Remembering Kia

 A light has left us.

It is with the heaviest heart that our beloved, feisty, brilliant colleague and friend, Kia Hays, passed away Saturday, Jan 20th, 2024.

She was surrounded by loved ones as people across the world lit candles in her honor just before she left us.

Our hearts are with her family and all the people on whom she has made a significant imprint, knowing the world will be a very different place without her in it. We will never forget her and keep doing the work she loved – to bring people’s stories to life – in her honor.

The StoryFile Team

Reflections of a Friend

Sometimes people who appear in your life, expected or unexpectedly, have such a tremendous impact on your worldview, that it’s almost indescribable. Some of us knew Kia Hays for over a decade, and some for just over a year. She affected our lives for the better, no matter how long the benefit of our time together. The StoryFile Team has come together to share our personal tributes in honor of our cherished colleague, mentor, leader, and friend. We hope you will feel a sense of Kia’s stellar personality, characteristics, and overall nature that provoked us all to become better humans.

From our Co-Founder, Heather Smith

Co-founder Heather Maio-Smith reflects on her memory of our dear Kia:

“It was through the USC Shoah Foundation’s Dimensions in Testimony project that I got to know and work with Kia for over 10 years. For years we were partners in crime, working together to do something that had never been done before. She was a force of nature, solution oriented, curious, organizing and being organized was her superpower. Our program needed that, I needed that. She took all of my creative craziness, all my passion and emotion and focused it into something concrete, something real.

She continued to expand and kept innovating. She went on to produce another 30 Dimensions In Testimony Interviews, over 50 in total under her leadership. Building on the groundbreaking innovation that the project was known for, she managed the production of the award winning 360 Interactive VR film, The Last Goodbye, the first of its kind. She went on to produce several more VR projects over the course of her tenure with USC Shoah Foundation.

In November of 2021, Kia Hays came join us at StoryFile as our Senior Vice President of Studio and Content. We were growing and I desperately needed her superpowers, again. She built an amazing team, set up a new organizational structure for the studio and for producing conversational video AI content. She lifted up, advocated for, managed and mentored her team members and contractors along the way. She turned the studio into a much more efficient process driven entity, helped to organize the help center and the customer service process as well as all of the corporate training for our SAAS product Conversa. Under her leadership her department created and managed all of the tutorial content and our own storyfile for Conversa to help answer clients questions. She was a trusted thought partner, leader, fellow strategist, problem solver, mentor, advocate for her team as well as other staff members and worked tirelessly to help make StoryFile successful.

We will be eternally grateful for having her with us on this journey. We are heartbroken knowing the world will be a very different place without her in it. We have all been blessed to work alongside such a brilliant mind and have such a creative, compassionate, beautiful friend.

We will never forget her and keep doing the work she loved – to bring people’s stories to life – in her honor.