Real Careers: Marco Macente

Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with Marco Macente of Italy.

Marco Macente is a Global Executive Assistant at Bayer Pharmaceutical. Marco is also currently working on a a special assignment as Medical Affairs Project Partner. Here’s a look at his world.

Coffee is a must

I usually wake up between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. as I like taking my time to have breakfast at home and prepare myself before going to the office. I do not have a routine but I must drink coffee before going out, so I would say that drinking coffee is my “must” in the morning. I do grab a coffee with my colleagues at the office, as coffee times are important moments  to discuss and share experiences and fun.

At the Office

Primary Responsibilities: My primary responsibilities are related to management of calendars, email, travel and the office, as I support two global teams made up of 14 people. I am a point of contact between the teams and the other corporate functions, especially IT. That’s because I am a “Digital Buddy”, a role Bayer created in order to have a point of contact in case IT matters/issues arise.

Since I support different teams and colleagues at different levels, I adjust the level of support depending on what is required. I like working and seeing myself as a business partner for my managers; they know that I am available and they can rely on me in case they need support. They also know that they can rely on me in case they want to discuss priorities, issues or new ideas to be implemented within the office.

What might be a typical lunch?  We have a canteen where we go for lunch, and I need to move from my building to the main one to reach it. It is good; there is a variety of food and each day everyone can choose simply what he/she wants to eat. So yes, I try to avoid having lunch at my desk as I think it is important to have a break, especially for lunch. It’s rare for me to have lunch at my desk; if so, it will be because I’m busy with urgent activities and strict deadlines.

Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role?  Yes, I am involved in two employee groups. The first one is called “WiseGuys”, and it is related to diversity and inclusion matters. We focus on important topics such us women’s empowerment within the industry and promoting the diversity and the culture of collaboration. Many of the colleagues in this group come from the US, so it is international in nature. I really like attending these group meetings as we discuss a lot of insights and initiatives on these important themes. So I am proud of being part of this amazing group.

We focus on … women’s empowerment within the industry and promoting the diversity and the culture of collaboration

The second one is named “Young Bayer” and it is a new internal working group made up of young colleagues in different countries. We work on organizing virtual events and meetings, promoting the internal networking and the Bayer corporate culture, and sharing knowledge across departments/divisions. Participating in the networking group has been enhancing. We were able to organize a virtual event in order to share information and present to colleagues on one of our most important manufacturing sites in Germany.

Inside the career

What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Well, I think the most challenging aspect I have  is working and being perceived as a business partner. I haven’t had issues with my managers but I sometimes see some limits when working with other colleagues in different teams/departments. This is because sometimes a corporate culture on our role is missing and I needed to focus on building up the role, the dynamics and the right bridges in order to be perceived as a business partner, a linchpin, an ally.

I am proud to be part of IMA

As EAs/PAs, we know that during these last 10 years our role has changed. Many companies have already embraced this change and they have calibrated and better shaped our roles to the business. Unfortunately, this has not happened everywhere so yes, as an EA, I sometimes feel I need to build that kind of change and communicate it indirectly or directly when working and collaborating with my colleagues. I have been successful most of the time, as often colleagues do not know exactly what our duties involve, and the expectations and responsibilities pertaining to our role. So, I have found discussing these and showing colleagues what we can do is the best opportunity we have. It is a process, so it requires patience – but with the right approach, it brings satisfaction.

Be curious, be brave and be authentic

What do you most enjoy about your career? Being an EA gives me the possibility to approach every day as an adventure. I am  committed to providing support to managers and leaders when managing and organizing travel, meetings and even projects. The variety of tasks and responsibilities is huge, and I see each task as an opportunity to learn, grow and elevate my role. At the moment I am working in the pharmaceutical industry and this is also important for me. I want to contribute to help other people to make changes, and this reflects the main objective the pharma industry has: develop the drugs and pursue the science for a better life.

