Real Careers: Nekeisha F. Nelson

Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with Nekeisha F. Nelson of  Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies.

Nekeisha F. Nelson is an Operations Assistant in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. Here’s a look at her world.

Early mornings

My day starts at 4:00 a.m. I say my morning affirmations and mentally go through what I need to complete for the day and (when not in a pandemic) get ready for my commute to work.

At the Office

Primary Responsibilities: My primary role is to support the Director, Accreditation and Quality Enhancement, at The Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT).

Morning Routines: When I arrive at the office, I start the morning with a cup of tea, make a list of things to be done, go over my list with my executive, check my emails and start working on the tasks on my list.

I am a member of the National Association of Administrative Professionals of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAPTT)

How long is your work day? I spend eight to 10 hours in the office. When needed, I do work overtime to meet specific deadlines.

Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health?  Unfortunately, my organisation has not implemented specific strategies  within the workplace. However, yearly, employees are encouraged to attend health fairs hosted by medical institutions.

What might be a typical lunch?  I take time away from the office when possible. When I can’t leave the office, I have lunch in the kitchen.

Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? Apart from my role at ACTT, I am the Secretary to the Policy Development Committee, ACTT. I work closely with the Chairman in developing the steps that are required to have proposed policies move through the processes within the Council, from idea to approval.

Inside the career

What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? The most challenging aspect of my job is being able to implement more structure within my department. There are so many processes I would like to implement but, due to the demanding day to day tasks to be completed, I have been unable to complete the work I have begun on my proposals to my executive.

What do you most enjoy about your career?  I enjoy making my executive look good, and solving problems.

I enjoy making my executive look good, and solving problems

On Saying “No”

Saying “no” is something I am still working on. I have learnt that, by not saying no, it can lead me to experience employee burnout and this can affect my level of productivity. This year, I am determined to better express my work boundaries with my executive. 

Working during a pandemic

Tell us about your experience with remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, I am currently working remotely. I have experienced both the challenges and benefits from this type of work arrangement.

Juggling home responsibilities (housework, supervising school work, etc.) took a toll on me during the first few months. I had to structure work in a way that allowed me to systematically implement time frames to focus on work tasks and home tasks.

How would you rate your productivity when working remotely? I would have to say it depends. Presently, however, my workload has increased and is a bit more demanding. As such, I am expected to produce a high level of completed work.

What helps you to be resilient during challenging times, whether it’s a pandemic or other factors that create challenges? What helps me is the fact that I want to be a leader in my field. I want to be able to be an example for others who are interested in becoming an admin professional.

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 experience a hybrid approach, where I work from home on some days and visit the office on some days.

What’s been your biggest career lesson/takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic? My biggest takeaway from the pandemic is the fact that I have proven to myself how valuable I am to my organisation. This realization has given me the confidence to move forward in my career, toward becoming an executive assistant.

On not saying no: it can lead me to experience employee burnout and this can affect my level of productivity

What’s been your biggest life lesson/takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic? I have learnt that employees are an organisation’s biggest asset, and ensuring that they have the tools and abilities to do their job is very important.

How has the pandemic impacted your approach to professional development? Have you been attending webinars, and/or what other approach have you taken to professional growth at this point in time?  During the pandemic, I have been focusing on my professional development. I have completed three courses and attended many webinars.

Nekeisha’s world

Map of worldI was born and live in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I prefer the country life. My goal is to build my retirement home in the country.

How long have you been in this career? I have been an assistant for 20 years. What was your first such role? My first role was as the assistant to the Managing Director of an egg producing company called El Chico. How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? I responded to an external advertisement.

How do you like to spend your time away from the office? I like spending time with my family and close friends. How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? Having ice cream, going on road trips and playing games that stimulate brain activity

Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? An ideal holiday would be at a resort with good company and sightseeing activities.

