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Renée Neverson is Executive Assistant to her organization’s Vice President of Communications, Government Operations and a member of the Communications Leadership Team (CLT) and Government Operations Leadership Team (GovOps LT). Here’s a look at her world.
I start my day between 5:15 and 5:30 a.m. First and foremost, I honor and praise God, and thank Him for watching over me and allowing me to wake up to another day here on Earth. This is also my opportunity to say “hello” to my father who went home to be with the Lord when I was a young girl. After that, my work day starts. I check my work email in case any need attention prior to me arriving in the office, and if time permits, I’ll check my personal email and social media.
Depending on the traffic, my drive into work is 45 minutes to an hour. I typically arrive in the office between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I do not listen to podcasts, but my radio playlist is always on 96.3/WHUR, which is R&B music. I love listening to R&B because the music helps me stay relaxed and focus. I actually do my best thinking while I am driving into the office and it helps me decompress after a long work day. Laughter is also a must; it’s good for the soul!
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: As my executive’s right-hand/confidante, I wear many hats. My primary responsibility is managing all administrative day-to-day activities, such as being the “gate-keeper” of his calendar, processing and submitting consultant contracts, monitoring and tracking our team travel budget, processing and submitting expense reports, and handling all travel logistics (domestic and international), along with many other tasks.
Morning Routines: While my laptop is booting up, I will gather our newspapers, check emails and voicemail messages and begin responding to missed emails, calls and requests. After that, I’ll eat breakfast around 8:15 a.m. before my executive arrives into the office – that’s when it quickly gets busy! That’s why I keep a radio at my desk tuned to 96.3/WHURR&B, because I just need that music to help keep me calm, relax and focus and stay in the zone!
How long is your work day? I typically work eight to nine hours a day but, depending on what is happening, I may be required to stay for another hour or so. To be honest, the last time I worked a traditional work schedule was early in my administrative career. Now that I support high level executives, I rarely work a traditional schedule. From time to time, I may have to conduct some calls while commuting home, especially if the individual is located on the west coast and/or my executive is travelling.
Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health? My employer encourages and supports good health practices such as installing ergonomic desks (stand/sit), workout programs, on-site fitness centers, and healthy eating options in our onsite cafeteria.
What might be a typical lunch? I try to watch my salt and sugar intake, and it is much better and easier for me to just bring my own food to work. Occasionally, I will purchase lunch from our onsite cafeteria. Depending on how busy my day is, I try and get away from my desk and possibly go outside and catch some fresh air and stretch.
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? I am involved in a few business resource groups, including Boeing Women in Leadership. Their mission is to provide avenues for networking, personal and professional development, mentoring, coaching, and leadership opportunities to develop a strong network of women as future leaders in Boeing. I’m also a part of the Boeing Black Employee Association, and their mission is to create an environment that fortifies, encourages, uplifts, and promotes opportunities for the advancement and growth of professional development through their careers in support of the Boeing Vision.
I like being in charge of my career
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? The most challenging aspect of my day is not having all the pertinent information needed to do my job on any given day or receiving the information at the last minute.
What do you most enjoy about your career? I enjoy the freedom of stress, visibility, networking and opportunities to continue learning and growing in my career.
On Saying “No”
There are times I have to say “no,” but I prefer to ask questions so that I can better understand the need and how realistic the request is for me to complete. I have always prioritized my work but my executive will always be my main priority.
I was born in Washington, DC, but my father moved my family out to the suburbs when I was a child, so I grew up in Maryland from childhood through my early adult life. Eventually, I moved back into the city for almost 11 years, before moving back to the suburbs. I now live in Bowie, Maryland. At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I am probably a city mouse at heart because I do love the hustle and bustle that the city offers, but I definitely prefer the suburban life now because I enjoy the peacefulness.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? I enjoy shopping, crocheting, the spa and catching up with friends over dinner and drinks. I spend quality time with my fiancé, family and entertaining.
How long have you been an admin. professional? I have over twenty years working as an administrative professional. What was your first such role? My first real administrative role was when I worked at Fannie Mae as a contract Executive Assistant.
Learn how to hold yourself accountable for your mistakes and learn from them
What might we find in your desk drawer? In my desk drawers you will find supplies and files.
How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? My previous employer was going through a merger, so I took the opportunity to start shopping my resume around. I checked out indeed.com (a job board) and my current position was posted, so I applied. I also tapped into my network of friends and former colleagues.
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I decompress by going to Zumba at least three days a week. For me, this is the best medicine, especially when you have been dealing with a lot of moving parts and/or difficult people from time to time. I can relax and let my hair down.
Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? My ideal holiday is probably spending time with my family. My ideal travel adventure is somewhere in the Caribbean with a mojito.
Asking questions was and is key for me
Education and Professional Development
Education: Through my educational journey, I have been afforded many opportunities within the last 12 years – such as obtaining a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree, and becoming a certified Records Management Specialist through the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
I am also a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) – Level II through the Federal Acquisition Institute and Contracting Officer’s Representative (FAC-COR) program. I’ve also participated in various administrative professional webinars, attended administrative conferences, and taken several Human Resources classes. I like being in charge of my career, and these opportunities help me do that!
Five-year goal: I would love to become a chief of staff or senior advisor
Peer and Professional Associations: I’m a member of the American Society of Administrative Professionals. How has participation in ASAP helped you? My network is expanding and I am more confident stepping outside of the norm. How has your networking benefited your career or employer? My network has allowed me to be more visible among my colleagues, executives and external clients.
