Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with New Zealand’s Joanne Gallop.
Joanne Gallop is Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive (CE) at Christchurch City Council. Here’s a look at her world.
Fit and ready
I exercise at 5:30 a.m. four days a week. After returning home, I get ready for work, tidy up and have a good breakfast. I get to work around 7:30 to 7:45 a.m., after an approximately 10-minute drive, and really must have a coffee in the morning as soon as I get to work.
Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I have a favourites playlist consisting of 80s music selections – Pink, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Rag’n’Bone Man and Imagine Dragons – along with some random other songs that I like.
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: I look after the CE and ensure that she gets where she needs to be with the right information. Morning Routines: I double check the calendar and emails, get coffee and deal with whatever the day brings!
I love that what I do contributes to making the city a better place to live, especially after the 2010/11 earthquakes
How long is your work day? I generally start between 7:30 and 7:45, and can sometimes still be here around 6:00 p.m. I try to not do that too often, but it does depend on the workload and the number of interruptions/emergencies!
Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health? I have a sit/stand desk. I get up and walk around the office often, and I eat well and exercise daily.
What might be a typical lunch? Each day, I have a salad that I prepared at home. I eat at my desk – and am doing that now while I am answering these questions.
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? Yes, I lead the EA/PA group we have at Council and provide professional development for those who are interested. I also collaborate with the Christchurch District Health Board administrators, and share professional opportunities with them; we are the two largest employers in Christchurch. I am also a mentor for one of the EAs.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Managing interruptions
My membership with AAPNZ has opened many doors to opportunities for professional development
What do you most enjoy about your career? I love that what I do contributes to making the city a better place to live, especially after the 2010/11 earthquakes that destroyed the central city and a large part of residential Christchurch.
On Saying “No”
I do say “no” quite a lot. If I am busy and someone approaches me, I politely tell them that I’m sorry, I don’t have time to talk just at the moment, can I talk to them later? Nine out of 10 times, this is acceptable. There are sometimes occasions where I need to drop what I’m doing in order to deal with an urgent request.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? I like to spend this time with my friends and family (and my dog, Graham).
How long have you been in this career? Since I left school in 1981 – that’s quite some time! What was your first such role? I was an administrator in a lawnmower shop.
How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? LinkedIn
I lead the EA/PA group we have at Council and provide professional development for those who are interested
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? A glass of wine goes down a treat on a Friday or Saturday evening. I really enjoy watching Netflix or playing Candy Crush for an hour or so in the evening.
Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? Seeing and being – seeing places I’ve never seen before, and being present in the moment because holidays don’t last forever and I like to remember every special moment!
Education and Professional Development
I have completed a Diploma in Human Resource Management and the NZ Diploma in Business. I also have certification from AAPNZ (the Association of Administrative Professionals of New Zealand). During my formal studies, I met like-minded people who I was able to bounce ideas off and share information.
Peer and Professional Associations: My membership with AAPNZ has opened many doors to opportunities for professional development, including attending Executive Secretary LIVE and lots of other conferences, forums and training.
I don’t intend to stagnate
Do you hold (or have you held) a leadership role within AAPNZ? I was Group President of the Christchurch Group of AAPNZ and am now Regional Leader, overseeing four groups in the South Island of NZ. I am a member of AAPNZ’s National Executive Team (NET). I look after the group presidents to ensure they are updated with the National Executive decisions by acting as a conduit.
How have these leadership roles impacted you? They’ve impacted me in terms of confidence and networking – I can contact any of our members nationally for assistance in my role. For example, I may ask for hotel recommendations, set up meetings for my manager, and more.
What are the primary means of communication for members of your network(s)/professional association(s)? We have monthly meetings of the Christchurch Group, while NET meets monthly via Skype and F2. We also rely on email and Skype for other communications.
Inspirational authors or reads? Bonnie Low-Kramen – I love that woman!!!!!! We had her here for a masterclass last year and I was so inspired!
Recruitment is often competency-based. Which of the competencies you bring to the role are most relevant to success in your current position? Being able to communicate well with others – both verbally and in writing, and also being a good listener. Hearing what is happening around the office can assist with determining how to manage situations, some of which can be quite delicate. Keeping my CE updated as appropriate is important, too, so she knows what is going on in the office. Being discrete and trustworthy.
Role models or mentors? I have had the most incredible managers in the last couple of roles I’ve had. These managers have encouraged me to extend myself and for that I am grateful. I still keep in contact with them and bounce ideas off them.
Tell us about a career accomplishment or two of which you’re particularly proud. I’ve organised large scale conferences for delegates from around the country, and project managed two major office moves for over 100 people. I’m proud of being in a position of leading (not managing) a large team of administrators – leading by example, mentoring, and helping with technology enquiries. All are very rewarding.
On a job interview? Ask about the expectations from the manager’s perspective, and not just from the job description – which may be a generic document
What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? After the initial panic … I talk myself through the process. Public speaking is one of those situations. I can now get up and speak but I ensure that I know my topic and do my homework first.
Describe any positive benefits your networking has had on your career, and/or for your employer. Gosh, where do I begin? I have made so many new friends, people whom I can call on when I need help with an issue. This has benefited my organisation because I can often get access to the people I need by going straight to their EA/PA.
What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? I am arranging a Regional gathering for administrators in the South Island of NZ in April; this is a day of professional development (PD) and information sharing.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I have been in my current role since January last year, so intend to develop the role further. I don’t intend to stagnate. I will be attending training continually via monthly AAPNZ meetings, reading and general upskilling (if I don’t know how to do something, I ask or google!).
