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 to Surrey, Canada to visit with Sheena Ram.
I am a morning person, so on a good day I’ll be at the gym at 5:30, then enjoy 20 minutes of meditation followed by a blueberry smoothie. Then, I’m at work for a 9:00 a.m. start. I don’t drink tea or coffee, and love my protein fruit smoothies.
My commute can take 30 to 45 minutes. I normally drive, but sometimes walk and take the SkyTrain. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I play Bollywood songs or 94.5 radio; I also tab into my son’s favourites sometimes.
At the Office
Morning Routines: The first thing I do is check my bosses’ priorities for the day, then get them both glasses of water. Next, I go through emails and identify my own priorities for the day.
Primary Responsibilities: I manage both of my executives’ calendars, meetings, expenses, travels, reports, and board packages. Each day is different; there’s never a typical day.
How long is your work day? On paper, I work eight hours a day. Most of the time, I work longer hours. I do so because it’s like running your own shop: You stay back to recap the day and prep for the next one. This is also a reflection of the demands and responsibility of the position.
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? I usually have salad or something healthy, and usually at my desk.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? Sometimes, but it’s not the same for me as the presence in the office often contributes to more productivity.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Taking minutes
Be clear on the type of intelligence and energy the job calls for
What do you most enjoy about your career? People, including my great bosses
On Saying “No”
When we understand that saying “yes” means we would be standing on platitudes, but saying “no” means we’re staying true to our priorities and convictions, “no” becomes a lot easier to say. Guilt goes out the window because we realise it’s the right decision. I often feel that I am being approached because I am capable. I think that, most of the time, it’s not the “no” that matters as much as how I respond to the ask.
I am originally from the Fiji Islands, and now live in Surrey, Canada. At heart, are you a city gal or small community person (city mouse/country mouse)? Hmm, I can be both but am probably more of a peace and quite person – it also depends on who I am with. I adjust and adapt easily. Away from the office, I enjoy travelling, yoga, meditation, and meeting people.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? Simply doing nothing and relaxing, although I also like booking myself a massage appointment.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Europe – to experience the sophisticated cities and quiet villages, as well as art galleries and museums, historic monuments, varied architecture and street cafés
Education and Professional Development
Education: It has always helped me be knowledgeable and build confidence in my ability to manage my job.
Have a positive attitude and develop mindfulness
Peer and Professional Associations: I belong to the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). I love meeting people and networking. Being a member of such an organisation helps me to network with other professionals. It helps me to keep up to date on new and emerging technologies, and best practices and standards. It is a place to learn and grow and it gives the sense of belonging in our area of work.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Facebook
Demonstrate authenticity, flexibility, accountability and simplicity
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? Lipstick and a nice soft, light body lotion or hand cream
Heels or flats in the office? Both For your commute? Flats Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? None in particular, but I love stylish and comfortable shoes. My office shoes are Naturalizers – short heels.
Preferred scent: Lavender
What might we find in your desk drawer? Note pads, pens, pins and clips – all categorised and very organised
Travel or travel planning advice? Do your homework; research needs, and allow extra time for getting to the airport. Eat light.
Inspirational reads? This is something for me to work on. I need to make time to read books on a more regular basis.
Role models or mentors? My current boss is my professional role model; she is today’s leader. She brings the best out of me, and is an inspiration. She believes. She demonstrates authenticity, simplicity, accountability and flexibility every day.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. Working in the CEO office, and attending Initiative for Women in Business at the University of Toronto – Leadership in Administration
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I am quite content with my job right now.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Have a positive attitude and develop mindfulness. I feel these have really helped me work with so many amazing people.
Be authentic at all times
Your most effective time management strategy? Prioritise and multitask routine, quickly managed jobs but focus on one priority at a time.
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Be clear on what is expected of you, what type of intelligence and energy the job calls for, and be authentic at all times.
Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? Hopefully it’s a family friendly workplace; find a way to balance work and home life. Both are equally important.
The personal values you bring to the job can help you a great deal
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Recognise your assistant’s values and strengths, and utilise their skills to the fullest. Establish trust and believe in your assistant; that does wonders and helps you achieve maximum creativity and productivity.
For those interested in promotion: In my experience, if you have a positive attitude about learning and adopting to a job, that contributes to your success. Demonstrate authenticity, flexibility, accountability and simplicity; these are my employer’s core business values. You can gain experience and develop skills, but the personal values you bring to the job can help you a great deal.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Sheena referenced may be interested in checking the following link.
- IAAP – International Association of Administrative Professionals