Real Careers: Antonio W. Tsosie

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Antonio W. Tsosie is Administrative Assistant to the Instructional Site Director and Faculty Chair at Navajo Technical University (Navajo Technical College) in Chinle, Arizona.  Here’s a look at his world.

A head start during the commute

I wake up around 6:15 a.m., and my Keurig coffee maker brews me a caramel frappuccino blend as I get ready for work. During the semester, I travel with my brother and sister as they’re students and have early classes. I’m a passenger for the 20-minute commute, so I check my emails and calendar. This helps me plan what I need to tackle each day.

Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I’m a country music fanatic and rely on Google Play Music, through bluetooth.

At the Office

Primary Responsibilities: I assist with both complex and general administrative duties which will allow my supervisor to carry out her managerial tasks. I support the Instructional Site Director by making travel arrangements, ordering supplies and equipment, creating time sheets, managing the departmental and director calendars and more. I serve as a liaison to the main campus executives, the University President and their assistants.  I’m the point person at our site for all personnel matters, and act as purchasing agent and as the liaison to the community agencies and institutions.

Morning Routines: I check emails, update and check my calendars, unlock the facilities, check the fax machine, write down all voicemail messages, screen supervisors’ incoming correspondence and make sure applications for employment and student registration application packets are available.

How long is your work day? I work from 8:00 to 5:00, but tend to stay until 5:45 to finish up last minute tasks and prep for the next work day. Sometimes I monitor the hallway to open classrooms for the evening classes and, those nights, I’ll stay until 9:00.

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’ve just put in an order for a medicine ball to sit on while working at my desk, and have ordered a monitor stand so that I can stand at my workstation.

IMG_9639What might be a typical lunch?   I’m on a structured meal plan to maintain personal and physical health. I have lunch away from my desk, but technology enables me to continue my duties whether or not I’m at my desk.

Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? In my position it is crucial that I am on top of things relating to our instructional site, so I am always checking my emails, texts, messenger, and the Facebook Navajo Technical University-Chinle Site account.  My supervisor and I work closely, and she calls or texts me on a daily basis for travel arrangements, leave requests, purchase requisition updates and personnel updates. This also happens when I’m away from my work, and it makes me know how important my role is to not only my supervisor but to the university.

Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? The greatest joy I have in my job is being involved in groups. We always come together to plan events that pertain to our site. Just this summer, we planned our groundbreaking ceremony for our new site. We will have dorms, an administration building, a student union building, classrooms, a cafeteria, employee housing and a wellness center, etc. It was a group effort to make this event successful, and we had over 300 people in attendance for this historic moment.

Dealing with Challenges

What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Last minute requests with pending due dates

My career is like a jigsaw puzzle; I’m finding pieces to put together

What do you most enjoy about your career? What I enjoy most is that no two days are ever the same. My career is like a jigsaw puzzle; I’m finding pieces to put together. It is also a book with blank pages that I write myself. I love the challenges, I enjoy the moments with assisting our community/students/staff/faculty with the best of my abilities.

On Saying “No”

It’s tricky, but at times I do tell people no when it relates to work – especially when I’ve got tasks and projects to complete right away for my boss. My own way of saying no is to ask, “Can you try to do it this way?” Try looking into it further, make that call or gather more research/paperwork for faster processing. You have to abide by policies and procedures that are set by the institution.

Antonio’s World

Map of worldI was born in St. George, Utah at Dixie Medical Center. I currently live in Many Farms, Arizona but am originally from Nazlini, Arizona, and the Navajo Indian Reservation.

At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I’m more of a country mouse, and my surroundings are not much of a city. I currently reside within the Navajo Indian Reservation radius. I love the open landscape, the night sky, the Arizona sunset and its wonders of scenery.

How do you like to spend your time away from the office?

I like to spend time with family, especially with my wonderful grandparents who have given huge support to me in my endeavours. I spend time at their home, helping them with their livestock. Here on the reservation, it is a privilege to own livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle, chickens and roosters, etc. I’m lucky to live with our values, and to learn more of our culture and language; being bilingual is a gift for Navajos.

I love the open landscape, the night sky, the Arizona sunset and its wonders of scenery

What was your first admin. role? I held my first role as an admin. professional through a federal work study program at the college I was attending. My job title was Office Assistant/Receptionist. I then spent one year as an Executive Secretary, before becoming an Administrative Assistant. How long have you been an admin. professional? I’ve been an admin. professional for over eight years now.

How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? After such a day or week of work, I reward myself with a movie at the theatre. It’s a time away to relax, and catch up with friends and former colleagues.


Education and Professional Development

Education: My education has been a great factor in my career at this point in time. I currently hold two Associate Degrees, one in Elementary Education and one in Public Administration. I will graduate soon with my Associate in Accounting and a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration. Earlier in my studies, I wanted to become an educator. I studied Elementary Education at Dine College but, during the last year of my studies, I changed my major because of the temporary work I was doing at the time as an Office Assistant.

