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Be Courageous and Just Do It!
“The mortgage industry is not glamorous. College grads don’t graduate with a degree in mortgage saying, I want to be a loan officer! It’s up to us to make it a little more glamorous to start with a mortgage company and build a successful career."
Deshawn Smith has grown up in the mortgage industry, without fully realizing he was doing so. He is currently serving as the Corporate Operations Officer for CMS Mortgage. However, Deshawn did not start at the top with CMS. His mother, Corrina Carter, is the company’s founder. Like many working mothers, she spent long hours away from her family and often brought her young children to the office, exposing them to the business and encouraging them to learn. Corrina has grown her business to provide for her family and create a legacy for their future. Deshawn has a unique perspective on what it means to grow up in the business.
“She tried to bring me in for real when I was in high school and during my early college years,” Deshawn remembers. “But it didn’t work out. I didn’t mind coming in to lend a hand, but it always seemed I was given small tedious tasks. I’m one of those people who needs my mind engaged and being used. I like to solve problems. My mind works best coming up with and figuring out solutions to problems.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t ever want to be in the mortgage business. I often say I was guilt-tripped into the business. It’s hard to say no to your mother.
“Turns out, the last time she asked me to come help her and CMS, I was in a place where I wasn't living up to my full potential. I wasn't challenging myself. So, I came into the business and committed to learning everything, for real. It was, and still is, a process. I have sat in pretty much everyone’s chair to reach where I am today. And that’s deliberate. I continually ask, ‘How can we improve?’ To answer this question and to direct and train where needed, I always need to be learning and have a mindset open to productive change. “Working with my mother is interesting. We laugh a lot, and we shout some, too. But in the end, we share an ideology. We’re passionate and can get into heated battles, but there’s nothing personal. We know how far to push the limit between work and family.
“She tells a story about us being in the war room, yelling, arguing, going back and forth. Then coming out and saying, ‘What’s for dinner?’ We don’t clash about what’s important. And when we do clash heads, it’s only because we care enough to make sure we are successful and can provide for our family and help our clients.”
Deshawn is a flexible and strongly adaptable leader. He brings the same question into his leadership philosophy as he does to the business as a whole, ‘How can I be better?’ “I think one of my strengths is being available and keeping the pulse on what we need to succeed. Especially when it comes to dealing with people and being understanding as well. I've learned from working with my mother about giving direction without dictating, and how people interact with each other.”
As a leader in the industry, Deshawn is keenly interested in ensuring the mortgage business has a strong and healthy future. He feels strongly about bringing youth into the business. “The mortgage industry is not glamorous. College grads don’t graduate with a degree in mortgage saying, I want to be a loan officer! It’s up to us to make it a little more glamorous to start with a mortgage company and build a successful career.
"I think the glamor will come from keeping flexibility in the industry. I can work from wherever I go. We can go wherever we want and still be productive. There are many roles, many ways a person can truly fit in a mortgage company.”
Deshawn believes mortgage has opportunities for people who want to learn and excel. In particular, he speaks of the growth potential for his company in the coming years. “I believe we will have several departments within departments which will allow us to provide for even more families than we do today. This is another lesson I’ve learned from my mom: always ask how many families can we feed. Or how many generations under US can we provide for? We pride ourselves on being able to provide for our work families and, in an important way, our customer families. Being able to keep raising up those umbrellas and give opportunities for people to learn and earn within our industry is what I see happening in the next five years.”
Of course, like all of us, Deshawn is more than just work. He has hobbies and interests outside of business. One of his favorite escapes is binge-watching his favorite shows and gaming. It’s more than entertainment for Deshawn.
“I like to binge because I like the development of the characters over time that you don’t get in a movie. I get hooked on the people. I guess I kind of see myself in them. I relate to the characters when I'm watching TV shows and make a connection to real life.”
Deshawn also enjoys travel and has plans to explore Europe and Central America, or maybe Bali one day. And once again, it’s the people, the culture, that appeal to him.
“I'm a little Irish. So, Ireland would be nice to see. Italy, Paris. The Eiffel Tower. It’s the culture. I love seeing lots of different cultures. I think because it’s how I grew up. As a kid, I went back and forth between a black and a white family. So, their cultures were totally different. It's taught me to be grateful and appreciate other perspectives and experiences.
“Success for me is being able to have the freedom to do whatever you want to do. That doesn't have to involve money. You could be successful in building a family if that’s what’s important to you. I equate success to freedom and being able to do whatever you desire.” Deshawn offers three simple pieces of advice to those who are searching for their own brand of success. Be open-minded. Be curious. And don’t think too hard.
“Overthinking adds stress and creates burdens and worries that aren’t needed. When we think too hard, we forget about the resources we have and stay too much in our heads.
“Be courageous. We all need to realize the solution is usually to just do it. Just do something. Don’t sit and think and moan. Go out and fail one hundred times. But that one time you succeed, it’s all worth it.
“One more thing I’d like to say, and that’s thank you. To my mother. Not just for me, but for the lengths she goes to for everyone, for the sacrifices she’s made that today provide for many people in addition to me. By her example, she’s trained me and is training others to be gracious with people and to be generous as well. She’s shown me that you can be the person people are afraid of or the person everyone likes to come to and be around.
I couldn’t be here without her. There are a lot of people who wouldn’t be here without her. She’s the most courageous person I know.”