Rachel V. Smith- My Dallas Story

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Rachel V. Smith- My Dallas StoryMy Dallas Story

Today Rachel V. Smith is the global head of enterprise data governance at McKesson – a pretty big leap from where her interest in technology started.

“One of my first tech experiences was with a second-hand Macintosh computer. It was glitchy at best.”

But at 10 years old, it was good enough to convince her she wanted to learn more. She grew up in rural Mississippi, moved to Atlanta for college and studied computer information systems.  After graduation, she went to work for Emory University as a Project Manager and eventually joined AT&T (formerly BellSouth).  A subsequent corporate relocation took her and the family to Windermere, Florida.  AT&T’ headquarters being in Dallas-Fort Worth allowed frequent visits for her job and how she got acquainted with the area.

“I spent a great amount of time just sort of informally meeting with leaders, mentors, people who lived here. And I remember just being blown away by the culture here … and the economy was booming!”

The idea to relocate her family from Florida began to take shape.

Besides learning about the educational options, the industry diversity, and the overall friendliness of the people – she liked the physical access as well. With extended family in multiple states, work opportunities for both she and her husband, plus family fun, she didn’t want to waste a lot of time just getting to and from places.

So in 2012 they said goodbye to Mickey and Minnie, and moved to Colleyville, Texas where she continued evolving her career.

“Back in 2014, there was the ‘big data’ hype cycle and I realized that I really wanted to be in that space. There was an opportunity at AT&T’s Big Data office to not only propel the company into Cloud, but also get us into what, at the time, was considered ‘integrated data management.’”

Just like when she began researching Dallas, she talked to mentors again – this time about whether she should take the new role.

“And I thought, I’m already doing exciting work. I’d be moving into a space that was in its infancy and where things didn’t look as certain. But when I met with a couple of people, they said, Rachel, chances like this won’t always come. If you don’t take this, you’ll always question ‘what if’.”

Now, in her day-to-day, she manages things like internal and external requirements on data privacy, legalities surrounding data usage in governance, and third-party data contractual obligations. In a world that is increasingly built on bits and bytes, this is work that is challenging, meaningful, and valuable.

“There are great opportunities in health care to leverage emerging technologies, but always in ways that builds capabilities that are safe, secure and compliant. I take stewardship of data very seriously – I actually take it personally. Every single use of data must be used in accordance with privacy laws and individual privacy rights.”

It’s a mindset she tries to develop and instill in her mentees, team members, and her family.

Her daughters – though very different from each other – have excelled here too. Now one says she doesn’t want to leave Texas because she’s creative and the other doesn’t want to leave because she likes tech. And North Texas offers opportunities in both.

“We love DFW, but we’re also beach people. For a family like ours that travels extensively living here has been a big win. We can get to California for a visit – and pretty much anywhere in the country in three- to four hours nonstop.”

From playing around on a secondhand Macintosh to being the global head of enterprise data for one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, Smith has enjoyed the twists and turns and looks forward to what’s next.