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 21 countries to date: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the USA and Wales. Today, we make our first stop in Indiana, USA.
A Well Informed Start to the Day
A perfect day sees me up at 5:00 a.m. for a walk or elliptical machine session. That doesn’t always happen, of course. Regardless of exercising, I must have breakfast – oatmeal with berries and a cup of green tea – and read the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
How long is your commute? It’s a 30- to 40-minute drive each way. Who or what is on your commuting playlist? I like to listen to lectures in the car. I highly recommend the Great Courses series. But if I feel like music, it would be Beethoven, Mozart, or Shania Twain.
At the Office
Morning Routines: I check email first thing. Your primary responsibilities? I do a lot of process tracking and statistics for the compliance attorneys. I also support the Secretary of an internal executive business committee where I’m heavily involved in drafting and publishing the minutes as well as agenda scheduling and coordination.
There’s no such thing as a typical day. After the initial email check, each day may take an entirely different direction than anticipated.
How long is your work day? Typically, it’s 8:00 to 5:00 with an hour for lunch, unless a project or an audit requires more time. Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? Not usually.
What might be a typical lunch? I eat at my desk while reading the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. Then I read something else of interest to me for the balance of the time. I try to read something enjoyable or edifying that will refresh me for the afternoon.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? As with most jobs, finding productive and efficient ways to deal with difficult internal or external customers.
I try to read something enjoyable or edifying that will refresh me for the afternoon
What do you most enjoy about your career? I love being in the electric utility industry. This is a tremendously challenging and rapidly changing time for the industry, with all the regulatory uncertainty and increasing renewable technologies. I feel that my job and industry are truly important to the overall economy.
On Saying “No”
I don’t say no in so many words. I ask the question, “When do you need this?” Then, I am realistic with the executive about when I could turn the project or request around, explaining the other things I’m working on that may be a higher priority. The executive can then decide if he or she can wait for my deadline, work with my manager to reset the priorities, or seek another resource to get the project done.
The bottom line is that you always need to meet the deadlines that you set for yourself
The bottom line is that you always need to meet the deadlines that you set for yourself. If you tell someone this will be done on Friday, have it done on Friday. That is another way to reinforce that the deadlines you are proposing when you receive a request are legitimate and will be treated with respect by the executive.
I was born in Illinois, and I now live in Indiana (both of these are in the middle of the continental United States). At heart, are you a city guy or small community person (city mouse/country mouse)? City guy
Away from the office, I enjoy reading history, dabbling in classical languages, and watching baseball.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? Watching a baseball game on Sunday afternoon
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Travelling anywhere in Italy with my wife, Julie
Education and Professional Development
Education: My college degrees have opened doors for me, but it is my technological understanding and staying current with my skills that have kept me relevant in the workplace.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Twitter via the Hootsuite app
Remain relevant in the workplace through technological understanding and skills currency
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? Microsoft Access has really been helpful to me in my career.
Awards and Recognition
I was recognised last year for the roles that I played in two scheduled regulatory audits.
Style and Substance
What are your go-to pieces to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? I really base it on colour. If I think a storm is brewing at the office, I’ll wear red. I figure it gives the others a non-visual indicator that I’m ready for whatever may happen that day. On more normal days, I prefer a darker blue or navy to suggest serenity and calm.
Inspirational reads? Attitude is Everything by Jeff Keller, and The Innovative Admin by Julie Perrine
Role models or mentors? I’ve had too many to name. But they all had this in common: they were very approachable and allowed me to give my input. It wasn’t always taken, of course, but I always knew that it was considered. That kind of trust and communication serves both sides of the office relationship and offers opportunities to succeed.
Role models’ shared traits: they were very approachable and allowed me to give my input
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. When I worked in the insurance industry, we had an annual company renewal requirement. When I first became involved with the project, it was a two-person project that took two months. By the time I left that role, I had the process streamlined into a one-person job! I did this for a number of years and was able to hand off my five-page procedure, including timelines, to my replacement.
I’ve been able to create a number of Microsoft Access databases to organise historical items and automate those databases to the point where others in my departments could easily find items they were looking for—even if they didn’t know Microsoft Access well.
If you could offer a new executive advice on how to best capitalise on having an assistant, and working together, what would that be? The executive needs to understand his or her workstyle and the workstyle of the assistant. With that knowledge, the executive can easily determine what projects the assistant will succeed at, and where he or she might need additional training or coaching. Communication is also key.
Read a serious business publication or newspaper each day
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? I think it is especially important for females with male executives to check the sports scores. You don’t have to pay attention to the games, but just knowing if the local college or professional team is winning or losing can be a great ice breaker with executives or guests who may be waiting in the office for your executive. Keeping up with current events is also helpful (see below).
Meeting the deadlines you set for yourself reinforces the legitimacy of deadlines you propose to others
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: I would offer two related bits of advice: first, give the opportunity for input; second, give the assistant room to speak (that is, be willing to listen).
For those interested in promotion: Read a serious business publication or newspaper each day. Knowing what your company does to make money, and how things going on in the wider world may impact your company, are vital. It is a very safe bet that your executives are reading those publications, as well. By reading, I don’t mean that you have to read every word. Just scan the headlines, and read the articles that do interest you. Being aware that certain events have happened or are going on can also be a good ice breaker at the office.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Todd mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.
- Attitude is Everything: Change Your Attitude … Change Your Life! – Jeff Keller
- The Innovative Admin – Julie Perrine
- The Great Courses