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, Turkey, the USA and Wales, and now make our way to Virginia, USA to visit with Kemetia Foley.
A Musical Early Riser
My typical work day starts with breakfast and hot tea, first. Coffee will be the second round of caffeine for the morning. Twice a week I go to the gym at 5:30 a.m., then come home to prepare for work. Our cat, Fiona, is our natural alarm clock. She awakes us each morning at 5:00 for her breakfast. I have to have breakfast before work as I cannot have breakfast at my desk!
My commute by car is about 40 minutes to go eight miles. That’s typical for our region. Our local traffic reporters are celebrities. On days when our daughter has my car, I take our Metro system. It takes about the same amount of time but the bonus is that I get an extra mile of walking in from the station to my office. Besides, I have to walk past the Dunkin’ Donuts to get to my office. That is where I get my first coffee of the day.
Who or what is on your commuting playlist? I love, love, love all kinds of music. In my college years, I was a deejay at our college radio station. But, my go-to for my morning commute is definitely EDM (Electronic Dance Music): Tiesto, Avicii, Hardwell, Calvin Harris, and then Chuck Brown (a DC music legend and the Father of Go-Go style).
At the Office
Morning Routines: It starts with the day before; 30 minutes before I leave for the day, I print the staff calendar for the next day. At the bottom of that, I list the three to five priority tasks I have for the next day because when I come into work, I’m usually still waiting for the caffeine to kick in—I need a reminder to help the day start right. Then I immediately check our system voicemail as that is one of my main responsibilities.
Always look three days ahead on the calendar
Primary Responsibilities: I have two main responsibilities for my organisation. They are internal and external customer service, and finance. My desk is our front desk. I try to greet every single staff member as they arrive into the office and help set a positive tone. I get to welcome visitors to our organisation. I create the first impression for any external callers to our organisation. My responsibility is to assist our callers or to connect them directly with the staff member that can best assist them.
My other responsibility is processing, distributing and reconciling financial payments that come in from our online system and for manually entered credit charges. I am a member of our organization’s finance team and report to our Chief Financial Officer.
I usually arrive about 20 minutes prior to our phone system going live. I stop by my CFO’s office to make sure we’re on the same page/plan for the day. This also gives me time to get (another) coffee, grab my mail from our mailroom and get a good look at the staff calendar with the priority list I mentioned. I check our voicemail system and route messages to staff.
Then our phones go live automatically at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, so I always grab my headset – which is a Bluetooth! It allows me to get up and move about the office as needed and I can answer any incoming calls.
Throughout the day I take calls from our association members, potential members and potential partner organisations. In between calls, I have a set finance protocol that I follow and a time frame within which those tasks must be completed or distributed to other staff. My desk starts very neatly in the morning and gets more cluttered throughout the day. Then, as the day winds down, I begin to organise for the next day’s tasks. It’s important that the front desk and lobby area of our office look clean and organised.
To earn respect, you’ve got to give respect
How long is your work day? Our office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. The weeks leading up to our conferences tend to require a bit more time. I’ll stay later just to get my desk prepped for the next day.
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? Never! At my desk. It’s one thing I love about ASA. We’re all encouraged to NOT eat at our desks. In my case, though, I’m not allowed to eat at the front desk. I walk or run 1.5 miles during my lunch break at least twice a week until it gets over 80 degrees. Then it is too hot for my liking!
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? This is the fun part of my job, and I am not being sarcastic. When our office is closed or delayed in opening because of weather issues, I get to record and update our phone system messaging remotely. Almost all the staff have the capability to work from home. My office counts on me to set the phone system messaging for those events and holidays.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? The most challenging aspect of my day? Assisting callers who are seeking employment and do not understand that our organisation is not a staffing firm. We represent the staffing industry. We have a great tool for job seekers on our website, though, so I am able to direct callers to that tool.
Understand the corporate culture and mission
What do you most enjoy about your career? I love being the center hub of the wheel and connecting people. Whether I can assist people in my office, or any of my global peers, helping make their day easier is an awesome part of this career field. Secondly, I love the wide range of experiences I’ve had over my career because of what I do. I’ve arranged events at The United States Supreme Court, met space shuttle commanders, assisted with first time grant submissions for medical research, and travelled all over the United States.
On Saying “No”
Most of my “No” responses are to requests to endorse or recommend peers on LinkedIn. I let them know that if I haven’t done direct work with them, I feel I’m not the best person to provide that recommendation or endorsement. That is not mean or unkind; it is honest and genuine.
Meaningful recommendations and endorsements
The only other type of No would be from persons who are phishing for information that is either proprietary to our organisation, or sensitive or discretionary within our organisation. I address that by either 1) letting another appropriate staff member discuss the issue with that person, or 2) simply telling the person I’m not at liberty to discuss the topic.
I was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, just a bit west of Boston, Massachusetts in the USA. I now live about eight miles west of Washington, DC in Virginia. Are you a city mouse or country mouse? Definitely a city mouse!
