Exceptional EA showcases Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share the benefit of their experience. We’ve made virtual trips to Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, the USA and Wales, and now make our way to New York City to visit with Christina Martinez.
An Early Start and in Touch with Colleagues in Other Time Zones
I start my day at 5:30 a.m. As I get ready for work I usually have my work cell right by my side to be able to answer any emails from the International regions since they are ending their day. My normal commute door to door is 90 minutes. If there are delays on public transit, it can be two hours or more.
What’s on your commuting playlist? I love all kinds of music, so I really can’t identify a favourite. I usually listen to Songza. Otherwise I would listen to Be The Ultimate Assistant or Joel Osteen podcasts.
At the Office
Morning Routines: Upon arriving at work I get my cup of coffee and sit at my desk to review my executive’s email inbox and calendar to see if there are important items to follow up on.
Primary Responsibilities: My duties include extensive travel arrangements, lots of creative calendar management, facilitating of communications across the team and lots of problem solving.
How long is your work day? My work day is 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., though there are times where I have been in the office from 7:00 am. to 7:00 p.m. Fortunately, that is rare and I have the flexibility to work from home on occasion. I love that my day is never the same twice.
What might be a typical lunch? Lunch is rarely a timed event for me. Normally it’s a sandwich or soup at my desk, and on a good day I will go for a walk in our Midtown Manhattan neighbourhood to by a treat for myself.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? I feel the most challenging aspect of my day is finding effective ways to communicate with my executive while he is travelling.
As an EA, you are afforded the ability to interact across all levels and functions
What do you most enjoy about your career? The aspect I love most about my career is that as an EA you are afforded the ability to interact across all levels and functions within any organisation. The possibilities of meeting and opportunities for learning from others are infinite.
On Saying “No”
I tend to find tactful ways to dance around the “no” when possible. “I will get back to you” or “Let me look into that” are usually helpful phrases. If there is pushback, then I respond with a “no”.
When I’m not working, I love to spend time with family and friends or just stay at home to curl up with a good book or a movie.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? After a tough week, I like to go with friends for dinner and drinks.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? My ultimate trip would be to visit and photograph the Aurora Borealis.
Education and Professional Development
I have been very fortunate to have been afforded the ability to attend training and conferences.
Peer and Professional Associations: I am a member of Executive Assistants Organization (EAO) and recently became co-leader of their NY Chapter. Being a part of the organisation has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know and learn from other EAs and see how the landscape of the career is changing.
I wish I had realised early in my career how important networking was
Preferred form(s) of social media? My preferred social media platforms are LinkedIn and Twitter.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? If I had the perfect software, it would be able to scan my thoughts and automatically create tasks and calendar entries to keep me organised without having to input it myself.
The opportunities for learning from others are infinite
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? You will never find my purse without my lipstick and blush.
Heels or flats? I wear heels in the office and flats for my commute.
Preferred scent: I wear Paris Hilton’s Eau de Parfum.
Inspirational reads? Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In book really changed the way I thought about my career and my contributions to the workplace.
Learn as much as possible about the industry and organisation in which you’re interested
Role models or mentors? I am blessed to have two special people that have been influential in my career: my former executive who literally let me “sink or swim”. He entrusted me with projects or situations because of his belief in my abilities that I was not even aware I had. The second is my current executive, who is a great believer in being a nurturer of talent.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. The accomplishment I am most proud of is when I was asked by my former boss to lead the implementation of a new travel agency and travel program. It was a project that took 18 months from signature of contract through the launch of the new web reservation tool and training of corporate travellers.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? I wish I had realised early in my career how important networking was.
Companies are realising their EAs are an integral part of their business
Your most effective time management strategy? I use categories and folders in my email to keep myself organised and easily identify follow up items.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Executives need to communicate effectively how their EA can make their life easier by stretching their skill set. If you know they are inquisitive and capable, even if they have never done a particular task before, give them the opportunity to try. As the workplace continues to evolve, companies are realising their EAs are an integral part of their business – and companies are beginning to structure training opportunities for them.
For those interested in promotion: Any assistant looking for career growth should be learning as much as possible about the industry and organisation s/he is interested in.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Christina referenced 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.