EA Showcase | Kanta Toraska has some great tips for anyone starting out as an Executive Assistant

Please introduceExecutive Assistant yourself and tell us a little bit about your background.

My name is Kanta and I’m the EA to both the CEO and the CFO of Calvary Public Hospital in Bruce.

I first came to Australia 14 years ago, prior to which I worked in Bahrain as an EA to Banking CEOs, which I thoroughly enjoyed. When I moved to Australia, I made Canberra my home and found that most of the banking executives sit in Sydney and Melbourne.

I worked at Minter Ellison Lawyers for two years but I had always enjoyed Health and was looking for opportunities in that sector. I won a role as EA to the CEO of the Australian General Practice Network and later moved to work for the CEO of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. When I saw an ad for the EA to the CEO of Calvary Public Hospital, I knew that’s where I wanted to be! My CEO at the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia was very supportive and told me to “follow my dreams.” That led me to Calvary Hospital and I’ve been here since (about 10 years now).


What is it that made you want to become an EA in the first place, and what has kept you coming back to this same position all these years?

I recognised my strength in my administration skills early on in life and decided to give it a go. I have never looked back and still, today enjoy every minute of what I do.

I love what I do and can’t wait to go to work each morning. I love the buzz of working in a hospital and all the people I work with at Calvary are absolutely lovely. I have been through nine different CEOs and CFOs and I’m still in touch with ALL of them. I’m never bored, and working with different CEOs provides me with challenges. It’s very busy and no two days are the same.


What would you consider to be the most rewarding part of your position as an EA?

The most rewarding part of my job is when I see my CEO having a good day at work. I love diary management. You’ve got to be flexible as priorities are always changing in a hospital. I enjoy being able to make sure that the day is well organised, for them to get the most out of it, and I get great satisfaction in taking care of all the little things that make my Executive’s life easier. I try to make sure my CEO has a lot of time to read emails and do some work and not just attend meetings back-to-back. I make sure there are no meetings for the first hour of the day and I like to give them time in between meetings.

I think sometimes people don’t recognise the initiative and the autonomy a good EA should have. It’s a partnership! We need to make our Executives look good and organised as they rely on us for so much. My current CEO is from Newcastle and she goes home every Friday afternoon and flies back every Monday morning. She’s up at 4 am each Monday and hitting the road at 5 am to get on a plane, and she comes straight to the office from the airport. So I try to make sure she has no meetings after 4 pm on a Monday. She’s still in the office but obviously exhausted by that time. She has never told me to organise her day that way, but it’s just little things like this that an EA needs to be mindful of. Thinking for them, being there for them, understanding them and knowing what works for them.


What motivated you to complete both a Diploma of Business and a Diploma of Management, and how do you feel those achievements have contributed to your success in the EA role?

I did both of those diplomas while I working at Calvary Public Hospital. My CEO at that time was very supportive of studying/upskilling.

I wanted to upskill myself and get a better understanding of management and business, which I have gained from both these courses. I also supervise the other Exec EAs and Admin staff. These courses have helped me in supporting and being there for them.

It’s not about me being in charge – we are all a team and work very well together. We look after each other and it makes us all more productive. I think if there’s an issue to resolve, it’s best to have the ‘difficult discussion’ early on rather than let the situation get worse. ‘Address it early!’


What are three items you can’t work without?

My Bring-up folder, diary (a physical paper diary, not an electronic one) and my very colourful post-it notes. I first used a bring up folder when I worked in Bahrain and have not been able to find one in Australia, so had to buy it online. It is absolutely essential to me for keeping documents together and having them available for the future. Each of the sections pertains to the dates in the month. This helps me keep documents for a particular date and retrieving them is so easy. I even use it for my personal documents – bills, car registration renewals etc. Every morning I pull out whatever documents are kept for that date. It’s my reminder. It’s not something that everyone here uses. I’ve used it for over 25 years and it keeps me organised.

(Editors’ note: the organiser Kanta is referring to is the Leitz 1-31 Desk Organiser and is also referred to as a ‘tickler file.’)


Any other tips or advice for someone who wants to get started as an EA?

Anyone interested in a career as an EA should start at the bottom of the ladder to understand the all-encompassing role of an EA. I started as a Receptionist. The role of Receptionists today is very different than it was when I started. I didn’t do as much as they have to do today. I would say that’s where you should start and work your way up. It’s a stepping-stone and you learn a lot.

Most people don’t always understand the role of the EA. They think it’s just making appointments, answering the phone and booking travel.

You need to enjoy what you do and if you don’t…find the roles that interest you and go for them!!

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