I love sports, theatre and music. When I can, I get to ice hockey or baseball games. I really enjoy taking our daughter to musical theatre and concerts. Last summer she was my date for the Avicii concert. I had to remind her that if she wanted to avoid embarrassment by my dancing, she’d better move to another seat!
Invest in a headshot photo and make certain you have a relevant LinkedIn profile
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? My favorite escape is to a local Korean spa (baths) called SpaWorld. It is the most relaxing place I know of near my home. There’s nothing like Jacuzzi waters to soothe the soul, I say.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? It’s tough for me to choose between Ogunquit, Maine and Paris, France. I love the beach and the vibe of Ogunquit. I’d spend a month there if I could. But, Paris is absolutely amazing. The art, the food – and it’s a bit easier because I can get by with my basic French skills. I have so many cities I still want to visit, including Helsinki, San Francisco, Brussels, Vancouver, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
Administrative professionals are only as good as their resource networks
Peer and Professional Associations
I belong to the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and have earned its certification, Certified Administrative Professional with a speciality in Organisational Management. I have held many leadership roles with IAAP, and am just finishing up my term as Local Area Network Director for Washington, DC. I also have memberships in The American Society of Administrative Professionals and National Business Education Association.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Twitter, baby! All the way—though I must say that Periscope is quickly moving up my list.
Awards and Recognition
Have you received or been nominated for any performance awards, either from your employer or a professional association? No, but that would be really exciting!
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? Oil of Olay moisturizer with SPF, and Carmex lip balm
Heels or flats for the office? It depends how busy the day is going to be. I usually keep a spare set of black flats in the office, just in case. For your commute? Sneakers. Very “Working Girl”, but the platform on our Metro is too slippery for other shoes and Old Town is brick sidewalks, so … Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? I have to go with Franco Sartos, my go to shoes for the last 10 years.
Preferred scent: None. I’m allergic to perfumes.
What might we find in your desk drawer? Tums. Extra hearing aid batteries and gum. Fine point sharpies in multiple colors. Lined post-it squares. And a specialised security roller stamp that blocks out credit card numbers or other sensitive information I may have at my desk.
Travel or travel planning advice?
- Always bring your own pillow case from home. This makes all the difference because it feels like home when you put your head down after a long day.
- On the itinerary, provide the contact phone and address for your country’s consulate in the country to which you and/or your supervisor will be travelling. You NEVER know when you might need that.
- Provide three copies of the itinerary: one electronic version for traveller, a second for the traveller’s emergency contact, and a third copy for the administrator/office in case someone needs to locate the traveller quickly.
- Always have enough foreign currency to get car service and food for the first two days of travel. Not all airport terminals have ATMs. Some international service providers do not accept all types of credit cards.
Inspirational reads? Anne Lamott’s Help Thanks Wow
Engage with other administrative professionals and leaders
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. When I was working with the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys (NARCA), we had an event for 15 member lawyers, a swearing-in ceremony to admit them to practice before the United States Supreme Court. Lawyers have to complete certain milestones in order to achieve this status, and this represented a lifetime achievement for these members. The paperwork had to be perfect. These men and women had family coming in from all over the country for this event. They also wanted to host a small after-ceremony reception at the Court. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would be inside the United States Supreme Court and coordinate this life-changing event. It’s so beautiful inside. The Clerk to the Court came in, greeted me, my director and the members before taking us into the courtroom where the Justices of the Supreme Court hear arguments. The Justices arrived and the ceremony went as scripted. It was wondrous and amazing! I think I was more nervous than the members were. I’m grateful it all went very smoothly. I will never forget how proud I felt!
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? My motto is #KeepLearningKeepGrowing – and the next phase of growth for me to is to get to a major social media conference such as Social Media Marketing Week or Social Media Week. I’d like to eventually present the administrative case for using social media at a social media conference.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career?
- One doesn’t have to be friends with every person in the company.
- To earn respect, you’ve got to give respect.
- Walk away from gossip.
Your most effective time management strategy? Always look three days ahead on the calendar. Make sure you’re aware of any major events, such as football or baseball games or major conferences that would impact travel in the city to which your boss is travelling.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Always. Always. Always have a set appointment with your assistant, once a week, and keep it. Make it a priority. It will lessen interruptions to your day and increase the efficiency level of your assistant.
One doesn’t have to be friends with every person in the company
For those interested in promotion: Be professional. Dress professionally. Ask questions. Understand the corporate culture and mission of your employer/company. Invest in a headshot photo and make certain you have a relevant LinkedIn profile. Engage with other administrative professionals and leaders in the office support domain. My quote: “Administrative professionals are only as good as their resource network.”
… and now, a note from Shelagh. While Kemetia didn’t mention it during our interview, she publishes her own website, AdminRenegade; I’m including a link below. Readers not yet familiar with some of the people and resources Kemetia referenced may be interested in checking the following links.
- AdminRenegade – Kemetia Foley
- International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP)
- National Business Education Association
- The American Society of Administrative Professionals
- Anne Lamott – Help Thanks Wow