Joanne: in a position of leading (not managing) a large team of administrators – leading by example, mentoring, and helping with technology
The Digital Age
Do you publish to, and/or monitor social media as part of your professional responsibilities? Not in my office, but I do so as part of AAPNZ, where I encourage team contributions. I tend not to publish so much now as the team are very good at it.
What are your preferred forms of social media? Facebook and LinkedIn
Do you maintain, monitor and/or publish to a website as part of your professional responsibilities? Yes, I did so for AAPNZ but have since delegated. I still keep an oversight. I don’t deal with social media or website publishing as part of my employment; this sits with our Communications team.
What apps do you make use of in your professional life? AirNZ, Outlook, Skype, Facebook Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? I’d like to have “Where is my manager?” and “Where is the general manager when my manager wants them?” apps.
I encourage team contributions
Describe any impacts social media has had on the role you hold within your organisation. There’s not a great deal of impact, apart from discussing the responses with my colleagues regarding the impact on the CE and Mayor.
Have you used technology to digitize processes or materials in your workplace? I have done this multiple times in my previous roles, including travel booking, procurement and procedures that had previously been kept only in hard format. Council already had digitized processes, including the mapping of those processes, before I arrived.
Do you have an employer-provided smartphone? Ye. What impacts has this accessibility had on your quality of life? I check emails (mine and my manager’s) out of hours, and am available by text during the weekends (this doesn’t happen very often). I prefer this as I can stay updated with what is going on.
Recommended PD for remaining relevant in the digital age: How to manage difficult people – no form of AI will ever be able to do that!
Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital, or paper-based? They’re primarily digital; we have a cloud-based hub for meeting documents.
Does your organisation make use of a portal for any of its bodies/committees? Yes, the same cloud-based hub is available for all Council meetings.
Does your organisation make use of an intranet/SharePoint or other web portals?Yes, we have an internal social media space on SharePoint and also an intranet which is updated constantly, so it’s always current.
Digital Innovation and Disruption
Let’s talk about the pace of change in the admin. world in general. Change is structured and well planned but, depending on what the change is (i.e., whether it’s a small organisational structure compared to a large project), it could be fast or slow. There is usually a consultation period. Personally, I like change; to me, change equals growth. I do work with others who are change-resistant and I have talked to a number of people about this and supported them through it, especially when it is out of their control (we are quite a controlling profession!).
I like change; to me, change equals growth
Your experience and thoughts on cyber security/data security practices? We are very, very good with our digital security.
How do you see the workplace evolving in terms of of digital assistants/AI (Artificial Intelligence) resources? I haven’t seen evidence of this at all. What positive impact(s) do you think AI, digital assistants and IOT (the Internet of Things) will have on the admin. professional of 2025? The digital assistants will never have the human factor that is required of an assistant. They may be able to take notes at meetings (yay!) or manage diaries, but will lack the emotional intelligence required to be an administrator/assistant.
What forms of professional development would you recommend to assistants who want to ensure their roles remain relevant and rewarding in this digital age? How to manage difficult people – no form of AI will ever be able to do that!
Don’t forget to review what you have achieved – you’d be surprised how much you’ve done!
Travel or travel planning recommendations? Business travel is done through a consultancy (Orbit Travel). We have our own consultant I can call on if there are problems, and I know they’ll be they sorted out immediately.
What apps or programs do you and/or your principal/executive find useful for travelling and expense tracking? Mainly the AirNZ app for flights
You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. Briefly outline the approach you’d recommend. Be yourself, and sell yourself. Search on social media and update your LinkedIn profile. Use your networks and advertise yourself on social media (e.g., on the AAPNZ Facebok page).
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. Be BOLD; ask what the organisation can offer you (go beyond what you have to offer). Ask about the expectations from the manager’s perspective, and not just from the job description – which may be a generic document.
Looking for a job? Be yourself, and sell yourself. Use your networks and advertise yourself on social media.
Let’s talk about goal setting. On a personal note, my husband and I sit down with a drink every New Year’s evening and review what we have achieved over the year and what we want to achieve the following year. I use this for my work life, as well. I plan my personal and professional development and career progression. Don’t forget to review what you have achieved – you’d be surprised how much you’ve done!
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? If you make a mistake, own it! ‘Fess (confess) up and deal with it rather than trying to cover it up. More often than not, it will get found out and that could be a lot worse.
What are a couple of suggestions you’d offer that new assistant on the block, in terms of how to build effective business relationships within the office? Ask for help. Don’t flounder about and worry that you don’t understand; we are here to help, and we know what it’s like to be the new kid on the block.
Your most effective time management strategy? Spend a bit of time at the end of the day to plan the next day; make a list of things that need doing and allow some time for the unexpected! Use your calendar for meetings and tasks.
Advice for a new parent returning to the workplace? Take your time to settle in. It can be hard making the transition back.
If you make a mistake, own it!
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Ask about the manager’s expectations, and what you can do to make that person’s life easier.
For those interested in promotion: Read as much as you can, put together a proposal if you are interested in attending training/conferences, etc. Make sure you include the benefits for the organisation. Join an appropriate association – there are great rewards for very little cost!
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Joanne mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.
- AAPNZ – Association of Administrative Professionals of New Zealand
- Executive Secretary LIVE – conferences
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.