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 23 countries to date: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates , the United States of America and Wales. Today, we’re off to Michigan, in the USA.
Stephanie Bergsieker is Executive Assistant to her organisation’s COO. Here’s a look at her world.
Quality Must Haves
My work day starts at 9:00 a.m. and I generally rise by 6:45. My only must have in the morning is a hug and kiss from my son when I drop him off at pre-school. My commute is generally a 35-40 minute drive. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I like to listen to the morning talk show on 101.1 WRIF in Detroit. They usually have me laughing on my way in to work.
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: I provide support to the Chief Operating Officer, oversee and coordinate our charitable giving program, coordinate community relations, and plan corporate events. I am also responsible for overseeing our internal group of Wnet (industry organization) members.
Morning Routines: The first thing I like to do each day is check my emails; then I take a look at the calendar and any outstanding items on my to-do list. Each day is fairly different depending on meetings (charitable organizations, events, community needs) and deadlines. But I’d say that I spend about 25% of each day in meetings, 25% working on events, 15% on travel, 15% on email, 15% building relationships, and 5% on miscellaneous.
How long is your work day? I generally spend about nine hours in the office and since I’m salaried, I often check emails or text messages before/after hours.
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 has a Wellness Committee that helps to support good health. Also, it is my personal goal to ensure that I stretch my legs every hour and get 7,500 steps in a day (which I track on my FitBit). I also strive to exercise two to three days a week and eat good, nutritious dinners.
What might be a typical lunch? I generally eat at my desk and it usually consists of something from the café downstairs.
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? I am a member of the Wellness Committee and Wnet. Because of my role, I stay pretty active in many things that kind of become related to my role. I consider myself the company and colleague cheerleader.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Staying new and fresh. I never want to become the person whom everyone thinks is stuck in the old ways and should move on.
What do you most enjoy about your career? The constant change and challenges
On Saying “No”
I generally like to say yes. But if I have to say no, I like to explain why (time constraints, access, etc.).
I never want to become the person whom everyone thinks is stuck in the old ways
I was born in Michigan and have been here my whole life except for a year in Florida. At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I love the city … but like to live in the suburbs just outside the city.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? Spending time with family and friends
How long have you been an admin. professional? 20 years What was your first such role? I began as a clerical assistant at an optometrist’s office.
What might we find in your desk drawer? Pens, notepads, files, and books that I’m currently reading.
How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? I decided to see what opportunities were out there and received a message from an HR recruiter on LinkedIn.
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? With a glass of Moscato and maybe some chocolate
Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? I love to travel! High on my bucket list is a vacation through Italy, England, Ireland, and France.
On networking: I have brought awareness to the causes that I care about as well as shining a light on my company and its pillars of giving and care for our community
Education and Professional Development
I feel as though my continuing education has supported my career progression. Gaining the PACE certification through ASAP has helped as well.
Peer and Professional Associations: IAAP, ASAP, Wnet Do you hold (or have you held) a leadership role in any of these organisations? I have served as an Advisory Council member for the past two years for the APC and I am currently involved in a few facets with Wnet. How have these roles impacted your career? I feel that it shows that you have drive and opens other opportunities. Have you earned any certifications earned through the association? PACE, through ASAP
How have these networks or associations helped you? They’ve provided continuing education and keep me current with skills and abilities. Also, they’re a great source of networking!
What are the primary means of communication for members of your network(s)/professional association(s)? Email and messaging through social media outlets
Describe any positive benefits your networking has had on your career, and/or for your employer. I feel that I have brought awareness to the causes that I care about as well as shining a light on my company and its pillars of giving and care for our community.
Inspirational reads? Be the Ultimate Assistant by Bonnie Low-Kramen and The Organized Admin by Julie Perrine
Recruitment is often competency-based. Which of the competencies you bring to the role are most relevant to success in your current position? I feel as though my willingness to venture outside of my expected role and try new things has proven very helpful. I feel that I am most successful due to the relationships that I build. Of course, tech-savviness is a tremendous help as well.
I have two mentors: my mother and an old boss who saw my potential and challenged me
Role models or mentors? I have two mentors: my mother and an old boss who saw my potential and challenged me constantly.
Have you received any awards or recognition as an admin. professional? I generally receive recognition through meetings and events that I put together. Also, I have been fortunate to be rewarded by bosses through performance awards or evaluations.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. I am most proud of obtaining the PACE certification and also of obtaining my current role as the EA to the COO; my responsibilities really venture outside of being an EA and really tested me. I have a lot of autonomy and it’s solely up to me to make the programs for which I’m responsible successful.
