This month’s EA showcase is all about the fabulous Jen Ironside, Executive Assistant to the CEO.
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. Name your current role?
Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer
2. Do you remember the first day you became an EA?
No, it’s been a while now – I went from working at an insurance broker to temping at the Attorney-General’s Department which was a huge change.
One of my first days as an EA to a newly promoted SES officer I arrived and the team hadn’t been notified I was starting, the SES officer was away, so they handed me a folder of meeting papers to read and by the time I was halfway down the page, I was lost in acronyms. I asked who the Secretariat was for the meeting and went to speak with them and got an overview of the meeting, what my SES officer was responsible for and we then came up with a calendar of when the meeting was being held, when papers were due and when they were being sent out. My one question led to a wonderful working relationship and a great friendship with the Secretariat.
3. How long have you been an EA?
I’ve been working as an EA now since January 2001 so coming up to 19 years.
4. What would you consider to be the most difficult part of your day?
Getting people to understand that I’m not just an administrative assistant, but that I know when the boss is in a good, bad or indifferent mood, what his preferences are and how to make his life easier.
5. What would you consider to be the most rewarding part of your position as an EA?
The friendships that I have made with other EA’s; external stakeholders and being able to network and create relationships. The other rewarding part of my job is the knowledge and skills that I have learnt from the SES over my career who are now giving me that guidance and time.
6. Was there a time in your career, you sort help and/or advice from another EA in your life? How important do you consider this relationship?
I have sought help/advice on numerous occasions from other EA’s and the help/advice ranges from the day to day mundane questions to the other end of the spectrum about career choices.
These relationships are so very important and I think when I started out as an EA, I didn’t understand quite know how important these were, but after working with so many brilliant, talented EA’s I have developed a deep gratitude for the time that they have spent with me answering my questions and providing advice that I’m passionate about wanting to be able to give back to other EA’s who seek my advice and guidance.
7. What was a role that you have owned or an experience you have had, that helped shaped your success in your current position?
In each role that I have held during my career, I have constantly learnt new techniques including how to work more efficiently as an EA and dealing with people for a wide range of matters and what the best tools and techniques work for me.
One of the key roles that helped shape my thinking and attitude in my current role was as the EA to a Deputy Commissioner, where the relationships that I built and still maintain to this day, were critical to my bosses ability to get urgent time critical operational matters dealt with quickly and seamlessly. This role also showed me the best aspects of working as part of a team and let go of the small things rather than trying to do everything myself and when there is something going on making sure that the communication is kept up to enable others to take on tasks for you.
I have also seen over the years how an EA can be undervalued and it’s something that’s stuck with me on how easily the relationship can change and owning your voice and speaking up for your role can make such a difference to how you are perceived and what opportunities open up for you.
8. What skill do you possess that you believe is crucial to your role?
Bossiness but also knowing when to temper that and take the softly softly approach. For me, I’m naturally quite a bossy person and learning how to step back and take others views/opinions has been a huge learning curve but valuable lesson.
I also think a huge skill is being able to distinguish the relationships that I hold in my role to define those that are a professional relationship as opposed to a friendship. Noting that whilst working for my boss, I have developed a friendship with his wife where we have a mutual agreement that work doesn’t get discussed which ensures that neither of us are placed in an uncomfortable situation.
9. What are three items you can’t work without?
My essential oil diffuser – it’s a great tool for adjusting the tone of the office and when people are down, having a citrus blend tends to give back a bit of bounce and the calming oils for when times are a bit more tense. I have also found that when the office smells welcoming the space is more inviting and calming and people are generally happier to come into the office
My sparkly glitter pen – it appeals to the squirrel in me when I’m finding that I’m getting frustrated or stressed, spending 5 minutes watching the glitter just reminds me that we’re all small cogs in a much bigger universe
My notepad, but it has to be in either the Capital EA compendium or a Kikki K leather case as it looks so professional to have that at your side when in a meeting or walking into the bosses office
10. What do you do in your spare time?
Normally just hanging out with my friends but as I’m getting older, I’m finding that I’m really enjoying spending time in nature and growing plants in my balcony garden gives me such pride.
I’m also a believer in getting back to nature and ensuring that you are grounded so that you can manage your stress levels and I know when I need to get back to the beach/water to calm my energy.
I’m also enjoying learning how to meditate and use my essential oils to live a more low tox lifestyle.
11. Any tips you’d like to share with your fellow EAs?
My tips for fellow EA’s would be:
– Don’t compare your role to someone else’s – every boss is different and every EA is different. We all do a similar role but we all do it differently.
– Don’t abuse the privilege of the role – you have great trust in your position and unfortunately the using of the bosses name to get you a meeting room or meetings is seen and noticed and you don’t want to do that to your boss or yourself.
– Learn from your colleagues, SES officers and EA network – take advantage of the IPAA EA series events and the Capital EA courses. These will help you learn your craft and facilitate your networks.
– Have fun and enjoy your job but don’t take it seriously all of the time.
– If your relationship isn’t working have the courage and conviction in your voice and abilities to say something and try something new. Take the occasional risk and step out of your role to act in someone else’s and learn everything that you can.