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Finding Her Voice

Andrea Smith reflects on the gift of perspective


Andrea Smith (’12) recalls that her Leadership Birmingham group project was “all about preserving perspectives.” She and fellow members created a presentation in which they narrated stories from Birmingham’s civil rights movement. But many of the voices they featured weren’t the familiar ones from history books.

Instead, the group highlighted ordinary people living and working in the city’s neighborhoods—people such as bus drivers, teachers, nurses, or bank employees. “What did they encounter when they were traveling to their job every day, or when they were looking for a place to live?” asks Smith, BBVA’s chief executive officer for the Birmingham market. “We wanted to understand the real impact of racism and the fight for civil rights. Without multiple perspectives, we are limited in our understanding.”

Valuing different perspectives is a key lesson Smith learned through Leadership Birmingham. She says she applies it to her work every day as the head of BBVA’s local commercial banking and global wealth management teams. It’s also a lesson she proudly shares with the community’s rising stars as a Leadership Birmingham donor.

Leadership Birmingham “has provided us with a dialogue and a platform to raise issues and access the breadth of the city in one place,” Smith says. But maintaining the level of quality that makes the program so rewarding requires resources, she notes. “As alumni, we have had a tremendous opportunity, and now we have the responsibility to make that same opportunity available for others. Think about your own experience. What is it worth to you?”

BBVA also is a donor—and has been since Leadership Birmingham’s inception in 1983. The company’s gifts are investments in a thriving, growing, connected community, Smith says. But BBVA benefits as well. For the company’s executives, Leadership Birmingham provides training that is both expansive and holistic, Smith notes. “There’s nothing quite like being in a class for 10 months with another 49 leaders, discussing difficult issues and being exposed to things outside their perspective,” she explains. “It gives them the opportunity to learn, to develop, and to find their voice. In my mind, there’s not a comparable method to do that.”

Smith says she enjoys going to work every day “with really good people in a really good city”—and emphasizes that gifts to Leadership Birmingham can fuel that positive momentum by shining a light on different viewpoints and shared challenges. “Leadership Birmingham makes our community stronger,” she says. “And I believe it will make it stronger for years to come.”

Invest in collaboration and community. Pay your annual membership dues—and make additional gifts—to support Leadership Birmingham and Youth Leadership Forum.