How Determination Drives Kadesha Thomas Smith, CEO of CareContent, Inc.

During the month of February, we’re exploring Determination at The Chicago Network. For this blog entry, we interviewed Kadesha Thomas Smith, Founder and CEO of CareContent. The agency works with health systems, medical associations, payor organizations, and healthcare support service providers to turn their digital presence into an asset for reaching our patients, consumers, providers, and administrators through the healthcare system.

TCN: What does Determination mean to you?
To me, determination is having a goal and looking at any roadblocks as opportunities. It’s knowing that quitting is not an option.

TCN: How did you discover your own determination?
My Mom! She used to say that I have “a lot more stick to it” than she did. I believe anything that’s worth doing and worth having, there will come a point where you have to choose: Do I keep going?

I didn’t necessarily have those experiences growing up, but I knew I would need those types of encounters in order to prepare for whatever I wanted to do in life, so I put myself in situations that required me to make that choice. For example, I ran a marathon years ago when I was in grad school – I wanted to put myself in a situation where I had to go through something hard. And I had to ask myself during training, “Do I really want this or not?” Joining the Peace Corps was another “self-inflicted” life experience where I really tested and pushed myself. I missed my family. I had no running water, but I kept returning to that question of determination and whether I really wanted this.

Putting myself in those situations led to some personal “muscle growth.” Now I recognize these moments of when I choose to go forward and flex a bit of determination to persevere.

TCN: Have there been pivot points in launching your business where you had to leverage your Determination?
Absolutely – when I quit my job and made the decision to go full-time into trying to launch a business. Whenever I would come to one of those initial roadblocks, as simple as drawing up my first contract, I would ask myself if I truly wanted this. Even as we’ve changed and grown our services, I still revisit that question.

TCN: What have been some of your biggest roadblocks?
Myself. I’ve paid the tax of inexperience, learning a lot of things by trial and error instead of seeking guidance from more established experts who would’ve been able to help me climb that learning curve more quickly. Also, not realizing when I need to shift from working in the business to working on the business. You learn those lessons when you hit a point where you don’t have a choice but to just keep going.

TCN: Do you seek out more guidance now?
Absolutely. Now I make time for it. I’m persistent with reaching out to people who are in the positions that I would like to be in with my own business. I’ve made it a very deliberate action.

TCN: What other insights do you have about your own Determination?
My faith is a big part of staying determined. This is not just my job; this is my assignment. I was born with the certain talents to do this. I feel a responsibility to use those talents to be a blessing to other people.

Also, I’ve been guilty of stopping myself from pursuing my wildest goals because I’ve counted myself out too quickly. I’ve observed that women and people of color tend to create an “us vs. them” paradigm — that certain kinds of success are for them, not us. But really it’s for them and us.” I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today if I hadn’t been able to overcome that “us vs. them” mentality, and feel confident that I belong at certain tables, too. A lot of women can become their own roadblock if they don’t break down these mental barriers.

TCN: What advice do you have for the next generation?
I encourage young people to consider starting their own business, and not to be afraid of pursuing a non-linear or unexpected career path. Education and entrepreneurship are key elements to lifting up our underserved communities and leveling the playing field for young people.

TCN: What are you excited about looking ahead with your business?
I’m most excited about our growth opportunities. Now, that I’ve established the business, I can focus on growing our client base and see where that leads.

TCN: What’s your personal mantra?
Professionals built the Titanic; amateurs built the Arc. I happen to work with a team of people who are very good at doing things they’ve never done before. I try to remember that whenever I’m about to do something new or scary.

The Chicago Network