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Stacey King is Executive Assistant to the CFO, Head of Aviation, and Head of Property at Canberra Airport in Australia. Here’s a look at her world.
A Running Start to the Day
My ideal morning starts at 5: 30 a.m. with the ABC News theme remix sounding as my alarm. At 5:45, I head out for a five – eight kilometer run and return in time to have breakfast and get ready for work. I check my social media accounts over breakfast and read up on the news, but I do not check my work calendar or emails until I am in the office.
I drive to work every day and the commute takes 20 – 25 minutes. On the mornings I take my children to school, the commute takes 25 – 30 minutes.
Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? My playlist is a mixed bag. I listen to music currently in the charts; however, I do revert to Australian rock (best played at full volume), 80s music, Salt-N-Pepa, Robbie Williams, Rodriguez, and Ministry of Sound: Running Trax.
I prefer to listen to music on my commute, but my podcasts include Be the Ultimate Assistant (Bonnie Low-Kramen and Vickie Sokol Evans), Unleashing Brilliance (Janine Garner), Hamish & Andy and, more recently, Ladies Who Legspin.
At the Office
Primary Responsibilities: I provide executive support to the CFO, Head of Aviation, and Head of Property. This includes managing various stakeholders, extensive diary management, travel arrangements, coordinating and minuting meetings, reconciling monthly expenses and all other administrative coordination.
Morning Routines: I believe that a flexible attitude and the ability to adapt to changing priorities are essential to success as an EA. However, having a routine each morning is the best way to get the day off to a good start.
Due to the layout of the office, my first stop is the commercial kitchen; this is the kitchen used to service the meeting rooms. I ensure the coffee machine and supplies are ready for the day. I then drop my bag into my locker and pass by my executives’ offices. This is generally a quick hello but it has proved to be invaluable if something has come up overnight. While my computer starts up, I head to the main kitchen to get my water jug and use this time to say hello to other colleagues.
Back at my desk, my Outlook opens to Calendar first and I review my “planned” day (we all know this can change in an instant!), before opening my execs’ calendars. I open my Inbox and apply the 4Ds when reviewing: Do it now, Decide when (task), Delegate, Delete. I then reassess my scheduled tasks and start on the highest priority.
Working for three executives, there is no typical day – and that is what I love about being an Executive Assistant. The beauty (and sometimes challenge) of each day is the ability to multi-task on projects and initiatives of various size and complexity across multiple facets of the business.
A flexible attitude and the ability to adapt to changing priorities are essential to success
How long is your work day? My work hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There may be times when I need to work outside these times, but they are limited. Canberra Airport has an impressive culture of work-life balance; there is no expectation to check emails outside of work hours or on days off.
What might be a typical lunch? I will have up to an hour break for lunch and, depending on my schedule, I will stop any time between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. I don’t have a typical lunch; some days I am organised and will pack a salad or sandwich. On the days I am not so organised, I am saved by the cafes and restaurants at Brindabella Business Park; there are some great choices. My favourite at the moment is Mee’s Sushi.
Our office has incredible breakout spaces including a spacious kitchen, an indoor lounge, and a large relaxed outdoor area with spectacular views across Canberra and the Brindabella mountains … and so there are plenty of options to get away from our desks. These spaces are a great example of how a well-designed office creates a collaborative work environment even when you’re not working.
On the days I am feeling active, I will run or walk during my lunch break. There are great paths around the Airport precinct and along the Molonglo River.
There is no typical day – and that is what I love about being an Executive Assistant
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? Canberra Airport has an internal EA network that was established to share best practices and information, create a unified sense of collaboration between all EAs, and to drive positive outcomes. We meet on the last Thursday of each month and rotate the Chairing of the meetings.
Although it’s in its very early stages, I have created an opportunity for EAs/PAs working in Brindabella Business Park to get to know one another in a relaxed, casual environment. It is called Beer, Bubbles & Banter and we get together on the last Friday of each month, share a few laughs and unwind after the week.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Whilst not the most challenging aspect of my day, I do not enjoy taking minutes of meetings; it can be a thankless but necessary function of our role. Taking minutes of a meeting where I have little knowledge of the subject matter is challenging, especially where acronyms are used and where I haven’t had access to the previous minutes prior to the meeting.
Getting out of your comfort zone can be frightening, and this is where having a mentor can help
I was born and lived in Singleton, NSW (New South Wales) until I finished high school. Singleton is located in the Hunter Valley, about an hour from Newcastle and three hours from Sydney. I spent a year in Newcastle studying at Passmores’ Business College and this is where my love of the administration profession started. I moved to Sydney and spent four years working there before moving to Canberra, ACT (Australian Capital Territory) at the end of 2000.
At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? Canberra, the capital city of Australia, manages to combine all that I love about city living with what I value in my quiet time. Canberra is home to some of Australia’s national attractions, museums and major events – and we are spoilt for choice with incredible restaurants, shopping and local artisan markets. Canberra has incredible bike paths and walking tracks, and the Canberra Centenary Trail is one! Within 15 minutes’ drive, we have the Cotter Reserve, Tidbinbilla and Mount Majura Nature Reserves.
