Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with Bettina Wemanis of Stockholm, Sweden.
Bettina Wemanis is executive assistant to the Director of Operations, Perioperative Medicine and Intensive Care at Karolinska University Hospital. Here’s a look at her world.
Early to rise
My alarm goes off at 5:20 and I snooze at least four times before getting up. I listen to the news while having coffee and a light breakfast. I live just outside the City Centre, so it’s ordinarily a 15-minute train ride and then a 10-minute walk to the hospital.
Who or what is on your commuting playlist/ podcast? I love music and listen daily to my Spotify list. I have a broad taste in music and enjoy different genres. My two sons give me suggestions about music they think I will like, and they are usually right.
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: My primary responsibility is to simplify my manager’s life as much as possible. I check emails, calendars and my to-do list. I also work with our departmental colleagues when it comes to large meetings, social activities or other joint meetings.
Morning Routines: I check email – my manager’s and my own – and the schedule for the day. I review our calendars and then my to-do list. When I feel I have checked everything, I get a cup of coffee.
How long is your work day? I‘m in the office from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If necessary, I stay a bit longer or I continue to work from home.
I am a member of IMA (International Management Assistants) Sweden
Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health? Our employees are among the most important resources we have to put our patients first, and we take responsibility for each other. We try to give our employees the opportunity to feel as good as possible at their workplace.
At Karolinska University Hospital,there are various health care subsidies that support health and safety. For example, we have an employee gym and find inspiration in health services and physiotherapists.
What might be a typical lunch? Sometimes I bring a lunchbox from home, especially if I know that I have several meetings and I have limited time. Otherwise, I go out with colleagues, friends or former colleagues to meet up in a nearby restaurant.
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? At work, I am a member of the chief assistant network. We meet once a month to share experiences, work on improving methods and give each other good tips. In the role of web coordinator, I regularly meet with the others in the same role at the hospital to check on what needs to be taken care of or to learn new updates. I like to have projects besides my primary tasks. I want to invest in projects where I develop and make the most use of my abilities. I am fortunate to have a manager who wants to invest in me and give me room for my own development.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? It’s always wanting to be available not only to my manager but also to the organization. The most challenging aspect of my day is managing the many requests that I receive. As an EA, I need to be adaptable and flexible and respond to these requests in a professional manner and understand that the company needs change. I see these challenges as opportunities to leave my comfort zone and rise to the challenge of getting the task done.
I want to invest in projects where I develop and make the most use of my abilities
What do you most enjoy about your career? I see my manager as my client, and I see the rest of management the same way. After all, my job is to relieve, facilitate and prepare so that the daily work functions as smoothly as possible. It is important to be flexible and open to changes and new ideas, but also to act as a kind of filter. There are important documents to be handled by the managers, and it is my responsibility to ensure that everything is correct so that it is properly handled all the way. It is important to be able to feel how different people and situations should be handled.
On Saying “No”
I don’t like to say no, but I am on a learning curve. The older I get, the more careful I am using my resources.
I was born in Berlin, Germany. When I turned two, we moved to Stockholm, Sweden. My mother is Swedish. I live with my husband, two sons and two cats in our house in a suburb to Stockholm. I love yoga, my mountain bike and just being outside.
At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I like both. I love to go into town and stroll, do some shopping and have a nice dinner. I spend a lot of time in our summer house on our own island, 250 kilometers from Stockholm. The island has been in my family for four generations. It is beautiful, and I feel so relaxed when I spend time there.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? I like to spend my free time with family and friends, but I also prioritize alone time. I practice yoga a few times a week and go for long walks.
How long have you been in this career? 13 years What was your first such role? I got the opportunity to work as a sales and marketing assistant, assisting the Nordic sales manager and his team.
I am fortunate to have a manager who wants to invest in me and give me room for my own development
How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? I had worked in customer service with the sales team for several years. When the team needed to hire a sales and marketing assistant, they thought of me and I accepted immediately. It was a new position at the company and it gave me so much knowledge and experience. A senior assistant in the office became my mentor and helped me out when needed.
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? When I have had a tough day during the week, I relax at home with my family over a nice dinner. I might see a good movie.
Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? I would like to go to Japan. I’m happy anywhere there is sun and a beach.
Education and professional development: I studied economics in high school and after that I went to London to study English. I have attended various courses over the years to increase my knowledge in different areas.
