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  • Writer's pictureWoman Up Cleveland

Pursuing Our Passions with Maria

Maria Smith - Lead DevOps Engineer at KeyBank

Maria Smith has all the energy, dedication, and passion that can only be found in the heart of a true Clevelander, and she is ecstatic about sharing her journey in our beloved city. Starting with her job at KeyBank, Maria’s love for connection certainly shines through. Her excitement for being a woman in STEM came from an interest in engineering that formed in high school and developed at Ohio State University where she found her calling in Information Systems through her love for technology. Maria began as an intern for KeyBank, followed by participating in Key’s rotational analyst program and then continued to automate herself out of her first role landing where she is currently: a Lead DevOps Engineer for KeyBank in Cleveland.


Her knowledge of automation and innovation in the workplace spills over to her personal goals and beliefs. “What’s interesting is that my work is about making technology better for humans. It centers on ‘How can I make the world a better place for humans using technology?’ So that’s been my mission ever since,” Maria said. This year marks her ninth year at KeyBank and this is the first year in which she has begun to reflect on her career and where it is headed next. She is excited to figure out how to best drive success for the people around her and to better the experience of working for Key when it comes to her colleague's day-to-day operations.


Outside of the office, Maria carries her hard work into to every aspect of her life. She applies the same level of dedication and perseverance to various passions including photography, meeting new people, and getting involved with the city of Cleveland. When it comes to photography, Maria shares that this passion is less of a professional hobby and more of a desire to capture every moment that she can with the people in her life. “I’m wildly passionate about photos and memories. I love to share them. Life is so short,” she says.


When it comes to meeting new people, Maria fosters her love for learning new things and celebrating the diversity that everyone around her has to offer. She appreciates being surrounded by various cultures and considers herself lucky to live in a place where differences are celebrated. She mentioned, “Very few cities in the world can celebrate things like Cleveland can with passion and pride.” As a lover of Cleveland, she acknowledges things and events throughout the city that receive much admiration and love, but she also acknowledges the importance of giving recognition to smaller events and communities which can benefit from local support. She shared with us the restaurants, events, and organizations that she loves to support in the area including Amba in Ohio City, the Cleveland Bazaar, and the Botanical Gardens. As a friend of hers once said, “If Maria could marry Cleveland, she would.”


Continuing her path as a Cleveland superfan, Maria touched on her work with Playhouse Partners—Playhouse’s young professionals’ organization—through Playhouse Square and how it has given her such deep respect for our local arts. Playhouse is passionate about engaging young people in the arts and strives to have representation on its own boards and platforms to give insight into what interests them. As a member of Playhouse Partners, Maria feels incredibly welcomed and accepted by this incredible group of young people and she continues to work with them on their projects such as the annual Jump Back Ball.


When we asked Maria to name her favorite thing about Cleveland, “culture” was her immediate response. She shared, “I am appreciative of all the little nooks and crannies of this city. You really feel like you're transported to different places and there's a completely different vibe. There is something here for everybody, and you must find it and find yourself in the process.”

LaVonne, her daughter, + Shannon at the Summer Social 2022.
Shannon, Maria, & Alex at Mind - Body - Soul 2023.

Transitioning to conversations about womanhood and back to Maria’s experiences in the workplace, we touched on advice that she may have for the younger generation. For her fellow women who are multi-passionate and may be unsure of how to pursue and grow in multiple areas, Maria has some tips and tricks to offer from her experiences. She stated, “I’m glad that I am diving into everything while I'm young. As you get older, you understand more about your boundaries, your energy levels, and what you can actually take on.” Maria recognized the common experience of burnout resulting from juggling so many different things and suggests that as you grow and priorities shift, one should narrow down their list of ‘musts’ to a few core things that matter most. When you’re multi-passionate, it can be hard to feel that you belong in any one space, but Maria gives the advice of “try everything once” as a solution to see what really matters to you at the end of the day and what you truly care about most.


Finally, we asked Maria to set her sights on the future and tell us a bit about what she sees for herself, her career, and all her many passions. She shared that house buying is on her radar for the upcoming year as well as finding balance and being content with her day-to-day accomplishments. She says, “being happy with the now,” is a large part of her mantra for this year as she aims to feel content with the choices she makes in all aspects of her life. Maria also mentions that providing support for her family and friends is at the forefront of her goals as well. “You want to have people in your life that are your number one fan,” she says and proudly aims to be that for her people.


Maria is multi-passionate, multi-skilled, and the perfect example of the Cleveland pride that makes our city so unique. Her energy radiates through her many areas of interest and always gives her all to the task at hand. Whether it be putting in hours at KeyBank, volunteering to build decor pieces for Playhouse Square, or taking her friends out for her favorite local meal, Maria gives 100% of her attention to all she does. She has a strong view of what she wants but isn’t afraid to try new things thanks to her adventurous nature which makes her such an incredible addition to any project. We are so fortunate to know Maria and have her as a supporter of all we do here at Woman Up Cleveland. She is a shining example of the women we not only want to be, but the women we want to surround ourselves with.

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