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, Canada, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and the USA, and now make our way to Brazil to visit with Carolina Siqueira Silva.
Carolina Siqueira Silva is Executive Assistant at the British Embassy Brasilia, Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Here’s a look at her world.
Up Early to Prepare for Traffic and the Day Ahead
I always wake up at around 6:00 a.m. because I have to be at work at 8:30. I hate rushing; that’s why I need extra time to fully prepare myself for the day. It is mandatory that I have a cup of strong coffee and breakfast before I head to work; otherwise, I am not functional.
I have just moved to a new city which does not really have a functional public transportation system. I live about 6 km from work and sometimes I take the bus and then walk two blocks. If the traffic is chaotic, I often take a cab so I’m not late. My commute usually takes 20 minutes, and I take this time to answer my personal emails, catch up on my messages and squeeze in some daily news.
What song or two are we likely to find you singing along to when driving, or if no one’s listening? I have very eclectic musical tastes … I like pretty much all genres, with preferences varying from time to time. My current favourite musicians are Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, The Smiths, Old Crow Medicine Show and Regina Spektor, with Bob Marley being an all-time favourite.
At the Office
Morning Routines: When I arrive at the office, the first thing I do is check any incoming mail. Then I grab a cup of coffee and a class of water, log on the computer and phone, check my inbox and then my own and my boss’ diary to make sure all his meetings and appointments are up to date and confirmed. I reorganise my to-do list (which I will have written the day before) with any relevant tasks that might have appeared.
Primary Responsibilities: My main responsibility is to provide personal administrative support and assistance to my boss, and help the executive office with other duties. I work together with two other colleagues and we work as a team, always helping each other whenever needed.
I perform a variety of executive and administrative duties, including (but not limited to) managing and maintaining my boss’ schedule, appointments and travel arrangements, coordinating meetings, recording and distributing board meeting minutes, managing all incoming communications, receiving visitors, and liaising with internal staff at all levels.
There is no such thing as a typical day at the office, which is one of the things I love most in this career – dealing with the unexpected. It is very challenging, and you have to be constantly learning and adapting.
How long is your work day? I am usually at the office at 8:30, and am there until 4:45 or 5:00 p.m.
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? I usually eat at the office but sometimes go out for lunch with a colleague, to get a bit of time outside the office.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? It’s very unlikely at this current job, since I am not mobile. There are pros and cons to this; the pros are that you are not working late hours. The cons: this limits your ability to assist your executive team on any urgent tasks that might arise during off hours.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Meeting peoples’ expectations is, in my opinion, the most challenging aspect. The job requires that you fulfill your boss’ needs and make his/her professional life easier, and often that is not the same as your colleagues’ needs. This can be frustrating for both sides.
Emotional intelligence comes into play
What do you most enjoy about your career? Working with people. As a people person, I really enjoy the fact that we constantly interact with people in our career. The networks we build, the people we help, the emotional intelligence skills we need to use in order to connect our bosses to the outside world … I find it very rewarding, professionally and personally.
On Saying “No”
It is really very hard for me to say no, because I hate to disappoint people. Fortunately, I have improved a lot and am in the process of learning to say NO without guilt.
I was born in Patrocinio, a small town in the countryside of Minas Gerais state in Brazil. I left my hometown 12 years ago to study and then, after I was done with university, I moved to Jackson, Wyoming, USA. I lived there for five amazing years, working in the tourism industry. Back to Brazil, I lived in a very remote little town in the outskirts of the Amazon jungle in Pará state for three years. Very challenging, but it was a great experience both professionally and personally. Now, I have relocated to Brasilia, the capital of the country, where I’ve now been living for almost a month.
I am definitely a small town person but, after living so many years in small towns, I am ready for some big city entertainment. I have a lot of friends, so most of my time outside the office is usually spent with them. I also like to do some exercise, such as pilates or yoga. I am planning to start learning slack lining and rock climbing, as well. Other than that, I travel as much as I can … I love travelling!
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? A fancy dinner out, a glass of wine or a good movie.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Nepal has been in my dreams for quite a while. It is at the top of my bucket list. Also, a safari in Africa, or a boat trip around Antarctica would be amazing.
