“I worked harder than what felt natural, I went outside of my comfort zones constantly, I always said yes despite wanting to say no.”
This month’s EA showcase is all about our very own AMAZING EA Clare Lopez, Executive Assistant to Managing Director Ursula Kohler at Capital EA.
Our goal is to raise the profile of EAs with a view to build awareness of the Executive Assistant role by sharing the diversity that the role entails, continue to share tips and tricks, encourage each other and talk about the journey in which we all take.
Please share, share and share in support of your peers!
If you know an EA or would like to contribute and share a little about yourself, please get in touch as we’d love to hear from you.
Your CEA Team X
1. Please introduce yourself; what is your name and how long have you been an EA?
Clare Lopez, I have been an EA for less than 2 years in total. I first started in the EA role 10 years ago, and I am currently EA to Ursula Kohler of Capital EA.
2. What did your first day as an EA look like?
I was new to the EA role, new to the Public Service, and my Branch had just been created due to a restructure. Everything was new. As scary as that was, I felt that it gave me the opportunity to really make my mark as I had not stepped into anyone else’s place.
3. From your first day to now, how has your definition of the EA role changed?
In the beginning, I defined an EA as providing exceptional customer service to their Exec.
I now define an EA as being a vital player in an organisation and a strategic substitution for their Exec.
The EA understands the organisation’s mission and coordinates their Exec so that milestones are met, and deliverables are produced on time and in accordance with the mission. The EA has the instinctive awareness of their Exec’s preferences and direction, and can offer inputs and insights in the absence of their Exec.
4. What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your position as an EA?
It would hands-down have to be the relationship that I have with Ursula and the Capital EA team. I am encouraged, supported, and trusted and that feels so good.
5. What do you consider to be the most difficult part of your day?
As a virtual EA, it would be dealing with distractions. I work remotely from home.
There are a lot, hang on I should capitalise this… A LOT(!) of perks to being able to work from home. But the constant distractions coming from home life drive me crazy…
I go into the home office to start work and see a pile of wet washing that is on the edge of needing to be rewashed and so I stop to hang it; I go to make a cup of tea and see that the dishes are piled up and so I stop to put them in the dishwasher; the kids come to me for help, instead of doing things for themselves or asking their dad, so I stop to give them their time to speak and be heard before redirecting them.
Even the comforts of being at home are distracting – like endless opportunities to look in the fridge for something else to eat.
6. What skills do you possess that you believe is crucial to your EA role?
I have over 15 years of customer service experience in the Public and Private sector – I know how to identify peoples need and present realisable solutions.
6 years of writing in the Australian Public Service and on behalf of Government – I have an understanding of the need to adjust writing styles for differing audiences.
My entrepreneurial spirit – I’m opportunistic, I look at tasks from multiple angles, I visualise the full picture of the project to create the most effective pathways/processes, I reflect on outcomes and experiences, and I am competitive in the strive for a greater good.
7. What role have you owned, or what experience have you had, that helped shape your EA career?
My first role as an EA pushed me to breaking point, I literally got to the point where I couldn’t take on anything else and I took an opportunity to start all over again with another Exec.
Responsibility is an essential value of mine therefore I couldn’t let my Executive down. I worked harder than what felt natural, I went outside of my comfort zones constantly, I always said yes despite wanting to say no (perhaps because I didn’t know how to say no), and I kept accepting opportunities as they were presented to me because that’s the type of person I am.
I got to the point where I physically couldn’t take on anymore tasks/projects. I failed to reflect on my workload, and I ended up crumbling and feeling like I wasn’t fit for the role because I couldn’t cope/keep up/do it all.
But how did this shape me…
Looking back I can see what an opportunity I had, but I didn’t have the maturity at the time to carry the responsibility that I was given. If I had known how to say no, I could’ve produced better work and been a more effective EA for my Exec by getting half the jobs 100% complete, instead of 100% of the jobs only half completed.
I am now aware of how to work smart, not hard. I am now actively seeking ways to step outside of my comfort zones and I am comfortable in saying no, professionally.
8. What is the most exciting opportunity you have had as an EA?
I can honestly say that the most exciting opportunity I have had as an EA is contributing to the Capital EA brand and being a part of a small business. I love being across all aspects of the business and I thrive on the variety that it brings. I am genuinely excited to ‘go to work’ every day. I could easily do this job 7 days a week.
9. What are 3 items you can’t work without?
My laptop, my headphones and most importantly a notepad and pen (preferably a BIC Cristal ballpoint). I absolutely must write things down, it’s a useful tool for retaining information and really helps me to hash-out ideas constructively.
I recently caught myself saying this and I had to write it down because it sums up my need for handwriting so perfectly… “I think with my pen”.