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, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Turkey, the USA and Wales. Today, we make our way back to Brazil to visit with Marcela Silva da Conceição Brito.
A Young Family
I have a baby daughter and she is two years old, so my work day begins between 6:45 and 7:00 a.m. We take a shower together while my husband prepares our breakfast. After this, I organise my child’s bag to take her to the kindergarten and then dress myself. Nowadays I do not drink coffee in early morning because I am trying to get more healthy eating habits.
I live really close to my job and I really would like to go to on foot to work, but I have to drive because I firstly take my baby to school and then I go to my office. My commute takes around 15 minutes.
As I drive to work, I do enjoy listening to music all the time. I am an eclectic person but, in the morning, I appreciate listening to songs from Bossa Nova and rock bands such as Switchfoot, an American rock band.
At the Office
Morning Routines: Every day, my priority is to have a cup of cappuccino (it is the only time of day I drink coffee) and a glass of water. Then I log on to the computer and check incoming emails. I also have access to my boss’ inbox and during the day I need to manage information arrives in two email inboxes. I reserve a time to check my boss’ diary with him because he has his own agenda and I have the virtual agenda. I get all information from his agenda up to date with mine, and so it is possible to confirm all meetings we have previously booked.
Primary Responsibilities: In my role, the primary responsibilities are to assist my boss, the head of the Secretariat of Intelligence and Macro Strategy of Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), to guarantee the office works perfectly, to provide some kind of administrative support to people works there, to lead my trainee’s activities and to maintain the quality of internal communication in my department.
I work in an area of intellectual activities, and work with some researchers. I understand my role as essential to allowing these professionals to develop and perform their jobs with quality and happiness. in an environment where things really work.
I consider myself a visible connector of people and talents
I am also responsible for travel arrangements, coordinating strategic meetings, receiving people from other places in Brazil and from other countries. By the way, I consider myself a connector of people and talents. And this is visible for all of my colleagues at my office.
If there is something I particularly enjoy in my job, it is the possibility to handle adrenaline and unexpected issues. I used to say that it is impossible to anticipate what is going to happen every day, because one day never is the same as another. I love this because, through this experience, I can develop my abilities to create solutions under pressure.
How long is your work day? My work day is intense, but it is not so long. I work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I rarely work past the close of business because I work in a government corporation in Brasilia city, the capital of Brazil. Almost all public sector offices close at the same time in my city.
What might be a typical lunch? I go out with my husband to have lunch outside the office. This is possible because we both work at the same company. I also appreciate opportunities to have lunch with some friends and take some air fresh away from my office. I believe this is important to increase my creativity, and my ability to improve my level of patience, because my job sometimes can be extremely stressful.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? Never! I am grateful for this, because my job really works for me. This is a privilege, as it is allows me to practice other activities to which I am really committed. These include teaching Executive Secretariat college students three times weekly, and writing my own blog. You can see more about my life journey on www.marcelabrito.com.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? I believe that is handling different people and their opinions and behaviours. I defend that the only thing we cannot express widely in our career is a preference for someone or something. There is a diplomatic and political aspect to our profession, because we communicate among staff at all levels in a number of organisations. It is mandatory to command others’ confidence to ensure our work is productive and fluid.
There is a diplomatic and political aspect to our profession
What do you most enjoy about your career? I also enjoy dealing with people and the possibility of transforming a bad scenario into a favourable one, through the ability to handle these different personalities. I like this challenge and it is not small; it really is a great challenge. People are complex, they are diverse, and they are so special in their own ways – and I appreciate it. This inspires me all the time, and it stimulates me to be better day after day.
How Readily Do You Say “No” to People? Do You Have Any Tips to Pass Along?
This is a great question, and I’d like to reflect on it. In my first job, I was afraid of everything and everyone. I remember that I really wanted to do my best and not make any mistakes, so I did not know to say “no”.
Time heals almost everything, and it is the best teacher people could have. I have learned that my competence and the way people must see me as an exceptional executive assistant are not related to the numbers of times I could say, “yes”.