 I want to be a leader in my field

Education and professional development 

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with First Class honours. I earned this qualification in 2019. For 2022, I intend to work on advancing in my career by looking for opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, my organisation does not have a position that will allow me to showcase my abilities to the fullest, and I know I have a lot to offer to an organisation.

Peer and Professional Associations: I  am a member of the National Association of Administrative Professionals of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAPTT).

 How has your participation in a professional association impacted you?  Being part of NAAPTT has allowed me to take part in training opportunities and widen my admin network. I have learnt a lot in terms of how to work smarter in my role.

Employees are an organisation’s biggest asset

Tell us about a career accomplishment or two of which you’re particularly proud. I am proud that, this year I registered my company, The Admin Mindset. It’s a consultancy firm targeted to entry level and experienced admin professionals.

Inspirational reads? There are a few books written by individuals I admire. They include Julie Perrine, Joan Burge, and Bonnie Low-Karmen.

Recruitment is often competency-based, with competencies reflecting both behavioural (“soft” skills) and technical (“hard” skills) competencies. Tell us about your behavioural and technical competencies  that are relevant to success in your current position. Two behavioural competencies I have are adaptability and emotional intelligence.  These “soft skills” have allowed me to work well with my executive and other members of my department.  Two technical competencies I possess are my computer skills and business writing skills.

Role models or mentors? Lucy Brazier and Helen Monument have been my professional role models. These women have set an excellent example for those in the admin profession. I first met Lucy at a conference she hosted in Trinidad in 2019 and I have been motivated to progress in my career ever since.  I met Helen through a mentorship program on an admin network I am a member of on Facebook and I have really learnt a lot from her.

Have you received or been nominated for any performance awards, through either your employer or a professional association? While working at ACTT, I have received two  awards, the Employee Choice Award 2014 and the Organisational Culture Award 2019.

Establish your work routine from the beginning

What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? I listen to inspirational/motivational videos and look at my vision board.

What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? For 2022, I will be working on my Microsoft Office certifications.

Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I would be working on becoming an Executive Assistant at the C-Suite level.


The Digital Age

What are your preferred forms of social media?  LinkedIn and Instagram (for The Admin Mindset)

Please tell us how digital assistants and artificial intelligence (AI) have impacted your role. In my role, I do not have access to AI or digital assistants. However, I do recognise the advantages of having them incorporated in the workplace.

What positive impact(s) do you think artificial intelligence (AI), digital assistants and the internet of things (IOT) will have on the assistant of 2025?  AI and everything digital can free up my time to take on larger tasks. AI can do things that will allow admins to make better use of their time and abilities. There’s so much that can be embraced to maximize your time and abilities.

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 think it is safe to say that, since the pandemic, the world of work has changed in the direction of the digital age. As an assistant, I think that having advanced technical skills would be an advantage. I intend to strengthen my skills in this area.  

Lessons Learned

You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. Briefly outline the approach you’d recommend. Research your field and make sure that you have the basic skills/knowledge needed for the role. Ensure that your resume and communication skills are impressive. Register with an employment agency if necessary.

Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews.  Know the company I am applying to and really know the role I am applying for. 

What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Having a network of like-minded individuals, and joining an association. This opens up so many learning opportunities

Be genuine and have manners. Those traits go a long way.

What advice might you offer a new parent returning to the workplace? Have boundaries. Express what you are willing to do and not willing to do. Establish your work routine from the beginning.

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? Be genuine and have manners. Those traits go a long way.

Your most effective time management strategy? Have a master list and prioritize from that list.

Do a self-assessment

What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Discuss both parties’ work styles and expectations. 

For those interested in promotion:  Do a self-assessment to know where you are. Know what you want to be good at and why, then put plans in place to acquire those skills. 

 About Shelagh and her Real Careers interviews

About Shelagh: 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 assistants in more than a dozen countries.

About Shelagh’s Real Career interviews: 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 explore any of Shelagh’s interviews with assistants in 28 countries to date, follow the Interviews/Real Careers drop-down menus on this page – and enjoy!

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