Exceptional EA is pleased to launch Real Careers, in which EAs, Management Assistants, PAs and other administrators from around the globe generously share a bit of their lives and the benefit of their experience. We begin with a virtual trip to South Africa, and a visit with Anel Martin …
Coffee, Technology and Music
My morning begins at 5:00 a.m. and I am not functional until I have had my first cup of coffee. I get ready and try to squeeze in a Ted Talk before leaving for work (if I have the time). I start checking and responding to email and WhatsApp messages from 5:00 a.m.
I drive 34 km to work and on a bad day it can take two hours, but generally it takes about an hour and 15 minutes. I love music so the radio is great company. I am a MASSIVE U2 fan and also absolutely love Bastille. When I need to get in the zone for a stressful day I am usually BELTING out “Back in Black” by ACDC. I also have a Dictaphone in the car to capture anything that I may want to remember or any ideas that I have while on the road.
At the Office
Morning Routines: When I arrive at the office, I pop into our coffee shop for a cuppacino and try to do a bit of networking with others who are around (again, if I have the time). Then off to my desk where I log on and check the emails, diary and workflow. I attend to any urgent items first and then revert to my good old to-do list. I am very lucky to be rather mobile, so a lot of work can be done from my smartphone without having to be at my desk.
Primary Responsibilities: Scheduling meetings and all the required logistics, LOADS of travel arrangements, email management, Device Life Cycle Management, preparing presentations or doing research as required. The last few months I have been the team lead on our office refit (my team is over a hundred people in a larger company of over 18,000). I assist with customer escalations and get involved in any project that my manager sees fit.
How long is your work day? I try to be in at about 7:00 – 7:30 a.m. and will be at my desk till 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. I will remain contactable and online for any issues during the evening but will check email for the last time at about 9:30 p.m. A bad day can be 11 to 13 hours but, luckily, in the position I have now it happens only once in a while. In my case there is no such thing as a typical day, and that is EXACTLY why I like this job.
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? I am definitely one of the naughty ones here….I skip breakfast AND lunch. So generally I eat one meal a day during the week and drink WAY too much coffee.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? Absolutely, I work while on leave (annual or other) and I even worked the morning after my surgery.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? I love people but can find them a challenge at times; people generally need something from us and I find that draining on occasion. So I need to schedule downtime away from people to maintain the balance.
Most PAs deal with more stress than people realize
… and it is an ongoing battle for me to firstly manage my own stress and keep perspective in challenging times. I have also experienced a great deal of change in the last few years and hope that the practice will make me better at coping with it at some point.
What do you most enjoy about your career? I enjoy working with people and planning, so this is the ideal role for me.
On Saying “No”
It really was hard for me to learn how to say “no”, I always felt selfish or like a bad person when I did so. That was until someone told me that, every time I do a favour for someone, I am actually firstly taking time away from what my manager needs done or away from my family. This perspective helped me to take charge and question what I was sacrificing to be able to say yes all the time.
I was born in a town called Bloemfontein in South Africa and would definitely describe myself as a country mouse. I love being out in the sunshine, but I suppose that just comes with the territory when you are born in Africa.
I love to 4×4 on the weekends and compete with my husband on a national level, I love being outdoors and spending time with friends. I enjoy travelling and food. What constitutes pampering after a tough day or week? A long hot bath with lots of bubbles … reading a good book … being outdoors.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Going to Russia is top of my list at the moment when it comes to travel, but my travel list is VERY long indeed. It truly is a great passion of mine!
Education and Professional Development
Education: I have a business management diploma, studied drama and have achieved my CAP-OM Certification. All of these have added different dimensions to what I can offer my company and my team. Education and experience is something that no one can take from you and it has also provided me with greater job security.
Business Management gave me the fundamentals to understand what the different divisions in my company do and has helped me a great deal when I have moved over to a new department or when I need to hold my own in a discussion.
Drama helped me to get really good at interviewing, dealing with people, understanding the subtext in a situation and being more confident.
CAP-OM for me was a validation. It is a prestigious certification to have and I see it almost as a mark of quality.
Peer and Professional Associations: I am a past President of PAFSA in South Africa and it has been highly beneficial to me. I have a wonderful group of peers outside of my company that I have met through this organization and I would highly recommend any assistants working in the world today to join an organization. There is a sense of community, support and great opportunities for informal mentorship and skills transfer.
Awards and Recognition
- Office Professional of the Year 2009 Finalist
- PA of the Year 2011
- Pitman’s Super Achiever PA of the Year Finalist 2013
- three Spotlight Awards from my company, presented by the Chief Operating Officer, Chief Technical Officer and Chief of HR
Technology: Reality and Wish List
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? A calendar that makes all delegates and meeting rooms available at EXACTLY the time you need to book them.
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? Foundation and lipstick
Heels or flats? Heels, both in the office and for the commute
Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? Nine West, or Aldo
Preferred scent: Womanity by Thierry Muegler
What might we find in your desk drawer? Eye drops and an extra pair of reading glasses
Inspirational reads? Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Kalil Gibran’s The Prophet
Role models? As cheesy as it sounds, the women in my family are my role models. Strong ladies who have faced incredible adversity and conquered!
Learn to say no as quickly as you can because if you don’t this career will chew you up. Manage your stress!!!
You don’t have to be friends with everyone
It is fine to have only a professional relationship with some individuals. Needing approval is an illness. Learn to respect yourself and what you do, stop looking for reassurance outside yourself.
Have a to-do list. Plan tasks and reach out to the correct resources to get the job done. And MOST IMPORTANTLY do it right the first time!! Listen to your body and match activities to your energy level.
For those interested in promotion: Be consistent in your appearance, personality and quality of your work. Learn to speak up for yourself and build a powerful personal brand. Work hard!
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Assistants are much more intelligent and resourceful than you think. Recruit an assistant that has the right attitude and someone that you get on well with, the rest can be learnt. Once you have built up trust, learn to delegate!
… and now a note from Shelagh. Anel was thoughtful in sharing information and insights, without thinking to mention her own website, which you may find by clicking here.
To explore a range of resources recommended by our readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page.