My competence and the way people must see me as an exceptional EA are not related to me saying yes
Instead, they have to understand that I am committed first to my priorities in the role. So, nowadays I never say “no” directly, but I ask a person about his/her priority related to the request. If it is urgent, I explain that I am also working on an important matter for the office or for my boss and, unfortunately, I will decline. Then I give him/her options, indicating someone who can help him/her. I learned to understand that people do not want your “yes” all the time, but that they really need your help. If you help them, you will fulfill your mission.
This is the best and the most important thing about me, because I love to talk about my origins. I was born in Resende, a country city in the south region of Rio de Janeiro province. My city is small; it has more than 200,000 inhabitants but it is one of the more strategic cities in Brazil because it is in the middle of the main highway of my country. My city is exactly between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the two most important economic cities in Brazil.
I left my city when I was 16 years old, and lived for eight years in Belém (Amazon Region) before living for two years in Rio de Janeiro city. Now, finally, my family and I have lived in Brasilia city, the federal capital of Brazil, since November 2013.
I consider myself an adaptable person but I am really a city gal. I love the majesty of opportunities, spaces and entertainment a great city offers, but I also confess that I often suffer because in a great city it is more difficult to build effective relations with others and I appreciate opportunities o make new friends and to feel safe with friends next to me.
How do you spend your time away from the office? I am mother, so everything that makes my baby daughter happy makes me happy, too. I like going to open spaces such as square and parks, and here in Brasilia city we have many options. Beside this, I enjoy reading a lot and watching movies. At the moment, my husband and I watch movies at home through Netflix or similar services.
When we have relatives’ support, we go out together to have dinner in a good restaurant as a romantic date – just us two, and also go to the cinema. We love it!
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I love to reward myself and I have a special sentence for this: “I have worked a lot, so I deserve the best!”After a work week, I like to dedicate time for myself and I take care of my beauty firstly. Then, I eventually choose a different restaurant to visit and enjoy good food with my family. I love to know different tastes.
I have worked a lot, so I deserve the best!
A dream holiday or travel adventure? I was more courageous before my daughter was born. But I still think about going bungee jumping in Australia or New Zealand. I would love scuba diving in the Caribbean Sea or Fernando de Noronha Island, in Brazil.
Education and Professional Development
Education: I credit my educational background is responsible for my career development, and I will continue with my education. For, as an executive assistant, I can never stop studying because the knowledge always changes and I need to be up to date. Everything I am and everything I have conquered until now is because of my educational and professional interests and dedication. This is the point of difference in anybody else’s life.
Everything I am and everything I have conquered until now is because of my educational and professional interests and dedication; this is the point of difference in anybody else’s life
Peer and Professional Associations: In May 2015, a high performing professional from my field of study and I led a movement to bring together Executive Secretariat professionals in our region. We also finally subscribed more than 10 people in a group called Committee of Executive Secretariat from Federal District (D.F.). We have finished our annual activities in early December, with good recommendations and several projects planned for 2016.
Preferred form(s) of social media? I love using social media! My preferred forms are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google +. These social media tools help me to know about business world trends, and keep up to date on the daily news,. Beyond this, they also represent the main tools I have to communicate with my public on my projects, and share texts from my blog.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? This year I began to use MyTrello for work and personal projects and it is really good, because you have boards to organise the subjects you have to develop. It is also possible to share with partners and friends.
Awards and Recognition
I received an award when I left college because of the originality of my monography. My academic work has been recognised as the best of my graduating class in 2008. While these represented formal recognition, I consider myself recognised in many ways during my career.
It is mandatory to command others’ confidence
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? I am not extremely vain, but nowadays I need to use sun filter and hand cosmetics during my work day.
Heels or flats? I always wear high heels, for my commute and in the office. I consider myself a classic woman.
Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? I do not care about the brand of shoes. They need to be comfortable and functional, because this kind of investment is not a priority for me.
Preferred scent: I like woody and floral scents.
What might we find in your desk drawer? You will find office stuff, post-its and some souvenirs I have received from my boss and friends who have travelled to different places in the world.
