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Q&A with Senior Director of Human Resources Katey Smith

As the Senior Director of Human Resources at Extra Space Storage, Katey Smith faces plenty of unique challenges in her day-to-day work. Her team leads the operational aspects of the self storage company, covering everything from benefits and payroll to policies and compliance for almost 4,000 employees in the company’s Salt Lake City headquarters and throughout its storage properties in 40 states.

Extra Space Storage Senior Director of HR Katey Smith

Recently, we sat down with Smith for a Q&A to learn more about what draws her to Human Resources work, the best advice she’s been given, and what she’s accomplished in her career.

Q: How did your career path lead you to Extra Space Storage?

A: My career in Human Resources has included a broad array of HR activities with larger organizations. My passion has been for excellence in process, helping one employee at a time. Great HR includes performing in a role that has the utmost expectation of integrity and confidentiality, and the values at Extra Space Storage spoke to me. After meeting the HR leadership team here, I felt I could put my 25+ years of HR experience to great use as the company continues to grow.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

A: A mentor early in my career regularly reminded me of two things:

  • I can only control myself. I can work hard every day, help where I can, know that I did my best, and opportunities will follow.
  • Always respect your coworkers. Do what you say you’re going to do and be on time for meetings.

Q: Which experience(s) in your career influenced who you are today?

A: I have lived through a lot of organizational change throughout my career—mergers, divestitures, plant closures, a spinoff, etc. Sometimes, the change impacted me personally, and other times, I watched others go through it. I have never forgotten the challenges these changes have made for people and their families, and my change management and communication work have improved as a result.

I grew up in Green Bay, WI, where whole generations were raised following the leadership and coaching philosophies of Vince Lombardi. His focus on doing your best, working hard, being part of a team, and striving for excellence were commonplace and ingrained in me starting with my first part-time job in high school. It also meant that I was spoiled at work, having been a part of many strong teams during my career.

Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?

A: The pace of regulatory change across the country has been staggering. Not only do the agencies and regulators not always agree on how a company can and should perform, but laws right down to the city and county level make it difficult to establish a consistent, efficient business practice that’s still compliant as well.

Q: What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your career?

A: No matter what area of my work I consider, I get to wear two hats. My recommendations and leadership help impact the overall success of the company, and I get to help individuals one challenge at a time. Even as I have grown my career, I have been able to stay connected to people and see the direct result of my work—something that does not always occur in all areas.

Q: Describe your most successful endeavor with Extra Space Storage.

A: My first six months were focused on delivering a new structure for our benefit team and with our Field HR support team. Both were redesigned to support our future growth while improving efficiencies. Based on their success—highlighted by the lack of interruption of service to our internal customers—I look forward to more projects in the future!

Q: What advice would you give to future Extra Space Storage leaders?

A: Find an area of work that you can be passionate about. When you love what you do, there really are no bad workdays—just challenging ones. Also, leading people is an awesome responsibility, both in scope and impact. If you view leadership as an honor to be selected for, those that you lead will be better for it, and your whole team will thrive.

This article is part of an ongoing series of interviews with Extra Space Storage (NYSE: EXR) team members. Katey Smith is the Senior Director of Human Resources at Extra Space Storage.