Everyone has a story. With nearly 200 employees, there are lots of stories to tell about Smithville. Aaron B., Corporate Communications Specialist, uses his past journalism and communications experience to make sure everyone stays informed and on the same page as we work towards expanding rural broadband in South Central Indiana.
Aaron is usually the one asking questions and interviewing employees. We switched things up and asked Aaron some hard-hitting questions to get to know him better:
- Hometown: Indianapolis, Former Park Tudor Panther
- Favorite TV Show: Right now, it’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. I identify with Larry’s rage.
- Favorite Movie: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. A real feel-good flick. Also, historically accurate.
- Favorite Food: Fruit smoothie with peanut butter. I have one every single day.
- What You Like to Do in Free Time: I stay extremely busy. I do something different almost every night. Some of my favorite things are bird watching, going to movies at the IU Cinema, bar trivia, running (I’m working on becoming more of a triathlete), horse playing with my dogs, going to plays. I do it all.
- Dream Vacation Destination: I’m starting to look at going somewhere for birding. Someplace isolated and strategically located where I can see a lot of cool species. Attu, mayhap. Can’t be someplace easy, I guess.
- Favorite Quote: My senior yearbook quote was from the movie Point Breakstarring Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Anthony Kiedis, and Gary Busey. “Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation causes your worst fears to come true.” I thought that was the coolest.
- Description of Time at Smithville in Three Words: Challenging, supportive, fast-paced
Aaron came to Smithville from the newspaper industry, where he worked as a Sportswriter/Editor. He had a desire to live and work in Bloomington and talked to a Smithville employee about an opportunity available in Technical Support. While he didn’t have the technical experience, he was willing to learn and enjoyed talking to people. He supported Smithville phone, internet, TV, and security customers and utilized his journalism experience by writing standard operating procedures and job aids for the Technical Support team from 2015 until 2019.
Last year a new team was formed at Smithville: Corporate Communications. Employees had expressed that information wasn’t always shared across all departments. To grow and become more efficient, all areas needed to be on the same page and working towards the same goal. There was also some duplicated or unnecessary work, which didn’t help with productivity. Leadership took this employee feedback to heart and worked to create Corporate Communications to share relevant information. Aaron submitted writing samples to and worked with Liz I., Director of Corporate Communications and External Affairs. “Together, with the help of the third member of our team, Jen A., we created a department that more or less functions as a newsroom dealing with all things Smithville. It’s been a lot of fun, and I like that we are tackling what people considered the most prominent problem within the company.” Some of their communication tactics include updating an employee blog with news articles and department features and streamlining many communications into a few, organized emails throughout the week.
Seeing the shift in workplace culture has been the most rewarding experience for Aaron. He is the incoming chair of the Smithville Engaged team, which is focused on engaging employees with each other and the communities Smithville serves. Part of his duties on this team include creating messaging for employee events and initiatives. “This included stuff like creating catchy emails for Smithville’s March Madness bracket pool, Halloween party, and company picnic, among other things. Creative things like this are where my interests lie, so I gravitate to these activities even when it isn’t really my primary job function.”
Personal development is a focus at Smithville, and that’s something that’s important to Aaron. “It has been my experience that management and leadership help to cultivate the skills of their workforce. There are lots of training opportunities with online courses and tuition reimbursement and other ways to develop skills and knowledge through committees and meetings.” To expand on personal development, Smithville has launched a “Develop You” program where employees can take classes to develop skills, such as time management and communication courses.
To Aaron, Smithville is different because everyone is willing to change. That change requires constant communication and keeping employees in the loop, and Aaron and the Corporate Communications team are up to the challenge. “Everything and almost everyone is open to making changes. I think part of that has come from a shift in culture. People trust each other more and recognize that everyone is working toward the same goal.”