On Saying “No”

I have said “no” to people in the past, when colleagues came to my desk and asked for help or support for specific things that were not related to my responsibilities. Often these requests stemmed from a person being annoyed with approaches they found bureaucratic. In those circumstances I encouraged people to communicate and have a discussion with those colleagues. I highlighted what the “no” was related to and also highlighted how we can truly support them, as many times this is misunderstood.

Constantly learn about your business

At the moment, I am placing myself more as a point of contact and linchpin, not only for my manager but also for my teams, so they know I can support them if they need to reach out to someone in corporate functions and/or if they need to know something on specific procedures or processes. So one tip I can give to EAs/PAs is to constantly learn about your business and about the frame of EA/PA role as being a specialist, a subject matter expert. An EA can definitely show up and explain readily what he/she can do.

Working during a pandemic

Tell us about your experience with remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. How productive are you? I have been working from home since February 2020. I returned to the office for a few days in July and September as I needed to print and ship some documents. I had already been working from home five days each month as Bayer enabled employees to work from home prior to COVID hitting the globe. It wasn’t new for me, and I am working efficiently from home with IT devices and technology playing pivotal roles. I think I could not work from home effectively if I did not embrace IT technology.  So, my productivity definitely increased in 2020 and I can manage my time better.

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? I would like to keep on working from home with a sort of hybrid arrangement, meaning going to the office when needed. I say that based on what I have experienced so far, and I think this hybrid solution meets the needs that both we and the business have right now. In my opinion, this flexibility is the new way of working and companies can establish hybrid arrangements.

What’s been your biggest career lesson/takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic? Be curious, be brave and be authentic. I would sum up my takeaway with these words. This because I have seen so much ambiguity and uncertainty that we, as EAs and PAs, have been asked to manage. We have set up processes or new ways of operating in order to bring to the table the certainty that managers and leaders were looking for. So authenticity definitely helps, and staying true to yourself and to your role, you can communicate and manage the ambiguity around you well.

Curiosity plays an important role. I remember looking for new information, new dynamics, new corporate procedures to be able to implement the right ones within my working environment. Finally, courage: this means acting as a business partner, a specialist who is committed to performing in the role as best as we can.

The variety of tasks and responsibilities is huge, and I see each task as an opportunity to learn, grow and elevate my role

What’s been your biggest life lesson/takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic? “People who shine from within do not need a spotlight”. This sentence that sums up my takeaway; I have learned that sometimes the light we need is not shining elsewhere. Instead, 99% of the time, we have this light inside ourselves if we are able to envision the right values and the right skills we need to have in our role.

Tell us about your professional development through webinars during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wow, I think in 2020 I attended more webinars than during 2018 and 2019 put together! Virtual webinars have been a “manna from the heaven”, especially during the first lockdown we had, in March/April 2020. There have been amazing virtual events in these crazy times. So, 2020 was definitely a learning year for me as I tried to keep up with all we had in order to perform as best as I can in my role.

Environmental sustainability

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, while 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? My company pays attention to sustainability. Recycling measures are in place, and we have reusable/recycled cups and cutlery. These are just some of the measures that have been implemented and are making a difference in the level of waste employees produce. Another important action has been taken with regard to IT hardware. We have selected a provider to manage disposal and recycling of printers and mobile phones, etc.

My company pays attention to sustainability

Our new offices were constructed with automated lighting, heating and cooling systems which start when human movements are captured. We’ve implemented new records and information management (RIM)  policies to maximize usage of cloud and other (SharePoint, OneDrive) systems that enable employees to work together in the same virtual environment without printing, saving and sending documents and files each time. This also saves time when working on business procedures and processes, and having this corporate alignment is a good message for all the employees.

Car sharing is promoted through incentives, as is reducing the usage of private vehicles when travelling for business reasons. I am sure additional steps will be taken to reduce carbon footprints as, more than ever, companies should take this into their strategy and mission.

