The Student News Site of North Carolina A&T State University

The A&T Register

The Student News Site of North Carolina A&T State University

The A&T Register

The Student News Site of North Carolina A&T State University

The A&T Register

‘Visionary Ventures’: Aggies Receive Insight with Robert Smith


On Feb.29, billionaire and CEO Robert F. Smith came to speak to students and guests as part of Chancellor Harold L. Martin, Sr.’s Speaker Series, “Visionary Ventures”.

Chandler James, a junior Finance Honors Student, gave the introduction as Smith and Chancellor Harold L. Martin, as the moderator, were welcomed to the stage.

Martin asked questions for Smith to guide students along his journey that got him his current position as the founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners.

Smith’s company, Vista Equity Partners, is a market-leading investing firm focusing on “investing exclusively in enterprise software and the power of technology.”

Smith graduated with honors with an MBA from Columbia Business School with a concentration in Finance and Marketing and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University.

He then went on to work at Goldman Sachs in tech and banking. In this position, he advised more than a $50 billion merger and acquisition with prominent businesses, such as Apple, Microsoft, and eBay.

Smith was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, in a “community that shaped him.” Throughout the session, he enlightened students about how to impact their community, highlighting the importance of internships, mentorships, and financial literacy, all while being Black in society.

“Growing up in Denver, during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, my community and history shaped me as an African American man and his values through their own culture and history,” Smith said.

He spoke highly of how everyone had a distinct role, which was an important factor of being an African American during this time.

In high school, Smith explained to students how he overcame adversity and remained persistent in an internship position. Eventually, he became involved with more opportunities, leading to an internship.

Smith encouraged students to find a mentor who would enable them to realize their potential, create a place where they are their best selves, and help them accelerate in their career path.

“It is important for students to be a good mentee. Being a good mentee means being valuable and reliable and always having the right answers and examples,” Smith said. “Show what they are capable of to advance that organization’s mission.”

When asked how he overcomes adversity as one of the few Black engineers in prominent spaces, Smith explains that he focuses on the “equilibrium systems,” ensuring that he concentrates on the end goal of the company’s mission.

“During adversity, I remind leaders that diverse companies and organizations outperform, have lower risk, and have higher returns,” Smith said.

Smith notes that it is important to him to distinguish himself and do his best work to overcome adversity.

“As the CEO of Vista, I ensure that my teams are diverse, including one woman and one person of color on every board,” Smith said.

Chancellor Martin notes that students in college often deal with Imposter Syndrome and wonder if they are ever not doing enough to advance their path best. Smith’s response reminded students to have confidence, reiterating the common theme of realizing their potential.

“When you do the work and put in the time and energy, you’ll never feel like an imposter,” Smith said. “You’re not going to get there if you have not done the work.”

At the end of the session, Smith reminded the crowd to be able to adapt and evolve in the changing world and economy. He encouraged students to be persistent and pursue opportunities, to utilize as much of their time as possible, and to be efficient in engaging in their passion.

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