As a former Executive Assistant myself, I understand the challenges they face. From knowing what really takes priority in my manager’s day to having a solid understanding of all of the tech speak. I believe Executive Assistants are the yin to the yang when it comes to supporting any high-powered IT executive.
I wanted to write an article that highlights the many roles Executive Assistants truly have and how it can be quite a challenging game when everyone wants time with that industrious exec with very little time to spare.
Luckily enough I have worked with a fair few of them and I wanted to get some first-hand thoughts on what it is like to be an Executive Assistant or a Business Services Expert operating in a technical capacity. Here is what Jenny Liakos had to say…
Do you understand the tech jargon?
I’ll cautiously say yes. I’m a big fan of knowing what’s going on in any industry I’m working in so I will ask the questions when appropriate and get my Google on when I need to.
When you are taking notes for your manager, are you a laptop or a notebook person? Why?
It depends on the landscape I’m working in – if it’s an agile meeting and attendees are not distracted by the typing, I’ll be on the laptop or even my phone taking notes, usually in an email or within OneNote to be shared with them later once edited, reworked, or actioned. OneNote is a good way to keep them in the loop of where things are at. If that doesn’t work in that particular scenario and there needs to be more engagement, a physical notebook. I’ll be honest, there’s always an A5 black leather notebook handy.
What do you enjoy the most about supporting an IT exec?
The innovation. No matter what specialisation you’re in, there is always a buzz around trying to do something better and smarter. It’s just exciting!
What tech app do you think would help you on a day-to-day basis to better support your boss?
I think the number one thing for success in the EA and Exec relationship is communication. So that said, any secure chat app with a view on whether something has been received and read works for me. Also, a tracking device wouldn’t go astray. Given that a variety of these apps exist, the next step would be to combine functions, add the ability to view, edit, approve, and share files, and secure it to the nth degree to make it truly business-ready.
It’s all about colour coding your Exec’s meetings, isn’t it?
ABSOLUTELY! It could be argued that I do it for me, but the reality is the human brain needs to categorise to feel a sense of understanding and priority. I run the calendar, and I like to run a tight ship on that – colours are happening, don’t fight it.
What does a typical work week afternoon look like for you?
After getting the important and urgent items done and dusted for the day, my afternoons are used to look at what I’ve done for the day and what needs to be done tomorrow. It’s also a good time to provide your stakeholders with an update on any open tasks and to remind your Exec of their next day’s priorities.
Pepsi or Coke? Why?
When I first saw this question, I thought ”Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve had a Pepsi…I mean, do we even have that in Australia anymore?!” – this obviously led to a little adventure to hunt down a sample. For posterity, this experiment was conducted on a full sugar Pepsi in a glass bottle – after many sips and just general uncertainty, I have decided that Coca Cola is hands-down the guy for the job.
Did you think you were ever going to work in IT?
No, but I also didn’t have any solid drive toward any particular industry. I think my unconscious bias towards innovative organisations just made it the natural direction for me.
What advice would you give to an EA wanting to move into the technology area?
Be thirsty for knowledge – ask questions and get involved. It’s just such an exciting and fast-moving space. I think the EA role is often overlooked as boring and basic. In reality, being an EA is what you make of it. If you actively look for things to do and learn, ways to improve working styles and processes, and projects to get involved in – you’ll never be bored. The opportunities are endless, you just have to go and find them.
Is Google your best friend, be honest? I don’t even know if this even a question?!
YES, and I’m not ashamed! In an age of endless information, I will happily turn it into knowledge from good old Google. Although…sometimes I like to get onto DuckDuckGo for the unbiased search results. Generally, a problem I am faced with has most likely been solved by others before me, and I’m a big fan of using others’ experiences as resources.
I really enjoyed chatting with Jenny, I think she is a breath of fresh air and adds value to the IT industry. Please value your EA’s as they are invaluable.
Keep on keepin’ on,