Please highlight some steps you take to reduce your carbon footprint in your personal life. Thanks for raising this theme, which I feel is very important! Personally, I try to reduce my carbon footprint when going out to the office and other places. I use public transportation most of the time, and I’ve recently bought a hybrid car which has the electric component. Transportation practices can have some of the biggest impacts to our atmosphere. When I need to dispose of  IT equipment, I recycle it using e-waste channels/shops that are able to utilize the components wisely for future equipment assembly, reducing the creation of components.

I avoid printing documents at home and in the office, and this approach is increasingly having an impact in workplaces all around the world. I also have asked to have my bills emailed instead of having them sent by post. One of the most dangerous things I am aware of is the usage of plastic packaging. Recycling won’t suffice any more, as the volume of garbage is increasing and third world countries are now suffering as a result of uncontrolled waste practices. I try to replace plastic with other recycled packaging which is more sustainable for our environment.

Overall, I can say that adopting good behaviours and good habits is not easy. It requires willingness and patience but, when we make those efforts, we will have a huge positive impact on our biggest home, our planet.

Marco’s world

Map of worldI am Italian and at the moment I live close to Milan. I have been working as an admin professional for almost 10 years. What was your first such role? I took my first admin role in 2011, when I was studying at university. I remember there was an opening for an internal admin position for students who wanted to start working within the university. I applied, I did the interview and I took the position, working within the International Relations office which was responsible for the internships and Erasmus programs.

Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? I love travelling and exploring, and Greece is one of the countries I love. I can speak Greek fluently and I practice the language when I travel to Greece for vacations. My ideal holiday is the one I had during summer 2020; it was incredible. I had not thought I would be able to travel due to the coronavirus, but finally I could! I was able to travel to Greece for two weeks and made a mini tour I organized myself, exploring seven different Greek islands near Turkey. My favourite one? Patmos (Πατμος)!

IMA gives you training opportunities and a great network of peers you can always rely on

Education and professional development 

Peer and Professional Associations: I belong to IMA, International Management Assistants, which is one of the most international association for admin professionals. Its presence is worldwide as we have members coming from more than 10 countries. I am proud to be part of IMA and the association gives you training opportunities and a great network of peers you can always rely on. I have my Italian network and, of course, my Greek one.

How has your participation in IMA helped you? My participation has helped me to grow in my role as I developed more awareness and confidence when speaking to my manager or colleagues about business topics. Knowing what your peers do, in your country and even in different ones,  gives you perspective on your role, what you can potentially do. I consider my participation enriching for me.

Networking, inspiration and achievements

Let’s talk about the positive benefits your networking has had on your career, and/or for your employer. Accessing trainings and development opportunities scheduled at discounted rates is among the benefits. In 2019, I travelled to Athens to attend the IMA International Training Day which was focused on emotional intelligence. It was great! Another benefit is the international network: you can attend events organized by IMA peers in other countries and this gives you the possibility to build new bridges and connections which are beneficial for you and for your career.

Communicate and manage the ambiguity around you

Tell us about a career accomplishment or two of which you’re particularly proud. One of the lessons I learned in 2020 is also that accomplishments are often not related only to you; these can be framed within a project and/or a team you work with. Two accomplishments outside the company have been the interview I gave within the project “Stronger Together”, an Italian project which was born with the aim to empower Italian EAs/PAs during the pandemic and the “Future Assistant Podcastinterview with Diana Brandl. I was honored to be chosen as a male representative of our industry, and participating in those interviews helped me to grow and develop the awareness I need to be a business partner.

Within Bayer, I started a project in May 2020, founding an internal EA community. This forum is made up of 12 people, 10 from the US. I thought this could be the right initiative to meet peers abroad and share tips and experiences during the pandemic. This initiative was appreciated, and we’ve continued with monthly meetings. My manager has recognized this initiative and I’m happy that, as a group, we could set a positive tone during these challenging times.

