Young Professional 2018: Joyia T. Smith

Joyia T. Smith, Senior agriculture operations analyst at Lamb Weston Inc.

(Photo courtesy Rich Breshears of Breshears Photography)

Age: 32

Education: Bachelor of science in agricultural business, Florida A&M University; master’s of science in agricultural economics, Purdue University

Hometown: Greenville, Mississippi

How long have you lived in the Tri-Cities? Three years

Do you have family? Pets? I am the youngest daughter of my wonderful parents and the aunt of two brilliant little minds that I get to call nieces. I also met my amazing boyfriend here (Thanks, Tri-Cities!)

Briefly describe your company: Founded as a small family business in 1950, Lamb Weston is an industry pioneer and one of the world’s leading suppliers of frozen potato products.

How long have you worked there? Three years

What word best describes you? Passionate

Your biggest flaw? I do not like to ask for help.

Biggest pet peeve? Bad customer service

Dream vacation? Seoul, South Korea

Favorite book? “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Favorite movie? “The Five Heartbeats”

Favorite musician? Marvin Gaye, The Mississippi Mass Choir and Big K.R.I.T.

Favorite sports team? Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Broncos, Washington Nationals

Favorite website/app? Instagram

Favorite Tri-City restaurant? Ann’s Best Creole & Soul Food and Foodies Brick and Mortar

Favorite thing to do in the Tri-Cities? I love to train at Fit For Me Women’s Fitness. I also enjoy wine tasting at local wineries.

What thing would people be most surprised to learn about you? I’m a really shy person, but over time I’ve taught myself to become a forced extrovert.

If you could have dinner with one or more people (living or deceased) who would it be? My Grandparents, Adam & Eve, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant

Describe your job: As the senior agriculture operations analyst, I have the privilege of being involved in many different aspects of the business. I maintain forecasts and track input prices for cost to grow estimates, maintain potato contract price value models, evaluate what-if scenarios and value grower and processor offers. In addition, I get to develop market price comparisons and perform financial, quantitative and statistical analysis to support the many teams of this great company.

I applied to college as an aspiring pre-medical student. However, very late in my high school career, I found a scholarship application being used as a dust pan on the floor in my counselor’s office. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I picked up the application (the only reason I have come up with thus far is that it was godsent). It was an application for the U.S. Department of Agriculture 1890 Scholar’s Program and the main condition of applying was that you had to major in an agricultural-related field. Being that this was an all-expense paid scholarship (and paid internship opportunities), it was a no-brainer to fill it out. Upon receiving and accepting the offer, I figured I could still take many science electives and somehow still get myself in the medical field. However, after my first semester, I knew God had other plans for me. I fell in love with agriculture: the growth, the sustainability, the predictions, the analysis. It all made me want to know more, to learn more. Now 14 years later, I have not looked back.

Mentors: I have had several mentors and I appreciate each of them. However, my most influential mentors are my parents. Among so many other things, my parents taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance. Despite the obstacles of attending school in the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest areas of the country, my parents made sure that I remained steadfast in my efforts to achieve excellence. Without the benefit of extensive college prep coursework and formal standardized test preparation, they made sure I developed a record of achievement by availing myself of all academic, community service and extracurricular activities available. My parents taught me that no excuse is acceptable. They are the epitome of practicing what you preach and simply watching them live has taught me to be always a servant of people, to always remain humble and to always work hard.

Toughest career decision: The toughest career decision I’ve had to make thus far was moving here to the Tri-Cities.  Within one month, I had decided to uproot my entire life by moving across the country (from Washington, D.C.), by myself, leaving a secure federal government job for a position with a company I did not know much about, in a state I’d never been to, in a city I’d never heard of. I am a huge believer in, “With great risk comes great reward.” Although I made a very risky (and scary) decision, I could not be happier with the outcome.

What do you like most/least about your job? I love having the feeling of being valuable. It is something special to actually see the fruits of your labor manifest. After all of the number crunching and analysis, it is a unique feeling to see others actually utilize your findings to make the business better. My company’s leadership team does a magnificent job at making sure we all feel needed, appreciated and valued.

First job: I got my very first tax paying job at Sonic Drive-in when I was 16 years old. This job taught me how to be a good servant. Serving is hard. Serving strangers is harder. Serving food to strangers is hardest. While working there, I learned the value of patience, discipline, accepting criticism, and, most of all, good old-fashioned customer service.

Achieving work-life balance: I recently realized that my work goals and my life goals are so intermingled, there is not a need to achieve what others call a “work-life balance.”  My goal is to always be a servant leader, create other servant leaders and have fun while doing it. As long as this my focus, I’m never overwhelmed by one “section” of my life. However, when stressful times occur, prayer and workouts are always my go-to.

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