The top fixer in the country is not Olivia Pope, but rather the real woman the Scandal character was based on, Judy Smith. What is a fixer exactly? A fixer is a crisis manager—someone called in to help a person, company, or even a government handle a critical situation. Put another way, Judy Smith the Fixer ™ is someone people call on the worst day in their lives, to help them put the pieces back together.
Judy’s story is well-known by now. She prepared for a career in crisis management by majoring in public relations at Boston University and then attending law school at American University—where she was the first Black woman to sere on the Executive Board of the Law Review.
“I’ve always been interested in image and reputation management,” Smith told the L.A. Times. “Because really when you think about it — it is an old phrase, but all we have is our word and our good name.
After years working in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington D.C., she joined President George H. W. Bush’s staff as Senior Adviser and Deputy Press Secretary. After her term in the White House, she started Smith and Company, representing high-profile clients like Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vick and Angelina Jolie, in addition to Fortune 500 companies including Amazon, FaceBook, Sony and Kaiser.
Whether it’s an audience question at a speaking engagement, or a social media follower, one thing people always ask is: How do I become a fixer?
Judy told People, “When I graduated from college, my first job was with a nonprofit organization where I did communications. Of course, I did not have much experience, but that turned out to be a plus because it was a nonprofit and they were short on staff so I got to do almost everything and I learned an awful lot.”
She added, “I think any internship or job you can get that is related to communications would be great. It could be in politics, public affairs , non-profit, etc. Just dive in and see if you like it.”
Smith told The Riveter: “A fixer, or crisis manager, has the knowledge and expertise to give advice, and isn’t afraid to give the best advice they can. I don’t live with that fear, because I’ve been doing it since I was 6 years old. One of the reasons I think I’m confident and good at what I do is I understand people, and knowing that helps me get to the core of most issues.”
I think it’s really important to believe in yourself and what you’re capable of,” Smith told The Riveter. “I think at times that belief will be tested, if not shaken. For me it’s not just believing in yourself and manifesting your future. I always say life requires action. I can believe in it, but what are you doing to take action, to get you where you want? It is that extra step. And it’s not just once, you have to keep taking action over and over and over again.”
Lastly, she added, “When I talk about Handle It, I am talking about taking control of your life and your current situation. We all come from different backgrounds, but I believe each of us has what it takes to evolve in different situations and take the necessary actions to handle whatever comes our way. Keep your fate in your own hands. You take control, you handle it.”