What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? I like to research and talk to others.
What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? I have challenged myself to learn more about event planning and also to study for the MOS Certification.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I am fairly satisfied with where I am. However, I want to continue to grow and learn and challenge myself.
An estimate: 15% of the work day is invested in building relationships
The Digital Age, and Evolution of the Assistant’s Role
Do you publish to, and/or monitor social media as part of your professional responsibilities? Not officially, but I feed information about our charitable giving and community relations to those who do. Describe any impacts social media has had on the role you hold within your organisation. I try to be aware of what’s going on in our industry and community in order to benefit my company. What are your preferred forms of social media? LinkedIn and Facebook
Do you maintain, monitor and/or publish to a website as part of your professional responsibilities? No.
What apps do you make use of in your professional life? ADP Mobile, a benefits app, and conference apps Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? Google Suite is pretty helpful.
My willingness to venture outside of my expected role and try new things has proven very helpful
Have you used technology to digitize processes or materials in your workplace? Not in my current role… but in other roles, I’ve utilized SharePoint and shared drives in order to make resources available to my team/organization. Do you have an employer-provided smartphone? No.
Are the meetings you coordinate or attend primarily digital (relying on portals and/or PDFs of meeting materials), or paper-based? Both Does your organisation make use of a portal for any of its bodies/committees?We use GoogleSuite, which allows for sharing and team/committee sites.
Does your organisation make use of an intranet/SharePoint or other web portals? Yes, we use Confluence (team collaboration software). It’s helpful but I feel has a long way to go.
I have a lot of autonomy and it’s solely up to me to make the programs for which I’m responsible successful
Digital Innovation and Disruption
Let’s talk about the pace of change in the admin. world in general. This industry is fast and furious. People either adapt or leave.
What about the impact of Digital Assistants/AI (Artificial Intelligence)? We don’t have that many assistants so I don’t see much of an impact from Digital Assistants or AI.
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 feel as though AI and Digital Assistants will be a novelty and then show the lack of personal touch. IOT only makes assistants better with access to groups to find resources and information.
Your experience and thoughts on cyber security/data security practices? Because we are in the financial industry, we have fairly strict practices already.
I try to be aware of what’s going on in our industry and community in order to benefit my company
AI, Digital Assistants and the IOT: Their Impacts on this Career
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 up with and on top of technology. I feel like there will always be a need for assistants, but we will need to be able to use and manipulate technology.
Travel or travel planning recommendations? For personal travel, it is good to have rewards cards. I typically book with Delta or Marriott because of their rewards. For business, I have used and most liked Concur.
What apps or programs do you and/or your principal/executive find useful for travelling and for tracking expenses? My executive generally just provides me her receipts and I organize them and fill out our internal expense report form.
There will always be a need for assistants, but we will need to be able to use and manipulate technology
You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. What approach would you recommend? Be sure that your social media is in order because prospective employers may be checking it. Get out there and be heard. Send your resume and follow up with an email or phone call. Employers notice when you are eager to work.
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. Don’t over-prepare, because you don’t want to sound like a robot; be genuine. Also, be sure to interview them as well.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Understanding the importance of networking. I was fortunate that I happened to discover it and it helped me along in my career before I realized it.
Leadership roles show that you have drive, and open other opportunities
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? I suggest quietly observing to determine the culture. I also suggest smiling and being helpful.
Your most effective time management strategy? My notebook with my to-do list and timeline.
Advice for a new parent working to the workplace? Trust your instincts and don’t get distracted.
Talk to us about mapping out career goals. I have found that no matter the map you create, you have to be flexible because there are always twists and turns to the road that you are travelling and it doesn’t always end up the way that you had planned.
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? 1) Ask about their preferred communication outlet. 2) Inquire about their goals and how you can help to achieve them.
No matter the career map you create, you have to be flexible
For those interested in promotion: See the big picture and help out, even if it’s not in your job description.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Stephanie mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.
- ASAP – American Society of Administrative Professionals
- APC (Administrative Professsionals Conference) Advisory Council
- IAAP – International Association of Administrative Professionals
- PACE – ASAP’s Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence
- Low-Kramen, Bonnie – Be The Ultimate Assistant
- Perrine, Julie – The Organized Admin
Connecting with Stephanie: