Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with Luciana Landini, who works in Milan, Italy.
Lucia Landini is PA to the Senior Country Manager (SCM) and EA to Coverage and M&A, Natixis SA Milan. Here’s a look at her world.
I wake up every morning at 6:30, and I check my email while having breakfast. Coffee and some fruits are a daily must have. By 7:30 I leave my house, and walk to the train station.
I commute daily by train and metro; it takes me about an hour and a half to reach the office. I read a book or listen to podcasts during my journey. It is not always easy in crowded coaches, but I make the best use of my commute and try not to waste my time.
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: As the PA to the SCM, I am responsible for his agenda, his travels and personal documents, and I assist other directors in their daily activities. I manage internal and external meetings and I prepare all requested documents.
Morning Routines: My first morning routine once I reach the office is my espresso with a colleague, for a short conversation or to clarify some pending issues. Then I prioritize and answer my emails, most of which I have already checked during my commute. Then I go through my executive’s email, and I verify the agendas, a meeting at a time, to make sure all details are included.
Be aware that working hard is not enough
How long is your work day? I regularly work from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 or 6:30 p.m., but I am used to working longer hours. I am very lucky because my executives respect my time out of the office and help me keep a good balance between work and private life.
What might be a typical lunch? I try to have a quick lunch at my desk, while reading the news and scrolling thorough social media. Then, if I have some time left, I go for a walk. I work in Milan and the city is full of surprises and special corners. One Friday a month I visit a museum: there are great exhibitions in the city center.
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? At the office, we created a group of readers; we all meet every few months to talk about books we read, and to share our opinions. When we meet at the cafeteria for lunch, books are our main subject. It is really a breath of fresh air.
Show up, let them know you are there; do not conceal yourself under the huge amount of work you have every day
Inside the career
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? To be flexible. A working day for an EA must be well organized, but most of the time unexpected situations change our plans. We need to find solutions and make continuous changes. We never get bored.
What do you most enjoy about your career? I enjoy working with brilliant minds; every day I learn from them. I enjoy the excitement of great achievements, including the stressful moments before, and the laughter after the satisfactory results come.
I graduated in foreign languages (English, Spanish and French) at the University in Milan
On Saying “No”
It’s very hard to say no, but I got used to it; we need to have control of all requests we receive. Of course, we often need to explain the reason behind our “no”, and be firm and extremely nice.
Working during a pandemic
Tell us about your experience with remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. I consider myself a very lucky person; in our company, we were all allowed to work from home during the most complicated weeks of the pandemic. It was a good opportunity to make a different use of my commuting time, to study new subjects, and to upskill. I gained a new mental and physical energy.
How would you rate your productivity when working remotely? My productivity has increased, yet I found it difficult to keep my boundaries. When you work from home you might end up working longer hours, and at the same time being involved in the house activities, like cooking. Days are never-ending.
My productivity has increased, yet I found it difficult to keep my boundaries
What would be your ideal work scenario once we settle in to new norms? Would you prefer to be back in the office, at home, or proceed with a hybrid approach? Both situations have pros and cons. I missed my colleagues and the social life a lot, yet I saved on commuting time, which is about three hours a day, and I could make better use of my time. My ideal working future would be a few days working in the office, and a few days from home. I believe it will become my future reality, and I am very happy about it.
It (the pandemic) was a good opportunity to make a different use of my commuting time, to study new subjects, and to upskill
What’s been your biggest career lesson/takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic? I learned how to think out of the box and find new ways to work and communicate.
What’s been your biggest life lesson/takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic? I am more grateful than ever for all the precious gifts I have in my life, including my job.
I am a member of Secretary.IT, the main association of assistants in Italy
How many professional development-focused webinars do you estimate you’ve attended during the COVID-19 pandemic? I attended about two seminar a week in the first months. It was a great opportunity for us to learn new skills. How did you feel about learning from webinars? I love seminars; you can concentrate all your energy on listening and taking notes. Once more, I focus on saving time.
Let’s think about environmental sustainability, both at home and in the workplace. The term “carbon footprint” is used to describe the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) we generate through our actions. These emissions, arising dominantly from our transportation, food and housing practices, trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and generate global warming.
Globally, the average carbon footprint per person is estimated to be in the range of four tons. The average in the country with the highest emissions is estimated at 16 tons per person. Individuals and employers are increasingly aware of the importance of taking steps to reduce our carbon footprints.
What steps are underway within your workplace to reduce carbon footprints? In my workplace we have been taking care of environmental sustainability for a few years now. We have photocopiers which show the exact number of copies a person decides to print; it helps us become aware of the real need of printing and of the total amount of pages we print every month. Paper waste is collected and set aside, to be recycled. We no longer have plastic glasses or dishes. We replaced disposable cups and cutlery, and have only ceramic cups. We all have our own plastic or aluminum bottles to drink water that we get from a distributor. We collect disposable coffee machine capsules, and they are recycled. Lights in the offices are automatically turned off at 1:00 p.m., during the lunch break, and we turn them on later, when we really need to.
Please highlight some steps you take to reduce your carbon footprint in your personal life. During the pandemic we have all been allowed to work from home, which helps reduce traffic and some of the offices’ consumption and costs. At home, I never print anything and my carbon footprint is zero.
I was born and live in Italy, and I love my country with all my heart. At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I am a country mouse; I live by Lake Maggiore and I love nature. I get easily stressed in traffic, yet I love working in the center of Milan; the city has a lot to offer and it gives me new energy. People seem to be always busy and active, and everybody is so elegant!
