EA Showcase: Zia Keriouz shares her insights on the EA business partner model.

Zia, EPlease introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your current role. How did you manage to land a job working for a book company?

My name is Zia Keriouz and I am the EA to the CEO at Booktopia. Booktopia is Australia’s largest online book retailer and if I am going to be completely honest I can’t recall what I did differently compared to any other job interview process to land this role.

I love books! And after spending a total of 10 years in PA/EA roles in construction, investment banking and mining I was determined to work for a purpose-driven organisation that was very closely aligned with my values. That is what got me to apply!

What got me the job and kept me here for almost 4 years is the honest relationship between the CEO and myself. In the interview, we were both honest about what we needed and wanted within the function. Since then, we have built a very efficient working relationship based on respect, understanding, trust and communication. What works is that we are both invested in each other’s success because as a team when we succeed together and individually it is a win win; and an extra win for the organisation.

How long have you been an EA, and can you remember what your first day as an EA was like?

A long time! I came into becoming an EA through natural progression within the corporate admin space. My first day as an EA, was terrifying. I was no longer a PA, this was it! I thought to myself, ‘Don’t let anyone realise you have no idea what you are doing! Fake it till you make it!’ I remember getting a two-day handover and the rest is history.

From your first day to now, how has your definition of the EA role changed?

The traditional secretarial EA function is all but gone! If not gone completely, it forms but a very small part of a more robust business partner type relationship between Executive and Executive Assistant where the business value add is key to the success and efficiency of the Executive and the Executive Office. It is a unique role where no two are alike.

What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your position as an EA?

The most rewarding aspect of my position as an EA is seeing my input and hard work translate into success across the organisation. I personally revel in the challenge of getting sh!t done and ticking tasks off my list and completing complex projects, all needing to be done yesterday.

What do you consider to be the most difficult part of your day?

Managing personalities and being ‘on’ all the time. Some days, you are just not and that is OK but hard to swallow when your role is a supporting one.

What skills do you possess that you believe are crucial to your EA role?

Anyone can learn how to use Excel, manage a diary, type fast, format a document or put together a PowerPoint presentation. While these skills are important to have, I don’t believe they make for a great EA. What makes a great EA, and I am going to toot my own horn here, is EQ! Emotional Intelligence is THE key trait of a great Executive Assistant. 

Can you tell us about the business partner value model for EAs and their executives, and what that type of modeling can bring to an organisation?

I think if you have read this far you can very easily tell that I am an advocate of the business partner model for the EA role. I truly believe that what that type of role brings to the Executive office and organisation is invaluable. Not only can the EA support the Executive by completing more complex tasks, but they are also able to support the Executive by building strong and complex relationships with direct reports and other key stakeholders within the organisation and outside of it. In many cases being trusted to complete tasks for the Executive means giving them the opportunity to be more efficient and effective across a wider landscape of their business. 

What is the most exciting opportunity you have had as an EA?

You really get the opportunity to be part of the big picture. You are always meeting and working with very experienced professionals that you constantly learn from. I haven’t stopped learning.

What are 3 items you can’t work without?

My mobile, my 2nd screen and my green highlighter (that is what I use to scratch things off my list as ‘completed’…yes I still write some tasks down in a notebook! This is a safe space right?)

Can you recommend a helpful book, program or podcast that you love?

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is a fantastic read for anyone wanting to grow and become a better leader. As an EA you are a leader..don’t think you are not!

Effective Communication, Effective Communication, Effective Communication! I can’t recommend enough any program that teaches you how to do that.

Podcasts…ehh not my thing. Sorry.

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