Travel or travel planning advice? Our memory can fail many times a day, so the best tool we can use is a checklist or a to-do-list. I have a checklist plan for business travel, which I always apply at my job. It is organised and it covers all issues that are necessary for successful travel. For personal travel, I really have my husband’s support because he is better than me at controlling personal travel . Interestingly, he also is an executive assistant.
Inspirational reads? Why Men Want Sex & Women Need Love, from Allan and Barbara Pease. This book helped me to be more curious about the differences between men and women. It has clarified many doubts and concerns about behaviour in each gender. Today, I can read a situation with a different sight because I know we think, see, understand and do things from different perspectives.
Role models or mentors? Some people of my age never had a mentor or even a role model to follow and admire. I am a privileged person because I have had two: a man and a woman. The first was my boss at Santander Bank, from September 2009 to May 2010. His name is Ângelo Ávila and he is my best example of a real leader who is able to see and tap into the best of people to achieve a bigger goal. The second was my boss at the University, in 2011. Through Maria Emilia Tostes, I learned that it is possible to be a mother and a successful business woman with a kindly smile and a special way of working with people. She has three children and she can be a great mother and an empowered woman in her institution.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. As I told you before, I really enjoy dealing with people and my best example of a career accomplishment occurred three years ago when I lived in Belém, the biggest city in the Amazon region. I worked at the Federal University. and I advised the Director of the Technology Institute in the University for eight months. Her name is Maria Emilia Tostes and she is my best example of a powerful and complete business woman. She is great at dealing with people, and she had a big challenge: to motivate students, professors and administrative staff in the institution. She wanted to integrate all of them for a purpose in which she believed. Our great opportunity was the Academic Week from Institute (Week of Technology).
A group of professors, some people from administrative staff and I all planned for four months this event, and I had the idea of recruiting the students through training to help in support of the event. It was successful. We recruited more than fifty students, and I led them for three weeks to organise and take care of details of the Academic Week. The previous year, there were less than one hundred people in the audience; the year I was involved with this Director, there were more than five hundred people in the audience. I love telling this case because it is my best example of how involving people in the final process can have a major impact for the business.
Beyond this, I am so proud to have published my first book, Secretariado intercultural: como auxiliar empresas e profissionais em negócios no exterior/ Cross Cultural Secretariat: How to Support Companies and Professionals in Business Abroad.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? Yes, I always do. I have at least three main goals on my radar for the next five years. First, I want to finish my second book and publish it next year. The second goal is to get into a Master’s program because I need to develop and update some specific knowledge to ensure my best performance teaching at the college . My third great goal is to leave public service in Brazil and dedicate myself, my energy and my love to drive my own business on corporate educational issues, and promoting courses to teach people to handle difficult questions in secretariat roles – and to empower people in organisations.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? How to demonstrate self-confidence to your boss and your colleagues
Think sincerely about the key criteria and conditions for growth or promotion
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? You must be interested in two topics of conversation: target market, and the stakeholders with whom your executive maintains relationships. Then, you need to be able to discuss strategies necessary to achieving this target market and the business partnerships.
Your most effective time management strategy? Plan to produce the important and the essential work within five to six hours per day. Thus, you can dedicate the hours left to act on the urgent situations.
Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? This is so special. I would tell her to be patient with herself, and to enjoy her maternal feelings to influence better people and to create a pleasant environment at the office. Mothers have the ability to embrace and promote good spaces.
If you could offer a new executive advice on how to best capitalise on having an assistant, and working together, what would that be? I would recommend that the executive let the assistant be free to do his/her best work with confidence and creativity, and act as a real protagonist of administrative process in organisations. I also would say that the executive assistant is a potential talent at the office and s/he can manage and figure out strategies for the business. It is just a question of opportunity.
For those interested in promotion: First of all, I would suggest s/he must think sincerely about the key criteria and conditions for growth or promotion – such as the position s/he wants to achieve, the profile this new position demands, and the knowledge that is necessary to achieve this promotion.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Marcela referenced may be interested in checking the following links. To explore a range of resources recommended by readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page or click here to see all professional associations and networks recommended by peers.