Antonio holds two Associate degrees and will soon complete a third – and is close to the finish line on a Bachelor’s degree

Employed in a career that didn’t rely on my degree, I had to obtain my education in Public Administration. So, I enrolled at Navajo Technical College (Navajo Technical University) and graduated in five semesters. My professional development plan is to obtain my Public Administration Degree (AAS) and pursue my Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Northern Arizona University (I have five courses left).

I plan to become a member of the IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals). Lastly, I plan to  earn IAAP’s CAP-OM credential, Certified Administrative Professional – specialising in Organisational Management.

The Digital Age, and Evolution of the Assistant’s Role

imageDo you publish to, and/or monitor social media as part of your professional responsibilities? Yes, I monitor social media as part of my professional responsibilities. We use it to network with our communities and students, for updates such as class cancellations, book sales, student activities, prize giveaways and to share authors’ quotes.

What are your preferred forms of social media? Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.  I’ve recently got on board with Snapchat due to its popularity with our students, for updates and pictures of just about everything. With this, I truly feel connected with our students within their surroundings.

Do you maintain, monitor and/or publish to a website as part of your professional responsibilities? I maintain our Navajo Technical University-Chinle Site Facebook page on a daily basis, and publish updates.

Bring your best energy for work

What apps do you make use of in your professional life? I use  Linkedin, Dropbox, Docs, Gmail, Google Docs/Sheets and Google Drive. I’ve also come across Tiny Scanner for use when away from my work area.

Describe any impacts social media has had on the role you hold within your organisation. My colleagues can inform me immediately of their departmental updates that students and communities need to be aware of.

Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital, or paper-based? It depends on the meeting, and who is involved.  I usually provide both digital and paper based materials to those attending.  I create most of my documents through Google Docs so I can share them with my colleagues.

Travel Planning

Travel or travel planning recommendations? Always check with the hotel to make sure the proper paperwork, such as credit authorisation forms, is on file.

What apps or programs do you and/or your principal/executive find useful for travelling and for tracking expenses? I currently have the AmTrav app on my phone, so that when my colleagues travel, I will know when they arrive at their location and when they check out of the hotel.

Style and Substance

Name a go-to piece or two from your wardrobe to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace. I wear a business suit and a coloured shirt with a tie and dress shoes.  I wear a suit at work occasionally and, when I do, I get the best compliments because it’s not typical for men to wear them to work at the site.

For interviews: research the organisation’s mission and philosophy statements

What might we find in your desk drawer? Among other things: paper clips, stamps, a salt shaker, bandaids, AA batteries, measuring tape, Post-its, a stapler, aspirin, cough drops, calculator, scissors, wooden pencil, color pens, hair gel, hand sanitizer, mittens, a toothbrush and tooth paste

Inspirational reads? Underneath It All by Joan Burge, Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell, and Not Just An Admin by Peggy Vasquez

My career/professional mentor has always been my colleague, Mr. Franklin J. Elliott

Role models or mentors? My career/professional mentor has always been my colleague, Mr. Franklin J. Elliott, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education. He’s been my mentor since 2011, and I was his Executive Secretary at a prior employer.  He’s shared his methods and ideas, giving me great novels to read, recommending webinars I can attend, and identifying other skills I can utilise for project management calendar management and communication techniques. He has shown me that my job is most important and tells me every day, “You do your job, I ain’t got to worry”.

What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? So, I saw a quote on a colleague’s profile, and I have a similar quote on my bulletin board. I read it often, and I sit outside to think and breathe.

Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? My career goal as of right now is to climb the ladder of a promotion within Student Services when our new site is permanently established.


Lessons Learned

Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. Dress professionally. Try to be at least 15 minutes early and walk around the organisation to see information that’s posted. Research the organisation’s mission and philosophy statements.

What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? There is always time to make a mistake, because it’s part of learning your job.  Try to welcome others’ experiences.

My career is also a book with blank pages that I write myself

Your most effective time management strategy? Set up a project planner through a channel of a shared calendar, so it projects times for meetings and completion of tasks.

Advice for a new parent working to the workplace? Bring your best energy for work, and hold your professional title seriously. When home, spend your time with family.

For those interested in promotion: My advice would be to get an education and have proof of degree completion.  Attend as much free training and as many webinars as possible. Make sure you’re irreplaceable, and build trust within your department/organisation. Network with other assistants, because they will share their insights and how they became assistants. Make your position known for its role and be the best that you can be, by putting in more than 100% in your job.



… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Antonio mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.

To explore a range of resources recommended by readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page or click here to see all professional associations and networks recommended by peers.