Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with Lisa Assetta of Tampa, Florida in the USA.
Lisa Assetta is a senior executive assistant. Here’s a look at her world.
Coffee and quiet
My alarm is set for 6:00 a.m. I typically wake up on my own before the alarm, between 5:00 and 6:00. Coffee is a must, first thing! I drink my coffee quietly, sitting at the kitchen bar, giving myself time to acclimate to the day and all it will contain. My new habit is reviewing my daily to-do list during this time (“The Do It Sheet” TM copyright 2018 LWSL, Inc.) during this time – it contains “must dos”, “should dos”, “would like to dos” and “others need from me”. Then it’s into the shower, makeup, hair, dress, take what I need for the day with me and I’m out the door.
I live only 15 miles (24 km) from my office at Tampa International Airport. With Tampa traffic, the drive takes me anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I listen to upbeat music during my entire commute to set a positive, energetic mood for the day. If it’s going to be a challenging day, my playlist will include “Overcomer” by Mandisa.
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: I answer the CEO’s direct phone line, and read and manage his email. I manage multiple calendars for the CEO: daily, travel, 12-month calendar look-ahead and annual travel lists (current year and beyond, 2018-2020). I proactively schedule timely briefings for upcoming meetings and events, to keep the CEO informed and allow for changes based on his input. I collect information for these meetings and events as well as conferences and external board meetings. On a daily basis, I track items in preparation for weekly schedule reviews to cover calendar and CEO Briefings (the CEO and myself) to obtain answers I need from him to take forward action.
I am a proud member of The American Society for Administrative Professionals (ASAP) and the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP)
Morning Routines: I get settled in quickly, make a cup of coffee, sit at my desk and assess my executive’s schedule for the day – whether changes have occurred or need to be made. I ensure all materials he needs for his day are on his desk or set “in queue” (the upper right corner of my desk, where I place folders for the day). Next, I scan my emails quickly for those containing critical information and for action items, and then his emails for those requiring his action or response.
Although my days aren’t typical, they do follow a common rhythm. Apart from the start of day routine, I do quiet work between 10:00 and noon. After a lunch break, it’s more quiet work followed by coffee and preparation for the next day. I meet with the CEO before he leaves for the day, and then determine in priority order what needs to be done the following day.
How long is your work day? I work past the close of business if additional work or preparation is needed for the CEO’s upcoming day. I will sometimes work later on personal business items such as drafting notes from meetings I attended, or work related to my professional development.
Take a risk
Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health? My employer has created a BeWell program that focuses on employee and workplace health. All employees are privileged to have access to an annual $500 wellness reimbursement for gym memberships and other health-related activities, including participation in 5K walks/runs. Part of the BeWell program includes a monthly employee “group stretch” in the main terminal, and passengers are welcome to join. I have a stand-up desk and I move around the office and airport throughout each day to avoid sitting for long periods of time.
What might be a typical lunch? It’s usually something light and easy – quick to prepare and eat. I keep food items in a fridge/cupboard at work. I make it a point to have lunch in the terminal or in one of the airport’s outside dining areas once or twice a week, either alone or with a coworker. Whether I step away from my desk during lunch is based on the CEO’s schedule. If he remains in his office during lunch, I typically do so as well. I also attend a monthly networking lunch “off-airport” as part of my membership in an Executive Assistants of Tampa Bay networking group.
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? I have a passion for wellness and the environment, and have been involved with TPA’s Wellness Council since its inception, as the representative from the Executive Wing. I am currently on a project team for the SkyCenter Authority Offices, a planning team for the airport’s Master Plan Phase 2 for a new office building. My focus is on being the voice for the ideal work space for the Administrative team and the CEO and his office.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? On a day to day basis, it’s keeping up with and managing impromptu requests that change the flow of the day while still keeping the CEO’s schedule manageable. In terms of the career, it’s staying abreast of new business practices and technology and introducing/implementing them for greater efficiencies and productivity for myself and the CEO.
What do you most enjoy about your career? The opportunity to continuously grow and improve what I do as well as how I do it. I also enjoy making a unique contribution to the company I work for and its leader.
On Saying “No”
I don’t find I have to say “no” very often because I almost always find a way to accommodate requests for the CEO. When I do say “no”, I say it respectfully and graciously with a factual reason.
Supporting career development: APC, specifically the Executive Assistants’ Summit, and service on APC’s Executive Assistants’ Summit Advisory Council
I was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio and have lived in Florida since moving here in 1989. I currently live in Tampa. At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I’m a city mouse who loves to visit the country. I love to see open land and the meadow is my “happy place”.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? I spend time with family and friends as well as exercising (I’m a member of my local YMCA), walking, jet skiing, and shopping.
How long have you been in this career? Thirty-two years. What was your first such role? I was a secretary for a water softener company in Ashland, Ohio. How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? I received a call from a staffing agency.
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I listen to music, sit outside on my lanai staring at the pool (I love water) or go to my salon/spa for nails, hair, and massage.
Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? That would be a trip to Italy.
I’m a continuous “striver” and have always looked for the next best opportunity I can find that most closely matches my end goal
Tell us about your professional associations: I am a proud member of The American Society for Administrative Professionals (ASAP) and the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), as well as the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE). Locally, I’m a member of EAs of Tampa Bay. What are the primary means of communication for members of your professional associations? Email and conference calls
Do you hold (or have you held) a leadership role in such an organisation? I have served on APC’s Executive Assistants’ Summit Advisory Council for the past two years (2017-2018). I am also a former Secretary for a local IAAP Chapter (chapters have since been dissolved in lieu of LANs/Local Area Networks).
