Digital 40 Over 40 2017: Allison Kent-Smith, Founder and CEO, smith & beta

Allison Kent Smith
Allison Kent-Smith
Founder and CEO, smith & beta

Working as digital director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and later CP+B, Allison Kent-Smith often saw creatives struggling to keep up with the drive toward digital. As she organized classes, field trips, workshops and experiments to introduce employees to new technologies, she realized that the skill and knowledge acquisition not only helped individual employees, it also uncovered ways to improve the overall organization and its work.

In 2013, she founded smith & beta, a talent development company dedicated to helping agencies acquire the digital and technical skills needed to keep them competitive and productive.   

A single conference or workshop isn’t enough to change the way an agency staffer approaches technology day-to-day. Instead, smith & beta designs custom, long-term education programs for clients that are directly integrated with work.

For example, Ogilvy & Mather New York wanted to invest in an agency-wide program to sharpen digital skills, so smith & beta designed a program of 10 hands-on classes covering topics including user experience, mobile and prototyping. The company also offers classes in data and KPI measurement, cross-platform storytelling and mobile strategy, as well as programs focused on soft skills like courage, grace and empathy, and clear communication.

Kent-Smith honed this approach at CP+B, when in 2009, she helped launch Boulder Digital Works in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder. The post-graduate certificate program taught entrepreneurship and fast-tracked digital skills such as conceiving, pitching and building a web-based company.

Now, Kent-Smith is in the throes of launching the next generation of CoED, a co-op of smaller agencies and marketers that brings industry leaders together to explain trending topics such as artificial intelligence and content distribution. A percentage of company profits go to developing similar programs for disadvantaged populations, and Kent-Smith volunteers her time teaching people digital skills so they can re-enter the workforce.

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