I see my manager as my client
Recruitment is often competency-based. Which of the competencies you bring to the role are most relevant to success in your current position? I’m a service-minded, humble, confident and driven person with integrity. Don’t be afraid to try new things. It is good to be creative and flexible.
Role models or mentors? I have met different people during my career – and not all are necessarily within administration – who have been strong role models. I have had colleagues and managers who were supportive of my growth and development, always pushing me to do better and achieve more. And of course, my husband always encourages and support me.
Have you received any awards or recognition as an admin. professional? I won the Medtronic Core Behaviour Courage Award in 2014. I was one of three people nominated for the “Sweden Executive Assistant Award 2019”.
Tell us about a career accomplishment or two of which you’re particularly proud. I am proud of the relationships I have built and maintained. I am very pleased with the projects, small and large, that I have completed over the years.
What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? Preparation provides more security when I do something that I do not feel comfortable with. When you are prepared, it is easier to tackle what comes unexpectedly. Staying calm and focused is important; you can do more than you think.
What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? Right now, I´m where I want to be, but I would like to make a greater difference than I do today.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I want to become more involved in the admin community, be it through networking at conferences and events, or discovering new resources. I am a member of IMA (International Management Assistants) Sweden and Swedish Women’s Educational Association of Sweden (SWEA).
On saying “no”: The older I get, the more careful I am using my resources
The Digital Age
Do you publish to, and/or monitor social media as part of your professional responsibilities? Karolinska University Hospital’s Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts are managed by the central communication department.
What are your preferred forms of social media? LinkedIn and Instagram
Do you maintain, monitor and/or publish to a website as part of your professional responsibilities? In addition to my ordinary responsibilities, I am the web coordinator for our unit. I work on both our internal and external pages. I am part of our communication team and we work to reach our 1,600 employees with our work. I am also the editor for our weekly newsletter, sent to our 130 managers.
What apps do you make use of in your professional life? When I receive a suggestion of a new app, I download it directly and test it. I use travel apps, Trello, and Projectplace.
Have you used technology to digitize processes or materials in your workplace? With digital development, it is important that we see opportunities for our own development. We can solve simpler tasks faster and have opportunities to work more on what we are passionate about.
I’m a service-minded, humble, confident and driven person with integrity
Do you have an employer-provided smartphone? Yes. Tell us about both the positive and adverse impacts that 24:7 availability may have had on your quality of life. I have one smartphone for work and one for personal use. It suits me perfectly; I can then decide myself when I look at the work phone during weekends and holidays.
Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital, or paper-based? We work primary digitally, with a lot of Skype meetings, because we work in different buildings and on two sites north and south of Stockholm. I rarely print material; the hospital is working to become paperless.
Does your organisation make use of an intranet/SharePoint or other web portals?We use Projectplace for sharing documents and agendas for management teams. Everyone in Stockholm County Council (about 40,000 people) can read what we publish on our intranet. The web department manages the intranet, but each business is locally responsible for its pages.
What positive impact(s) do you think AI, digital assistants and IOT (the Internet of Things) will have on the admin. professional of 2025? My wish is that the positive effects can simplify my day work. I also hope to be able to free up more time in the future to take part in meetings and in different projects.
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. It is very important to try to find out as much as possible about the company, and to prepare a personal presentation about yourself. Prepare to answer the most common questions.
Staying calm and focused is important; you can do more than you think
Your most effective time management strategy? My to-do list – without it, I would be lost. Thanks to my list, I can handle emergency situations better.
Advice for a new parent returning to the workplace? For the transition to be as smooth as possible, it is good to book a meeting with the manager during the first weeks back at work. Read the intranet from time to time and take note of staff information. Then you have at least a bit of an idea what is happening. For example, if a reorganization occurs, it is very important to know.
With digital development, it is important that we see opportunities for our own development
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Create trust with the manager you assist. Be interested in people and trust them. Extend service both internally and externally.
For those interested in promotion: Research what is required of the role and be prepared to take on the responsibility.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Bettina mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.
- IMA Sweden – International Management Assistants – also on Twitter
- Swedish Women’s Educational Association of Sweden (SWEA)
- Sweden’s Executive Assistant Awards
To explore a range of resources recommended by readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page or click here to see all professional associations and networks recommended by peers.
Exceptional EA showcases Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share the benefit of their experience. We’ve made virtual trips to 23 countries to date: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates , the United States of America and Wales.