The Digital Age

What are your preferred forms of social media? I love LinkedIn and Facebook, and I use them professionally and personally. What apps do you make use of in your professional life? LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google Apps

Does your organisation make use of a portal, intranet or SharePoint? We have an intranet and use SharePoint, and I have been involved in some layouts and set up. I find it interesting and I try to keep up with IT technology as meetings are paperless right now.

What forms of professional development would you recommend to assistants who want to ensure their roles remain relevant and rewarding in this digital age? I recommend reading, and taking workshops focused on digital topics and technology because we will definitely be using IT equipment and software most of the time. For example, Vickie Sokol Evans is a great expert. Vickie is amazing and she’s organized many webinars and IT sessions in which she shares IT tips and tricks useful for assistants. ExecSecTech also has been an amazing virtual event with speakers focusing on IT and digital topics.  I am sure many more development opportunities will follow, as technology is one of the most important topics in our industry.

Lessons Learned

Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. There is not a unique recipe that helps us to be 100% sure of getting a particular job. Many variables play different roles when we are in a recruitment process, but we can take some steps that can help us to show up with confidence and with a strong skill set.

First of all, preparation is key. Before doing an interview, we should have clarity in our mind as to the role, the business and the company we want to work for (in terms of values, mission and strategy). Secondly, we should take our time to reflect on ourselves: why we have applied, what are our aims and career goals, what challenges we’re facing, and which projects we’ve been successful or not successful in. All these topics could be potential topics of discussion during an interview.

Thirdly, if we are taking the interview in first person, be punctual. If the interview is taken virtually, be punctual and also make sure you are in a safe environment without distractions, to make sure we can be focused on the interview and make a good impression on the people interviewing us. Do research, including LinkedIn searches to find out about your potential manager and colleagues. This data will make you better prepared to be successful in your interview.

Try to get the communication lines open as much as possible

Your most effective time management strategy? To manage our time, we need to have a program/an established working routine which can help us to manage not only our daily tasks but also the unexpected. Outside our workplace, there is ambiguity and chaos so we should try to eliminate it as much as possible. So for me,  I manage my time in my calendar, in my to-do list, in my calls and in my appointments. I reserve a slot (usually before/after the lunch time) to manage something unpredictable that may happen. In this way, I achieve my work-life balance, which is important for good mental/body health.

What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? This is a very important aspect we need to take into consideration when working with a new manager. I would suggest to try to get the communication lines open as much as possible, trying to find out what priorities he/she is working on. You want to know about issues, and the days/hours when he/she wants to be reachable or not. Ask questions about the meetings he/she attends: Does he/she need someone for taking the minutes? Does he/she need some slides prepared for the meeting?

Do not be afraid of asking your manager questions, as this is a way you can show your interest and care of responsibilities. I would also suggest seeking to understand your manager’s expectations, in order to be aligned and fully on the same page. The objective should be to build a mutual business partnership in which you can support your manager proactively, saving his/her time and let him/her be the best he/she can possible be.

We need a clear overview of what we are and what we want to achieve to be able to get it

Your thoughts on goal setting? Indeed, setting goals is not easy as it seems and we need a clear overview of what we are and what we want to achieve to be able to get it. Personally, I try to orchestrate my goals together in order to be able to communicate and show a clear vision of what I would like to be or achieve. Another useful tool we can use to set up specific goals is a SWOT analysis. We need to be able to map our environment and realize which are our strengths and weaknesses. With that, we are able to stretch our comfort zone and raise the bar.

For me, this happened  when I wanted to be more strategic and when I wanted to create an internal EA network within my company. I listed some actions I could take on in order to be more strategic in my role and other actions for the network project I wanted to start. I matched those actions with my SWOT and the result was a list of two objectives and a plan in place to be able to achieve them. Sharing this with our manager is another important step we should take, while understanding his/her point of view and trying to find further options with the same approach in case some goals need to adjusted.

 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 returning 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 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.

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