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, and now make our way to Nynäshamn, Sweden to visit with Maria Gottberg.
A Little Help from Nespresso
The alarm goes off at 5:30 and, depending on how I feel, I’ll either step in the shower right away or I´ll stay in bed checking my emails and social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). At 6:00 (latest), I stumble in to the kitchen and switch on the “defibrillator”, aka my Nespresso machine. A quick breakfast and one to two cappuccinos later, I wake my kids up before I leave the house.
My commute? I go by bus for about 35 minutes and then by subway for 20 minutes; it takes a little over an hour from door to door.
Who or what is on your commuting playlist or podcast? In the morning I listen to the radio (and try to get some more sleep). When I go home, I listen to a podcast or the radio, and of course I’ll also be reading emails and checking the calendar.
At the Office
Morning Routines: First of all: Coffee! Then I check email (mine and my boss’) and our calendars, etc., to make sure that I’m in control and that he will be at the right place at the right time with the correct information.
Primary Responsibilities: I proactively provide the CEO with administrative support. I manage and maintain my boss’ schedule, appointments and travel arrangements. I arrange internal and external meetings and events, and support the CEO and HR in the development of our company culture and leadership.
I am also responsible for coordinating certain common management administrative procedures, such as the HR system and travel management system, etc., and am involved in developing these to meet the organisation’s requirements.
There is nothing like a typical day. One day I could be in meetings taking notes, or trying to schedule a meeting between several people, all with the same tight schedules as my boss’. Another day I could arrange for a Lucia-celebration for the employees, with all our managers singing Christmas carols.
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? We have a restaurant in the building, so I’ll go there for a quick lunch with one of my colleagues.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I read emails or documents while I commute. I’m always available but very rarely have to work from home.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? The biggest challenge is to be to be updated on many issues at once, and to be quick and efficient while also being proactive and accurate … all with a high level of integrity.
Focus on work when you are at work, and on your family when you are at home
What do you most enjoy about your career? I enjoy keeping current on many issues at once, and being quick and efficient while also being proactive .
How Readily or Often Do You Say “No” to People?
Quite often, actually. I always try to help where I can and those I work with know that’s a fact. If I say no, it’s because I can not help them; I have no hidden agenda, and they know it.
How do you like to spend time outside the office? With my family – my husband and two daughters, age 11 and 15 – and friends. I like to run, short or long distance doesn’t matter; I just like to run. In May 2014 I completed the Stockholm marathon, and I’m so proud of myself for that accomplishment.
I also spend a lot of time on the grandstand, cheering on and supporting my daughters when they play floorball.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I hang out with family and friends, watch a movie, read a book, take a long walk or run by the sea to clear the brain.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Sun and heat make me happy and relaxed. That’s what I long for when the work days are long and tough. Snorkelling is a fun activity I like to do with the family, as well as experiencing other cultures.
Listen a lot, and ask a lot of questions
Education and Professional Development
Education: I took Economic studies at high school and have taken various courses through the years. Among others, I took a Master Class for Executive Assistants. This involved monthly training sessions for six months, and then a leadership course.
Learn to say no, and dare to say yes
Peer and Professional Associations: I’m a full member of EUMA Sweden, a part of the European Management Assistants. It’s a good and functioning network, both within and outside Sweden.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Instagram and Facebook for personal relationships … LinkedIn for professional purposes … and Twitter to keep me updated on the latest news
Colleagues know: If I say no, it’s because I can not help them, and have no hidden agenda
Awards and Recognition
I was nominated twice (2013 and 2014) by my manager and colleagues, and I won the Office Professional Award title in 2014.
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? Elisabeth Arden Eight Hour Crème and a good mascara
Heels or flats in the office? It depends on the outfit. For your commute? Trainers or leather boots Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? My light brown Holiday Sandals from Blankens
What might we find in your desk drawer? You might find something to eat, a nice scented hand cream and pens with a narrow pin – I love them. You will definitely find Salty licorice, for me or for anyone in need.
Travel or travel planning advice? Book well in advance – you’ll always secure a better price this way.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. I won the Office Professional Award in 2014, and have had the opportunity to lecture on “how to be a team with your manager” at various gatherings with other assistants.
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? It is very important for me that I have fun at work and that I feel comfortable with my boss and my colleagues. Right now, I’m where I want to be.
Right now, I’m where I want to be
I make a difference in the small today; in the future I might want to work somewhere where I can make a greater difference for many. There are challenges out there; I just have to be open to them.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Learn to say no, and dare to say yes. Don’t let anyone treat you badly – leave!
There are challenges out there; I just have to be open to them
Your most effective time management strategy? Lists, lists and coffee
Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? Make sure you have someone to support you at home. Focus on work when you are at work, and focus on your family when you are at home.
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Listen a lot, and ask a lot of questions. It’s better to ask too many times than too few.
Believe in yourself
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Involve your assistant, be open and have confidence.
For those interested in promotion: Believe in yourself.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Maria 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.
- EUMA Sweden – European Management Assistants Sweden