Episode Twelve: Puichi Hau, EA at Our Future Health

Episode Nineteen: Tara Sims, Sr. Manager Administrative Services Office Management at Comcast

Episode description

In the next episode of The EA Campus Podcast, we have a fantastic interview with Tara Sims, Senior Manager of Administrative Services Office Management at Comcast. Tara is a dynamic, strategic problem solver and executive partner with 15+ years of experience supporting C-suite leaders and other senior-level professionals within Fortune 500 companies. In the interview, we discussed Tara’s career, how she manages a team of Assistants, how she built her personal brand and can focus on the many tasks her role encompasses.

Show notes


Nicky Christmas 00:00
Do you want to know what it takes to work as a high-performing executive assistant? You'll find out when you listen to the EA campus podcast. Join me Nicky Christmas, the founder of practically perfect PA, and the EA campus for a weekly interview with successful systems who all have first hand experience and lessons to share on what it takes to excel in the role. Tune in, get inspired, and learn how to create an assistant career where you are valued, motivated, and ready to face every challenge head on. Whether you are an assistant just starting in your career, or prepare to move to the next level. Building a successful assistant career just got a little easier. EA campus podcast. Hello, everyone and welcome to the next episode of the EA campus Podcast. I'm absolutely overjoyed to be joined by Tara Sims today. Hi, Tara, thank you so much for joining us.

Hello, Nikki, thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited to be here.

Nicky Christmas 01:02
I know that you are a busy lady. So we've got around about an hour of your time and there is a lot to cover. So before we dive into all of the questions that I've got, I'd like to get a sense of your career to date. So why don't you give us a journey through what you've been doing as an assistant.

Okay, I actually didn't start my career as in the administrative profession. I actually started my career when I graduated from college in college recruitment. And so the first, I don't know, 12 years or so out of college, I was working as a college recruiter for both proprietary and traditional schools doing recruiting, travelling all over meeting students doing high school visits, doing interviews with students making decisions on candidates. So for the first part of my career, that's what I was doing. And people often will ask me now, how did you go from that to what you're doing now, which is what I've been doing for the last, I don't know, close to 17 years, I guess now working in an administrative space is that. So I had this idea that I wanted to go to Beauty School, I know this is random, you're probably thinking and in order to go to beauty school, I was not going to be able to maintain my recruiting schedule, and the travel and the hours that we're all involved in. So what happened was I made this decision, funny story, I was having a conversation with my grandmother and I was on the phone with her. And I was just like talking about this, right? And she said to me, here's my piece of advice. You don't want to look up decades from now and think to yourself, I wish I would have and so can tossing this idea about going to beauty school that was ringing in my head that my grandmother had said that and that's what I did. I decided to go to beauty school. And I was looking for a job that would allow me to have a sort of bankers hours and be able to go to school part time, because I was a grown woman at this point, I was in my 30s I had a home I had with real responsibilities and landed a position working in as an assistant to an executive vice president and a bank and got into the role. I was going to go to school at night. Yes, I finished Beauty School. Long story short, I never went into that profession. But if you need a haircut, call me. And I started working as an assistant to this executive vice president in banking. And for some reason realised I'm really good at this. And I really like it. I have always been someone who's been fairly structured and I like process and I like order. And so being able to flex that muscle in a profession was like, Okay, I think I'm gonna have found my spot. And so, long story short, I continued in a career working as an administrative professional. After left banking, I worked for Kellogg's corporate headquarters in a coordinator type role. And then for the last decade, I have been at Comcast currently in the role of senior manager of Administrative Services started as an executive assistant supporting the SVP of Customer Care, and worked my way up to an executive assistant for and then got to a place in space where I really wanted to expand my career, I wanted to do more, I wanted to have more responsibility. And so I was able to work with my boss at the time. She was still my dotted line boss, but I'll explain that later to talk about how we do that in an administrative role because I was very clear and I am very clear that this is my passion and purpose and I love to do it but I also am keenly aware that sometimes we can hit a glass ceiling as it relates to pay as a relates to opportunities to stretch. And so I was very clear about what it is I will wanted to do, because I think oftentimes we get folks who will say, Well, you're maybe overqualified for this. Or maybe you should be doing something else. Or in order to get to that next level, you need to be in some other sort of role and work that we do as Administrative Professionals is important work critical to the executives, we support critical to the businesses that we operate in. And so my goal has always been not only to be a champion for other administrative professionals, but also to provide executives with education around what this role could really look like. Because I think oftentimes, we're kind of pigeon holed into what an administrative professional should be doing. And having been working for someone who I was able to pull along with that thought process, I've been able to advance my career in Excel to the place where I'm supporting two presidents, but also have Administrative Professionals reporting into me.