Inspirational reads? I don’t feel there’s one particular book or writer that has inspired me, but I have a pyramid of success chart posted at my desk that a former Senior Executive Service (SES) I worked with at the U.S. Department of Treasury gave me, and I look to that for encouragement and inspiration.
Learn how to handle receiving constructive feedback without taking it personally
Recruitment is often competency-based. Which of the competencies you bring to the role are most relevant to success in your current position? I brought a combination of competencies to my current role, such as being certified as a Records Management Specialist and Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR). These credentials indicate that I have experience and training in understanding the company’s life cycle management for handling our records and information as well as compliance standards. I also brought procurement experience to the role, creating request for contracts documents, and budgetary experience where I was responsible for tracking and monitoring travel expenses, etc.
Role models or mentors? First, my mother has always been a role model to me because she has always worked in corporate America. My mother believed that you always make a good first impression – dress, appearance and attitude are key ingredients to a successful career. Never sell yourself short while moving up the career ladder.
My mentor who passed away almost three years ago was like a second “mother” to me because she kept me in line. I realized after my mentor’s passing that she always knew I was going to succeed in whatever I set my mind to. One thing I will always remember and cherish about her is to stay humble while going through adversity and/or dealing with difficult people.
Dress, appearance and attitude are key ingredients to a successful career
Have you received any awards or recognition as an admin. professional? To be honest, I do not look or strive for accolades from my employer because I make it a point to come to work and do my part as a team player and not try and be the center of attention. I believe that, as long as I am doing my part, then my work ethic will be recognized and rewarded at the right time. With that said, I of course always appreciate the recognition and/or bonus that comes along from time to time.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. Everything I have accomplished so far in my career, everything from obtaining two degrees to being a part of the Administrative Professionals Conference – Executive Assistants’ Summit Advisory Council. Each of these has been a major career accomplishment. I am so proud of the choices and decisions I’ve made for myself. I was determined to succeed and learn from mistakes that I’ve made along the way, and that has led to my success as an administrative professional.
I was determined to succeed and learn from mistakes that I’ve made along the way
What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? I am a risk-taker, so I will try whatever is being asked of me and ask a lot of questions so that I fully understand the task and/or project. For example, I have had some exposure with budget tracking but my executive expects me to get more involved with tracking our team budget. I do not have a background in finance, so I had to ask a lot of questions from our finance focal. It is hard to articulate information that you do not know a lot about, but asking questions was and is key for me.
What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? I would like to become certified in Project Management. Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I would love to become a chief of staff or senior advisor. I feel like I am currently working in the capacity of a chief of staff but in a “junior” role based on my responsibilities.
On job interviews: You know your career, so walk into the interview with confidence
Evolution of the Assistant’s Role
What are your preferred forms of social media? My preferred form of social media is LinkedIn. I do have a Facebook account; however, I do not check it on a regular basis unless I have some down time on the weekend.
It’s not unusual to read that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will increasingly impact employment prospects across a range of occupations. What forms of professional development would you recommend to assistants who want to ensure their roles remain relevant and rewarding in this digital age? Stay abreast and current on the changes impacting the digital age.
What positive impact(s) do you think AI (artificial intelligence), Digital Assistants and IOT (the Internet of Things) will have on the admin. professional of 2025? I believe that Artificial Intelligence, Digital Assistants and the Internet of Things (IOT) will have a huge impact on the administrative professional of 2025; therefore, assistants should be working on researching, learning and implementing the new digital age.
Never sell yourself short while moving up the career ladder
Travel or travel planning recommendations? I believe that personal travel should be just that – learn how to relax and take time for yourself to de-stress and rejuvenate, and leave work at work. Depending on the business travel, review all the logistics at least two days prior to the trip.
What apps or programs do you and/or your principal/executive find useful for travelling and for tracking expenses? Boeing uses SAP Concur for all our travelling and expense tracking.
I have a pyramid of success chart posted at my desk
You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. Briefly outline the approach you’d recommend. 1) Know how much of a salary decrease you will accept, 2) Seek out various work industries and locations, 3) Research the company and the leadership team (if possible), and 4) Know that most job descriptions are very generic and all “executive assistant” titles do not necessarily come with a higher salary.
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. 1) Stay calm and relax, 2) Always make eye contact, 3) Be clear and concise with your responses, and 4) Keep your fingers locked in … this will help keep your hands stable. One last thing … you know your career, so walk into the interview with confidence.
Adapt to culture change
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Understanding how to work within a diverse administrative team. What it means to share best practices with one another. Learn how to listen. Learn how to handle receiving constructive feedback without taking it personally. Learn how to hold yourself accountable for your mistakes and learn from them. Adapt to culture change.
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? 1) Build a rapport with your executive and team, 2) Build a relationship with your administrative colleagues, 3) Have a pleasant and respectful attitude, and 4) Ask questions.
Stay humble while going through adversity and/or dealing with difficult people
Your most effective time management strategy? My most effective time management strategy is to have a notebook where I am able to write down/track all my “to do” items so that when I have completed that item I can check it off and date it.
Advice for a new parent returning to the workplace? Do not overdo it.
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? 1) What are your likes and dislikes?, 2) How early would you like to start your day?, 3) What are your preferences for traveling?, and 4) What items do I need to be focusing on?
Take the initiative to learn something new that will add value to your executive, team and your career
For those interested in promotion: Make sure to include your interests on your professional development, but also have a conversation with your executive. Take the initiative to learn something new that will add value to your executive, team and your career such as consultant/expense budget tracking, procurement contracts, etc. Assist with ad hoc projects
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Renée mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.
- ASAP – American Society of Administrative Professionals
- APC (Administrative Professsionals Conference) Advisory Council