How long have you been in this career? More than fifteen years; time goes by so quickly! What was your first such role? I was the assistant to a company owner; he was a self-made man who created an empire. He had a strong personality, but his life experience helped him see the good aspects in every person.
Participating in the (Secretary.IT) network has helped me improve my skills, make new friends, and find out that I am not alone when I have some issues to face
How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? I am a member of an Italian association of assistants, Secretary.IT. I found the job opportunity on the Secretary.IT website; I was looking for a full-time job. The position was for a part time job, and still I decided to apply. It was a great opportunity, and my part-time role was soon changed into a full-time job.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? Away from the office, I regularly practice Pilates or yoga two times a week; sport helps me keep fit and reduces stress. I also love meeting friends for coffee at a bar; just a five minutes meeting can give great value to an ordinary day.
I enjoy working with brilliant minds; every day I learn from them
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I love spending a quiet evening at home with my family, or having a call with a friend. At weekends I go out for dinner; in Italy, you can have good food and wine everywhere, even if the pandemic forced us to eat at home.
Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? I’d love to visit Japan. I admire the politeness of Japanese people and the way everything seems so organized and clean. I am fascinated by Japan because I think it is completely different from the place I live.
Your time is precious; make a plan for the current year and for the following years, and decide where you would like to get
Education and professional development
I graduated in foreign languages (English, Spanish and French) at the University in Milan. I started working at the airport, while I used to teach English at an evening language course. I worked for a few airlines and I loved it. When I was hired as an assistant, I decided to have one job only and to quit teaching, since my new job took me all of my time and energy.
Peer and Professional Associations: I am a member of Secretary.IT (www.secretary.it), the main association of assistants in Italy. I attend lots of their events and courses. Participating in the network has helped me improve my skills, make new friends, and find out that I am not alone when I have some issues to face. We encourage each other, and we all grow by lifting others. I held a few seminars for Secretary.IT during the pandemic. I loved them, and I hope I will find new opportunities to share my expertise with my colleagues.
Have you received any awards or recognition within this career? In April 2020, I was chosen by the magazine Capital as one of the 50 top assistants in Italy. All the assistants who were in the selected group are women I deeply admire.
I believe assistants need to be brand ambassadors for themselves
The Digital Age
What are your preferred forms of social media? I use LinkedIn mainly for professional connections, Twitter for business opportunities and courses in my area of work and as a news agency. I believe assistants need to be brand ambassadors for themselves, and social media can help us share our knowledge.
You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. Briefly outline the approach you’d recommend. Looking for a job is a job itself and it takes a lot of time and energy; you need to control your negative emotions since it is quite easy to be disappointed after a few attempts. You need to be willing to invest your emotional resources, continue with your search and consider different areas: check job offers, contact headhunters, ask friends, be active on social media like LinkedIn. And it is important to invest money on a course or on an expert’s help to improve your cv or your LinkedIn profile. Keep track of every step you take and never give up.
Looking for a job is a job itself and it takes a lot of time and energy; you need to control your negative emotions since it is quite easy to be disappointed after a few attempts
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. You need to prepare every job interview as if you were studying for an exam at the university; you must study all details about the company, find out who they are, their mission, their products. Study the job requirements and understand what parts of them correspond to your experience. Be prepared with your cv, including dates. Show them your interest in the company. My main advice is: be yourself. Don’t pretend to have skills that you have not achieved yet. Let your personality come out during the interview.
We need to find solutions and make continuous changes
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? I started my career as an executive assistant by chance. Someone thought I was suitable for the role, and he was right! I learned the job through daily practice, and it took some time before I could attend a few courses to improve my performance and skills.
I wish I had realized how important it is to study all the information related to the company I worked for. It is a great help in learning about the work processes and the main roles, and it helps you understand what to do and what to avoid, or what to ask before doing.
It is also important to build a strong network based on trust and honesty
For those interested in career growth/promotion: Be aware that working hard is not enough. You need to acquire transversal skills and become a central figure in the company you work for. You need to get in contact with and help other departments. Show up, let them know you are there; do not conceal yourself under the huge amount of work you have every day.
It is also important to build a strong network based on trust and honesty. It will help you face the complicated situations in your work life and improve your position in case you decide to – or have to – find a new job.
Last but not least, your time is precious; make a plan for the current year and for the following years, and decide where you would like to get. You might not fulfill your expectations but it helps you make the point, and decide when it is time to change plans.
About Shelagh and her Real Careers interviews
At the age of 21, Shelagh was a direct report to a COO. Within the same corporation, she became an editor and then a corporate trainer before a relocation and a return to what became an almost 30-year assistant career. Wrapping up that career in 2018 after a decade in governance, Shelagh’s been a direct report to four CEOs and accountable to four board chairs. Now, she delivers quality training internationally. She speaks at conferences, works with corporate clients, facilitates retreats, and delivers webinars to diverse audiences of assistants and governance professionals who want to perform at a high level.
Shelagh launched her Real Careers series in 2015. She interviews assistants around the globe in order to showcase individuals and the career itself. This series and the questions Shelagh poses continue to evolve. In addition to providing interesting reads and diverse perspectives, these interviews can constitute a form of professional development, as readers can explore different approaches assistants take to building and maintaining successful careers.
To date, assistants in 27 countries to date have generously shared the benefit of their experience with Shelagh. Shelagh has also assembled international Real Careers panels to explore perspectives on career dynamics, issues and opportunities. To explore any of Shelagh’s Real Careers interviews, follow drop-down menus on this page as follows: Real Careers/Interviews.