Education and Professional Development
Education: I strongly believe that professional development is achieved though continued learning. I attended Executive Secretary Live in London this year and self-funded this, because I look at it as an investment in myself and my career. I look forward to enrolling in a post-graduate course or master’s degree next year.
I’m also doing a Project Management course online, which has helped me to improve execution of a lot of my current office tasks. Education and professional development do not only imply attending conferences, workshops, webinars and enrolling in degree studies; it also means taking advantage of experienced and knowledgeable professionals around you as mentors.
Tap in to experienced, knowledgeable professionals around you as mentors
Peer and Professional Associations: I belong to quite a few EA and PA groups on LinkedIn. Following these groups helps me keep updated on developments in the profession, as well as creating a strong professional network.
Preferred form(s) of social media? I use Facebook and LinkedIn a lot – the first for personal and the other for professional content. I am trying to get on board with Twitter, but still have lots to go.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? A problem-solving app, like Unstuck but with ready-to-use solutions. You enter the problem and it instantly gives you the answer, at the speed of light.
Build a good relationship with your travel agent
Style and Substance
What is your go-to outfit to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? I very much like nicely fitted, comfortable dresses. I love dresses.
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? Eye liner, facial lotion, and lipstick
Heels or flats? Flats; I absolutely hate heels. Favourite brands of shoes? It needs to be comfortable. I don’t really care about brands that much.
Preferred scent: Any light and unobtrusive perfume, with fresh, woody or marine scents
What might we find in your desk drawer? Some medicine, post-its, some chocolate for when the urge comes, chargers, etc. … nothing really exciting.
Travel or travel planning advice? Plan ahead; there is no other way to put it. If you can, plan ahead! If you can’t, build a very good relationship with your travel agent, because you will need him/her to perform miracles whenever there is an urgent travel demand.
Inspirational reads? Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by Zelda la Grange. I had the privilege of attending one of her speeches … very inspiring!
Role models or mentors? I have been very lucky to have a lot of role models throughout my career. I had great bosses who helped me improve professionally, giving me great responsibilities and believing in my potential. I also follow a lot of amazing PAs, EAs and women around the world who have helped me to become a better professional and a better human being.
Education and conferences: Investments in yourself and your career
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? My five-year career goals are to invest in my education by enrolling in a graduate/master’s degree program, to be certified internationally, and to continue to build a strong professional network around the world.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? How to say no with confidence and respect
You want to be constantly learning and adapting
Your most effective time management strategy? Prioritising – focusing on urgent and important tasks rather than those that are not important or don’t move you toward your final goals
Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? I do not have children, but I would say to take it slowly. Take one step at a time and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Push yourself beyond your comfort zone
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Be willing to delegate. Trust that we are capable of managing, and then you will have unconditional support.
For those interested in promotion: I would say, push yourself out of your comfort zone. Try to show your boss that you have outgrown your current responsibilities, and that you’re ready to take on new ones.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Carolina referenced may be interested in checking the following links. To explore a range of resources recommended by our readers, click here.
- Executive Secretary Live – Lucy Brazier
- Good Morning, Mr. Mandela– la Grange, Zelda
Very nicely said Carolina. ps I love dresses too.
Agreed, Christabell, on both counts – and thanks for writing.
Thanks Christabell for your feedback!
Great and inspiring interview.
Agreed, thanks, Lorena – and I’m impressed with Carolina’s focus on education and networking.
Thanks Lorena for you feedback! I really appreciate it!
Executive Secretary Live? Great investment, Carolina. I met you there and it was amazing having another Brazilian EA attending the event. I also invest in learning I did the same when attending the Exc Sec Live 2014 and 2015. Hope to see you there again, Carolina. And enjoy Brasília, your new city.
Thanks for writing, Julia; am sure Carolina will agree with you and appreciate your good wishes. Investing in learning is investingin one’s self, isn’t it?
Thanks Julia! It was great to meet you too and hopefully we’ll all meet again in another EA event around the world! The world is just getting smaller and smaller, Shelagh will also agree on that, right?! 🙂
You’re right, Carolina; am smiling at the happy merging of EA, MA and PA worlds across various borders. 🙂