthcare.