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, the USA and Wales. Today, we make our second stop in Edmonton, Canada – this time, for a visit with Nicole Blanchette.
An Established Morning Routine
I get up at 5:50 a.m., pour myself a cup of coffee and jump into the shower. My morning regimen is so embedded that I’m sure I can do it with my eyes closed.
I usually take the bus to the train station, then the train into downtown to work. On Board or Committee meeting days I drive my vehicle. Who or what is on your commuting playlist? When I drive I listen to a local FM station so that I can monitor the traffic updates. I like upbeat, peppy music in the morning to get me going. When I commute by transit, I don’t listen to anything, in order that I can pay attention to my surroundings. It can be hectic, so I don’t want to be caught unaware by having earbuds in my ears.
At the Office
Morning Routines: When I arrive at the office, my daily routine starts off with turning on my computer, checking my bring-forward file, opening my journal/notebook, pulling out any priority work that I need to tackle first thing, opening my email and quickly scanning on what can wait and what I need to deal with right away. I make sure to walk around my work area and greet everyone in my team with a pleasant smile and “good morning”.
Primary Responsibilities: My primary role in the organisation is to assist the Board of Governors and the President & CEO. Most of my work day is occupied by conducting work on my computer in my office. I do meet regularly with the President and Chief of Staff regarding board operations.
How long is your work day? My typical work day is from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. However, the day may be longer due to workload, board and/or committee meetings.
What might be a typical lunch? My typical lunch will consists of leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. I try to ensure I have a balanced meal including my veggies. The team tends to eat at the same time in a small meeting room in our department. Someone is always within reach if a public member drops into the President’s office for assistance.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I try not to but will if needed.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Being five weeks into a new job at a new organisation, my current challenge is getting familiar with the organisation, President’s office operations, and Board operations.
Education and professional development have played a critical role in where I have been, where I am, and where I am going
What do you most enjoy about your career? I enjoy being the “go to” person in the office or department. I take a lot of pride in being an advisor to the Executive team. Being new to the organisation, I know it’s going to take some time to get to that point of familiarity, but I know I’ll get there.
On Saying “No”
I don’t think I’ve ever said “no” and, at times, probably should have. If I can’t handle the request right away I will give an expected delivery time.
I found out recently that I am definitely a city girl. I love living in Edmonton. My husband and I love to spend our sunny summer days on our motorcycles exploring the open road. Now that I have the convenience of the city and all it has to offer, we have been spending a spare time exploring the city and taking in events of interest whenever we can. Did I mention I love living in Edmonton?
What song or two are we likely to find you singing along to when driving, or if no one’s listening? I enjoy many genres of music and can be found blaring out the words in my car while driving. I’m sure the other commuters think I’m nuts.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I enjoy trying different foods and restaurants, so we’ll treat ourselves by going out for a nice meal including a nice glass of wine or cocktail.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? I would love to travel around Europe on a motorcycle. My hope is to save up enough money and time to make it happen on my 50th birthday … only three years away!
Education and Professional Development
Education: Education and professional development have played a critical role in where I have been, where I am, and where I am going. Lifelong learning is definitely at the top of my priority list.
Identify your dream job, and then find out what you need to know and do to achieve it
Peer and Professional Associations: I hold membership with GPOP (Colleges and Institutes Canada – Governance and President’s Office Professionals (GPOP), the International Association of Administrative Professionals, the Association of Administrative Assistants, the Institute of Corporate Secretaries Association, and the Institute of Corporate Directors. I do not currently hold a leadership role with these associations.
Preferred form(s) of social media? LinkedIn
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? I consider all of the software and apps I use to be very useful. I’m always open to knowing what is available and the new greatest tool.
Don’t take yourself so seriously
Style and Substance
What is your go-to outfit to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? I feel my best when I am in a pant suit, or dress pants and a blazer. A professional blazer/jacket will always ensure that you are dressed the part.
Heels or flats for the office? Heels, always. For your commute? Heels, although lower. Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? Aerosoles seem to fit me well and are comfortable and classic for the workplace.
Preferred scent: I try to respect a scent-free workplace; however, on my personal time I wear a light fragrance called Pure by Alfred Sung.
What might we find in your desk drawer? The usual desk supplies, plus Band-Aids, a basics sewing kit and small manicure kit, healthy snacks for long days, breath mints/gum, and my stuffed camel that comes out on “Hump Day” Wednesdays (I know you’re curious now!).
Travel or travel planning advice? I use a “virtual walk through” when making travel arrangements. I virtually walk through every detail of the trip in my head, thinking about every possible question, requirement and need that may arise. If you are planning for someone else, get to know their likes and dislikes before finalising the details. My previous CEO really liked Tim Horton’s coffee in the mornings, so I made sure that I indicated where the closest Tim Horton’s was on her travels. I know she was appreciative.
Travel planning: Virtually walk through details to anticipate questions, requirements and needs that may arise
Inspirational reads? I always seem to have a book or two going. Most of the time it’s inspirational, personal development or professional development. I will indulge in fiction when on vacation.
There are several role models whom I respectfully follow or lean on
Role models or mentors? There are several role models whom I respectfully follow or lean on. Those include Joan Burge with Office Dynamics, the IAAP community, my colleagues within the Colleges and Institutes Canada – Governance and President’s Office Professionals (GPOP) professional association, and our very own Shelagh Donnelly with Exceptional EA. Thanks, Shelagh!
I wear my credentials proudly
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. I’m proud to have reached the level of President and Board office operations. I really enjoy the work and the relationships I have made. I’m also particularly proud of achieving my CAP-OM (Certified Administrative Professional, with a specialisation in Organisational Management) certification with the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). I wear my credentials proudly.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? Not that I am in a role that is mainly involved with Board operations, I would like to further my Board Governance education, including the two professional certificates offered by the College Centre of Board Excellence in Ontario.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Don’t take yourself so seriously, it’s not as bad as it may seem, and take the time to build relationships/networks.
Take the time to build relationships and networks
Your most effective time management strategy? Prioritise your day every morning or the night before you walk into the office, and work on one task at a time from start to finish. Multi-tasking does not work for me. I recognise that, in a busy office, we will encounter many interruptions and working on one task at a time may be difficult. I always have an open journal/notebook on my desk and will jot down the interruptions so that I can follow up after I have completed the task at hand. Of course I also need to be flexible and willing to switch direction if needed. Once the diversion has been addressed, jump back on the task you were working on.
Multi-tasking does not work for me; always have an open journal to jot down “interruptions” to follow up on after completing the task at hand
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Be open and honest. Keep the assistant in the loop at all times, and build a professional partnership with the assistant. S/he can be your life line, confidant, advisor, and “go to” person, if treated with respect and confidence.
For those interested in promotion: First, find out what you would like to do; what is your dream job? Then find out what you need to know and do to achieve that dream job.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Nicole 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.
- Association of Administrative Assistants
- CICan: GPOP (GPOP; Governance and President’s Office Professionals)
- College Centre of Board Excellence
- IAAP – International Association of Administrative Professionals
- IAAP Edmonton on Twitter – @iaapedmonton
- Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD)
- Institute of Corporate Secretaries Association
- Office Dynamics – Joan Burge