Canberra has been ranked the #3 city in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018. I encourage you all to add Canberra to your must visit list.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? Away from the office, you will find me at my local café enjoying coffee with my husband, or watching my children play sport. Sport plays a big part in my life, and it always has. So, if I am not cheering on my kids at netball, rowing or soccer, you’ll find me at my local parkrun or at one of the Canberra Beer Runners’ events. I am also a huge fan of nanna naps on the weekend – hahahaha.
How long have you been an admin. professional? I have over 15 years’ experience working in administration and I was lucky enough to be able to stay at home for five years to raise my children before returning to work when they started school.
What was your first such role? My first role was as Receptionist. It was an extremely busy role that required two receptionists to manage the incoming lines and basic administration function of the office. It was a great introduction to life as an administrative professional, and I was soon promoted to the role of PA to the Managing Director.
Our office has a large relaxed outdoor area with spectacular views across Canberra and the Brindabella mountains
What might we find in your desk drawer? My drawer contents are very simple; pen, pencil, eraser, ruler, Stanley knife, paper clips, Post-it notes, mints, and money for coffee. In my locker, I keep other essentials such as running gear, sunscreen, stockings, and toiletries. I also keep a pair of corporate flat shoes in the office, just in case.
How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? I had been working in my previous role for five years, and was looking both internally and externally for my next challenge. In May 2017, I started at Canberra Airport on a secondment; the opportunity came about through my professional network. I am thrilled that I am staying on at Canberra Airport now the secondment has finished.
A strong network, ideally a combination of your own professional connections, professional associations and peers, is not only essential when looking for your next career move but also necessary for everyday business. My advice is to never take your networks for granted or abuse them, and to make sure you give them the attention required to create real connections.
A strong network: ideally a combination of your own professional connections, professional associations and peers
Tell us about your peer and professional associations.
- The Australian Institute Of Office Professionals; I am on the Committee of the ACT Division
- The Institute Of Administrative Management
- The Executive Assistant Network
- Justice of the Peace (ACT)
Do you hold (or have you held) a leadership role in such an organisation? I am on the ACT Division Committee of AIOP. I started as a general committee member and am now the Administration Officer. Have you earned any certifications earned through the association? I am a Fellow of the Australian Institute Of Office Professionals (FAIOP), and am on the Committee of the ACT Division. I am a Member of The Institute Of Administrative Management (MInstAM).
What are the primary means of communication for members of your network(s)/professional association(s)? AIOP ACT communicates with its members via email and on social media (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).
Never take your networks for granted or abuse them; make sure you give them the attention required
Role models or mentors? There are several professional role models and mentors I admire. Jane Thackray, Personal Assistant to the Head of School at Canberra Grammar School is honest, professional, discrete, funny and above all has integrity in everything she does. I admire Jayne greatly.
I hope to one day meet Anel Martin; I have the greatest respect for her sincerity and commitment to the EA profession, and her work with the Isipho Bursary.
What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? Getting out of your comfort zone can be frightening, and this is where having a mentor who will have an honest conversation with you will help you recognise when it’s time to move beyond your comfort zone. When I have identified an area I need to address, I reach out to specific people in my network; this is initially a request to catch up over coffee. I have found that my connections are more than happy to share their expertise, make recommendations and offer ongoing encouragement.
What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? I am quite reserved and will do my best to not draw attention to myself in a social setting. I shared this little secret of mine with Stephanie Paulissen and Maria Wallace, Australian Institute of Office Professionals (AIOP) ACT Committee members, when I joined the Committee. They both have been very supportive and encourage me to speak publicly every month; this is something I will continue to do in 2018.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? Of course! I discuss these with my mentors and they encourage me to challenge myself further. In November/December, I set my objectives for the following year and these are based on the longer-term goals I have set for myself. I review my progress regularly, too, and reassess as necessary. Those closest to me will know that I can be quite driven (some may say obsessive – hahaha) when it comes to reaching my goals, especially if they were deliberately hard to reach.
Calendar 4Ds: Do it now, Decide when, Delegate and Delete
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? I manage AIOP ACT’s social media on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
What are your preferred forms of social media? Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram are my preferred social media platforms. Depending on my intended audience, I may post on one or all four platforms.
I can be quite driven when it comes to reaching my goals, especially if they were deliberately hard to reach
Travel or travel planning recommendations? Know your traveller! Everyone has preferences, and if you are aware of these before booking travel, it helps you avoid any awkward conversations and ensures your colleague has a better experience.
Don’t go it alone! Every EA should have a trusted travel agent on their “team”. I have two; one for business and one for personal purposes. While we can access flights and accommodation online ourselves, very few of us have the expertise of a travel agent. The small service fee you pay gives you assurance in the event something does not go to plan.
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. I think it is important to first understand the role you want and the industry or businesses for which you have a genuine passion. Do your research and seek out opportunities that best match what you are after. Too frequently, I have seen applications for positions where no thought has been given, and no genuine interest in the business is evident. I encourage people to start conversations within their network to seek out opportunities and, most importantly, to not rush the process.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Stacey mentioned may be interested in checking the following links.
- AIOP: The Australian Institute Of Office Professionals
- AIOP ACT – on Twitter, @aiopact, and on Facebook and LinkedIn
- Anel Martin
- Be the Ultimate Assistant – Bonnie Low-Kramen and Vickie Sokol Evans
- Isipho Bursary
- The Executive Assistant Network
- The Institute Of Administrative Management
- Unleashing Brilliance – Janine Garner