Susan J. Schmitt
Group Vice President of Human Resources,
People Success Insight:
Using the workplace as a venue for personal growth and emotional healing
An avid equestrian her entire life, Susan Schmitt originally thought her career destiny was veterinary medicine. But she changed her path after a college course in industrial organizational psychology inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in the subject. Today, over 30 years later, she is Group Vice President of HR at Applied Materials, a global company with more than 22,000 employees.
Susan traces her passion for HR to a childhood spent growing up in a church, the daughter of a minister. “We had 300 people in our congregation,” she says. “I thought it was normal to have that many people in my family! I learned at an early age how to interact with everyone.”
“The workplace can be a wonderful laboratory for healing negative self beliefs resulting from damaged pasts. I’m not saying that HR should take on the role of therapist. But we do have an opportunity, through appropriate coaching and development programs, to offer our colleagues a path to healing through their workplace encounters and challenges.”
But Susan also had to unlearn some unconscious self beliefs to reach her potential in HR. “In the mid-1990s, a leadership expert told me that my success would eventually be hampered by a drive for perfectionism and my need for others to like me,” she says. “I remember saying to him, ‘But those are two attributes that have helped me be successful.’ I had to find out a few years later that my eagerness to please by playing small only made things worse.”
Susan realized these habits were not only negatively affecting her at work, but were also damaging her peace of mind, energy and joy for life. She decided it was time to embark on a journey to reclaim her personal power. That was nearly 25 years ago, and Susan is now dedicated to passing on what she learned to others.
“We’re all like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz,” she says. “Dorothy had the courage, passion, [and] intelligence to get what she wanted all along. I had to discover that for myself too. And now I want to help support others on the same journey of moving beyond our damaged pasts.”
“Our careers provide great opportunities to remove limiting beliefs about ourselves and our worthiness to manifest our full potential,” Susan says. “The gratifying work for me is to help teach others how to learn self-acceptance to create more joyful lives.”