Persistence and passion will get you far in Future, especially when you can find opportunities where others see struggle. Meet one Editor-in-Chief who improves every room she enters with her never-quit attitude.
Sherri Smith does what other people can’t. The first time I met Sherri Smith, it was right after she had quieted down a room of over 200 people with a whistle so assertive it should have won an award. During the day, though, she’s Laptop Mag’s newly-minted Editor-in-Chief, and the first woman of color to hold that position at a legacy technology publication — ever.
Now she plans events, submits reports, mentors young authors, and occasionally, still lovingly reviews PCs.
“I had such a roundabout journey to where we are today. I knew that I would be either a doctor or a writer,” she tells me from her New York office. Turns out the path that led her to writing took her through the entertainment industry, where she spent time interviewing moguls like Mary J Blige, Diddy, Dwight Howard and John Legend.
Sherri remembers these encounters not just because they were memorable, but the same jobs that let her write about her famous people gave her bylines in gaming, tech, and cars, three areas of extreme interest that she’s maintained today.
Which leads us to today, a destination that took more than a bit of persistence; she applied twice for a role at Laptop Mag and didn’t hear back. A year later, a job came up again and, after throwing caution to the wind, she applied and heard back, the interview taking place on a scorching day in May where everything that could go wrong did.
But eventually, she got in there and did what she always does: “I just needed 10 minutes to convince [them]. So I got in there and I put on a show.”
Many years and positions later, Sherri is now the Editor-in-Chief of Laptop Mag, and owes her success to her unique voice on the page and her ability to get along with everyone off the page. “I’ve had an amazing journey as a writer,” she says. “Sometimes I look back at the writer I was back then and — how far we’ve come.”
But now that she’s in a leadership role, her own writing has taken a backseat to that of others, to the people she mentors and helps grow.
“I’m extremely proud that so many great tech journalists around New York and on the west coast are Laptop alums,” she says. There’s a culture that fosters growth and talent and now that she’s at the top, Sherri says it’s important to give back.
In addition to spending time nurturing her own staff’s talents, she volunteers with The New York Videogame Critics Circle, where she teaches youth how to do video game journalism, how to review PCs and other pieces of tech, and eventually how to build their own games.
“It’s one of the best times of the month,” she tells me, especially since, as a woman of color in an industry dominated by white men, she’s helping to find the next generation of tech journalists that hopefully look more like her.
“I’m a scholarship kid and had to make sure my grades were correct” to ensure success. And now Sherri takes that job seriously in simultaneously giving back to the community and providing opportunities for the kids of New York City. “I want to make sure that I’m a good standard-bearer.”
Back at the office, Sherri tells me that she’s excited to expand her small team of three to four, and that she’s taking her first hiring responsibility very seriously.
“No one stays in a job forever. But while they’re here I can sleep well knowing that I allowed them to be better writers and journalists, and have made those connections, and have a body of work they can stand on and be proud of.” While she’s telling me this, I’m writing furiously and taking notes, but I can hear the pride and see the smile in her voice. It’s so clear Sherri loves what she does, and I’m pretty sure that, despite the fact she’s only been there a short time, no one could imagine anyone else doing this job.
“They’re my team and I’m incredibly proud of them. I can’t wait to see what they do next.”
Same here, Sherri.