How have these networks or associations impacted you and your career? They’ve helped with networking and training. Attending the Administrative Professionals Conference (APC), specifically the Executive Assistants’ Summit, and the privilege of serving on APC’s Executive Assistants’ Summit Advisory Council for the past two years have supported my career development.
I have enjoyed the meaningful opportunity to provide input and feedback on the APC Conference/EA Summit and contribute to the program on behalf of my colleagues and help lead it to success. I’ve also been a contributor for articles on the ASAP website 2018, and this provides a venue for me to share, inform, teach, and inspire my colleagues.
Let’s talk about they positive benefits your networking has had on your career, and/or for your employer. The opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who “do what I do” is invaluable. The camaraderie, the information sharing, and the learning help and inspire me to be better at what I do and to want to inspire others in my field and workplace about being a career Admin/EA.
Regular communication between the two of you is important and necessary to optimize mutual productivity
Inspirational reads? Julie Morgenstern for organizing and time management
Recruitment is often competency-based. Which of the competencies you bring to the role are most relevant to success in your current position? Passion for my job and career, and my people and organizational skills
Role models or mentors? My current executive/CEO inspires me. He is passionate about leading, concise and definitive in his communication and work style, and he connects with the people in our company and our community. I aspire to achieve these same things in my role.
I stay focused on what I need to achieve. Everything else is secondary.
Tell us about a career accomplishment or two of which you’re particularly proud. I’m proud to have worked with multiple CEOs and, with the support I provided them, to have contributed to their success and vision for their organizations. I’m also proud to have owned a small business for several years. I created it to provide consulting and organizing services for business owners and nonprofit organizations. My business focused on increasing productivity by organizing and streamlining offices and workflow to save business time and money. It also encouraged the use of eco-friendly business practices.
What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? Take a risk. I reach out to colleagues and offer to do something new, or join a team or class in an area I want to learn more about.
What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? I’m taking Toastmasters and a Sky Leadership course at the airport and, at the EAs of Tampa Bay quarterly meeting in January, presented on the topic of organization. Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I would like to share my passion, knowledge and expertise as a speaker. I would also like to mentor a junior administrative assistant.
My focus is on being the voice for the ideal work space for the Administrative team and the CEO and his office
The Digital Age
Describe any impacts social media has had on the role you hold within your organisation. My organization is active on social media and I promote its posts via my social media to further their exposure.
Do you publish to, and/or monitor a website or social media as part of your professional responsibilities? No.
What are your preferred forms of social media? LinkedIn What apps do you make use of in your professional life? DatAnywhere and Keeper Your dream app or software to help you in your career? A priority tracker What apps or programs do you and/or your principal find useful for travelling and expense tracking? Seat Guru
Do your best to adapt and always look for the positives
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. My executive knows he can reach me via cell phone for critical matters if they occur in the evening, on a weekend or even while I’m on Unileave. He respects my personal time and rarely disrupts it.
Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital, or paper-based? PDF and paper-based Does your organisation make use of an intranet/SharePoint or other web portals? Yes.
Let’s talk about the pace of change in the admin. world in general. Do you see variations in how people adapt to change? We are informed of changes and they are introduced in a logical manner. We operate in a compliant culture as the airport is governed by policies and procedures, and our employees are good at adapting to changes.
It is important to speak up and regularly share your ideas and accomplishments with your supervisor
What forms of professional development would you recommend to assistants who want to ensure their roles remain relevant and rewarding in this digital age? Go with the flow and do not resist change; it’s inevitable. Do your best to adapt and always look for the positives.
You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. Briefly outline the approach you’d recommend. First, update your resume to include key words in the job description for the position you are seeking. Second, update your LinkedIn profile and use the Job Search function so recruiters find you, and be active on LinkedIn every day to increase your visibility. Third, maximize your network and connect with key contacts and let them know you are looking for a new opportunity. Schedule phone calls or in-person meetings with your contacts to discuss your job preferences and career aspirations.
Looking for a job? Maximize your network and connect with key contacts and let them know you are looking for a new opportunity
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. Realize that you are being observed from the moment you step foot in a potential workplace and present yourself professionally as soon as you walk in the door. At the interview, be poised, calm, and confident. Smile and the interviewer will be left with the impression that you are a pleasant person to work with.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? It is important to speak up and regularly share your ideas and accomplishments with your supervisor, so s/he is aware and informed about how you uniquely contribute to the success of the organization.
Lisa’s CEO and role model: passionate about leading, concise and definitive in communication and work style, he connects with the people in our company and our community
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? Smile at everyone; it shows you are approachable. Take the time to find out what others do and how they and their departments operate, especially those with whom you and your executive work closely on a regular basis.
Your most effective time management strategy? I manage my time according to my executive’s priorities and deadlines. and this is how I stay focused on what I need to achieve. Everything else is secondary.
Goal setting is important to career success. Feel free to share any lessons learned. I’m a continuous “striver” and have always looked for the next best opportunity I can find that most closely matches my end goal.
Engage in opportunities within your company
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? It’s important to find out the work style of your new executive in the beginning. This way, you can tailor your communications and work style accordingly. Also discuss/stress how regular communication between the two of you is important and necessary to optimize mutual productivity; agree to a strategy to keep each other informed with daily or weekly in-person briefings, phone calls, or emails.
For those interested in promotion: Join a professional association for administrative professionals. Attend at least one external conference or training per year. Network via social media and locally. Engage in opportunities within your company to make yourself more visible and to show that you want to contribute to your company’s success in ways over and above your current role.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Lisa mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.
- ASAP – The American Society for Administrative Professionals
- IAAP – International Association of Administrative Professionals
- Morgenstern, Julie – organization and time management
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