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 Rotherham, England to visit with Lorraine Stallard.
Simple and Effective Routines
My morning routine is simple. I put my clothes out and check my work bag the night before, as my alarm is set for 5:45. I have my breakfast when I get to work, which allows me time to check in with social media (Linkedin and Twitter), and work inboxes (mine and my boss’) over coffee before I leave the house at 7:00.
It takes 20 minutes to drive into Sheffield, which I follow with a 30 minute exercise walk if it is a fine day – or, if it is wet, a 10 minute walk. I try to complete 10,000 steps a day and I struggle to meet this target if I miss the extended walk in the morning.
Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I change my playlist each month; it usually contains anything from Led Zeppelin to Frank Sinatra, but always includes 9-5 by Dolly Parton.
At the Office
Morning Routines: I am a creature of habit and have a set routine which includes unlocking the office doors, powering up my computer and my boss’ computer, coffee and breakfast (usually cereal). I prepare tomorrow’s day file, and start on my task list.
Primary Responsibilities: I provide dedicated support to the Secretary and Registrar and the Chair of the Board of Governors, and line-manage two personal assistants to the Heads of Service within the Secretary and Registrar’s directorate. The start and finish of my day are probably the only two things that repeat each day. The rest just flows in and that, if I am honest, is the best thing about my role.
How long is your work day? I try to ensure that I leave the office by 5:30 three times a week but, due to the unpredictable nature of my role, I don’t always make it. I think the Executive Assistant role has to be flexible, but you have to take advantage of the days which allow you to take back some time, which is always more preferable in the summer.
On time management: Pay attention to the details
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? I always take a minimum of 30 minutes at lunchtime, which is usually at noon. I always intend to have my lunch away from desk, but I usually manage that only once a week. I make more of an effort during the summer.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I try not to work in my personal time, but sometimes my workload dictates otherwise. Unfortunately, because I drive in to work, I can use the time only to keep up to date with current events via the radio – although I have tried to dictate notes while I drive.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? Managing the changing demands and priorities, but that is also one of the things that I enjoy.
Enjoying: That I have added value
What do you most enjoy about your career? The people interaction and the pleasure of knowing that you have ensured that your boss has achieved her/his objectives. That I have added value.
On Saying “No”
It is not a word I use very often; I try to provide an answer or suggest a more appropriate course of action. One of my faults is to take on a task rather than delegating or passing it on to someone else.
Away from the office, I love visiting stately homes and have been a member of the National Trust for many years.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I love a long soak in a bath to unwind on a daily basis, and like to either eat out or have a take away at the end of the week.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? I would love to go back to Costa Rica.
Education and Professional Development
CPD (Certified Professional Development) has played an important role in my development; I learn better by doing rather by being taught. I believe it is important to ensure that your knowledge of the tools/equipment you use is up to date.
It’s all about information gathering, knowing how your boss prefers to work and understanding her/his objectives and priorities
Peer and Professional Associations: I am a member of the Association of University Administrators, and am in the process of joining EPAA (Executive and Personal Assistants Association). I believe that peer/professional associations play an important part in development. They provide the opportunity to acquire a wider understanding of issues faced by sectors, as well as the opportunity to learn and explore new developments.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Professionally, I use LinkedIn and Twitter. Personally, I use Facebook and Pinterest.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? An app that allows me to see the categories in Outlook and manage tasks as if I was at my PC
Awards and Recognition
I attended one of the Queen’s garden parties, following nomination by the Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire as a result of support to his visits to the University. As well, I was recently awarded a contribution pay award following a nomination by my boss.
Read everything you can and develop networks within the organisation, the sector and your profession
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? Lipstick and face powder
Heels or flats in the office? Low heels. For your commute? Walking boots; comfort is essential Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? Peter Kaiser
Preferred scent: Alien by Thierry Mugler
What might we find in your desk drawer? Stationery
Travel or travel planning advice? I provide concise information in a simple form on a day to day basis, with as much detail as necessary. I always provide additional information about the destination, and ensure that I have planned in contingencies.
Role models or mentors? I have been very fortunate in that the people I have supported have been forward thinkers and have high professional integrity. As such, they have encouraged me to be the best I can be. Reta Vyse, the Executive Assistant to four Vice Chancellors, has mentored me for the last 10 years. It has been invaluable to have a senior Executive Assistant share her knowledge and experience. She has instilled a need for high standards and professionalism in the role.
I have also benefitted immensely from being a mentor myself. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on your own approaches and practices, and learn new ways of working
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. Supporting the recruitment process for the new Vice-Chancellor and the development of the process to provide digital meeting books for the Board of Governors’ meetings
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I would like to acquire some qualifications, such as Microsoft certification, which support my technical abilities.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? You are responsible for your career. If you don’t drive your personal development, no one else will.
If you don’t drive your personal development, no one else will
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? It’s all about information gathering, knowing how your boss prefers to work and understanding her/his objectives and priorities. You need to be able to provide them with what they need before they know they need it, and you can do this only if you understand how they work and what they need. You need to compile a list of key information in order for you to plan their diary and their movements.
Your most effective time management strategy? Preparation and planning – paying attention to the details
Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? Breathe. You are used to juggling priorities, and you need to give yourself permission to accept conflicting emotions and priorities; we are all human.
If you could offer a new executive advice on how to best capitalise on having an assistant, and working together, what would that be? You need communication, faith and trust. Keep a constant dialogue with your assistant about what s/he needs. Have faith that your assistant will do everything in their power to support you achieving your goals. Trust that your assistant makes you their number one priority, and therefore always has your back.
Seeking promotion? You have to up your game
For those interested in promotion: To be an Executive Assistant, you have to up your game. You have to have a greater understanding of the bigger picture and be passionate about the role. Read everything you can and develop networks within the organisation, the sector and your profession. There is always something new to learn.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Lorraine referenced may be interested in checking the following links.