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, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and the USA, and now make our way to Norway to visit with Julia Schmidt.
Strong Coffee and a Quick Commute
I wake up at 6:30 and take a long shower. After that, it is time for my favourite meal. I cannot start my day without a tasty breakfast. A strong Royal Malabar coffee is essential. I also do some social media during breakfast.
My commute is usually 35 minutes door to door, by either bicycle or bus.
At the Office
Morning Routines: I arrive at the office before my two executives. I turn on my computer and go to their offices. I organise the papers they left on their desks the day before and put a jar with fresh water on both their meeting tables. I check the agendas, read emails and revise my tasks. I always add a to-be task to my to-do list. This week, for example, I had “practice forgiveness” and “express calm through tone of voice and attentive gestures”. This is one of my ways to improve emotional intelligence.
Primary Responsibilities: The main responsibilities in my role are to record and distribute board and executive meeting minutes, prepare agendas and presentations for meetings, plan trips and manage internal communications. I also manage my bosses’ calendars.
I am currently supporting my CEO with the company’s strategic planning process, and my CFO with the budget planning process. Good time management is crucial to have everything aligned with the different units on time.
How long is your work day? My workday is from 8:30 to 4:30, and sometimes until 5:00. What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? I join my colleagues in the canteen for lunch every day. I eat salad, and sometimes bring a homemade lunch.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? Although it is not common, I work from home in my “off” hours in the evenings or weekends. On my way to work I read and answer emails if necessary.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? The most challenging aspect of my day is time management. You have to revise your priority list constantly. When working with C-suite people, you have very high expectations coming from all sides. You shall be ready for new projects, travels, and unexpected tasks daily. Your to-do list is never empty and is often challenging.
Establish a weekly to be list, to enhance your emotional intelligence
What do you most enjoy about your career? I enjoy the opportunity to work together with top executives. I see leaders delivering leadership, and perceive the value of it. Intelligent people motivate me!
My career as an EA started in Brazil, where I was born. It continues in Norway, where I have been living since 1998. At heart, I am best suited for the hustle and bustle of the big city. I love shopping, gourmet restaurants and concert halls. Small communities can work well for me for vacations. During my leisure time, I love reading, cooking and meeting friends.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I often reward myself with a gourmet dinner in good company. It includes a bottle of fine wine.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? I am dreaming about Japan. I have never been in Asia, and it would be amazing spending some weeks in such an interesting country. I am fascinated by their distinctive culture and food.
Education and Professional Development
Education: Continuous improvement must be included in any career plan. I am studying something new all the time. It opens doors and gives you confidence. I speak five languages, and have a bachelor’s degree and two masters. I am now studying Business Administration. I am doing a short version. I want to improve my financial knowledge since I am working with a CFO.
Work systematically, learn and share knowledge as much as possible
Peer and Professional Associations: I am a board member of EUMA (European Management Assistants) Norway. It was through Sue France’s book that I discovered this network group. EUMA is doing fantastic work in putting together so many administrative professionals and helping us to share our best practices and expertise.
In my previous company, we were a community of assistants. Now, I am the only EA in the whole company. I do need to network more than ever. It gives me a lot of energy. You learn and share. Networking is a learning-and-sharing platform.
Preferred form(s) of social media? I am a fan of LinkedIn. I use Facebook quite often due to some EA groups – for example, Executive Secretary Magazine. Twitter is gradually becoming my second preferred social media.
Time management: Create realistic deadlines and make your first tasks the ones you least like
Style and Substance
Heels or flats in the office? Elegant and comfortable heels, always! For your commute? Heels also for my commute, except during winter time. Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? Bruno Magli is my favourite brand of shoes.
Preferred scent: I adore Allure from Chanel. I have been using this perfume for almost 20 years.
Inspirational reads? I do mention three books that are still inspiring me. The first one is Sue France’s “The Definitive Executive Assistant and Managerial Handbook”. It was the first book I read that was dedicated to EAs. It made me see my work as a profession and myself as a leader. I was a sleeping giant assistant until that time.
The second one is “Managing Transitions – Making the Most of Change” by William Bridges. This book will make you an expert in understanding change process.
The third book is “Becoming A Better Boss: Why Good Management is So Difficult” by Julian Birkinshaw. It will teach you the people-centric approach to management.
Role models or mentors? My bosses, including former bosses, have been my mentors. They have motivated me to my highest levels. I shall mention Mrs. Fragge, the owner of Jorunn Fragge Executive Secretary Search & Training AS, located in Norway. She has provided guidance and helped me overcome some professional challenges.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. A few months after I started in a new company assisting a Vice President, my performance was recognised and awarded. I was nominated to participate in an internal Development Training for assistants. The one-year long development program included Project Management, Finance, Effective Communication & Business Language and Efficient Management Teams, among other subjects. It was a great opportunity to network and know more about the company’s business.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Accept feedback as a gift. When I was young, I did not have the positive approach to feedback that I have today. It is a tool for improvement and a background to starting career development plans.
Accept feedback as a gift
Your most effective time management strategy? Time management has a lot to do with the right prioritisation. Therefore, my most effective strategy is doing first the tasks I like less. It will avoid procrastination. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing. It is bad management. Another important element is creating realistic deadlines.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Firstly, I would say, “Make your EA feel a part of your management team.” Then I would add, “Give priority to your one-to-one meetings with your EA and come prepared to the meeting. Bring feedback with you, and feel comfortable to delegate any tasks and trust your assistant.”
Align your goals with the objectives of the organisation
For those interested in promotion: Be an Evangelist Executive Assistant. As Executive Assistants, we shall follow our executives in proclaiming the good news about our company business. That is what we call evangelism. Show that you care about what your company is selling and producing. Be a marketer!
Successful EAs pursue their company’s objectives and align their own goals with the objectives of the organisation. Work systematically, learn and share knowledge as much as possible. As my CEO used to say, “Systematic work works always”. Finally, be the best assistant you can be every day.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Julia referenced may be interested in checking the following links. To explore a range of resources recommended by our readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page.
- EUMA – European Management Assistants
- EUMA Norway – also on Twitter and Facebook (for members only)
- Executive Secretary Magazine – Lucy Brazier; on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
- Jorunn Fragge Executive Secretary Search & Training AS (Norway)
- Julia Schmidt – Three Tips for Becoming an Evangelist Executive Assistant
- Julian Birkinshaw – Becoming A Better Boss: Why Good Management is So Difficult
- William Bridges – Managing Transitions – Making the Most of Change
- Sue France – The Definitive Executive Assistant and Managerial Handbook: A Professional Guide to Leadership for all PAs, Senior Secretaries, Office Managers and Executive Assistants