Nicky Christmas 06:04
Okay, there's a lot to unpack there. But first of all, just to say that, we're absolutely singing off the same hymn sheet. So it's lovely to hear when you speak to an assistant. And the their first thought is, they're really passionate about what they do is a career. And actually, there's a huge amount of opportunity that comes with the administrative professional or executive assistant, or whatever job title you have within this industry, there comes so much opportunity, you've just got to put yourself forward for it and really believe in what you're capable of. So that's brilliant way to start the podcast. And we're super excited to carry on talking to you, before we move on to some of the interesting things that you brought up there. Just for those who are listening that don't know, can you tell us a little bit about what the main aspects of your role are at Comcast,

I actually work in the Central Division office under the umbrella of our headquarters in Philadelphia, we have three divisions northeast, West and Central, which is the largest of the three, and I'm on the cable side of the business. And I currently support. And this gets a little crazy, but I currently support the central division president and I also support the person who was the former Central Division president, who is now the president of XFINITY. And I have two presidents, which is rare thing to have happen. And partly just because my former manager, who is now the president of XFINITY, we worked together for so long, so it makes sense for us to continue the relationship because we've partnered together so long, but I have two presidents that I support. And then I also have a team of Administrative Professionals that report into me, and that team is responsible for providing administrative support to our VP level executives that are in the Central Division, the Central Division is comprised of regions as well. So there's just gives you a little bit of the depth and size of what we're doing here. And there are four regions that roll into the Central Division and our VPS that are in the Central Division, that report into our office or who my team supports. from an administrative standpoint. I know that was a lot. So to sum up, you're

Nicky Christmas 08:25

The level of activity can some days, I just like I am very busy, my day to day is quite intense from and I'll just give you a glimpse of what that looks like. And so I am obviously managing the calendars of two very big busy executives. And I am an intense manager of the calendar because I think it is critically important in this role that we understand what meetings should be where how to manage conflicts, who I can pull from their direct reports to go to a meeting, if they can't attend. And so there's a lot of activity, just purely managing the calendar. Okay, and then add to it because I do have this role that's a little bit more expansive than what you consider your traditional administrative role. I'm pulled in a lot of different other things. So for example, we have a building committee, so anything that's going on in our office that may be operational as it relates to events happening in our office as it relates to facilities types, things I'm pulled into a lot of those conversations as well partly as representation of the president's office but also partly because I've been around a long time and I have a historical knowledge of a lot of things. And so then I you add to it, my team, I am meeting with them. Obviously when we are doing our one on one sessions. I have team meetings. I'm all also in a lot of ways, the liaison between my team and the leaders that they support, making sure that I'm clear what leaders need. So that can be conveyed to the team that reports to me and yes, busy is a bit of an understatement. Because the business alone is super fast, we are large, we are fast, we are always innovating and new products coming on board. And so there's a lot of stuff just happening with the business purely alone. And so when our executives are moving 10 million miles an hour, I'm moving to Mills million our miles an hour right behind them. And a lot of times people don't know what we're doing. But in order to keep up with a piece of what they've got going on, my schedule is pretty full.

Nicky Christmas 10:41
And I really want to get into how you manage that. Because I think just from the last few minutes of listening to everything you do you sounds like you're doing sort of four different people's jobs, minimum. So I really want to get into how you manage that how many assistants are reporting into you? And are you managing,

so I only have four, it's a small group, but I we have other assistants that sit in our office that report directly to our SVP, I don't directly supervise them, but I'm often collaborating with them on different things, because their bosses report into our president and yeah, I just have the four. And the great thing, what I will say about the four that I have, I have a lead. So I have someone that I've identified and was able to get to promote to get to lead. And so I do have a bit of a buffer there, right to fill in certain things, for me to handle certain things for the team to convey information to the team, sometimes when I'm pulled in another direction. So I'm grateful to have that. But yes, I, my team is pretty strong, I'm really pleased with the team that I have. And they're kind of low maintenance for me. And I'm grateful for that that wasn't always the case. But they definitely I've gotten to a place with them. And they've gotten to a place in terms of their skill sets and abilities that I feel like they are pretty low maintenance they are for me, they are performing in the way that they need to be to meet the needs of our executives. And again, I have that buffer because I do have a leader who's helping me pull the team along. But

Nicky Christmas 12:15
as I said, I'm really interested in how you go about structuring your time. And then we'll move on to how you go about helping your executives with their time. So why don't we start as we often do with these things in the morning, can you just talk me through some of the things that you do to prepare yourself for the day ahead.

So this morning is a perfect example. I don't do this every morning, but I tried to do something similar. This morning, when I was laying in bed, I told I would say her name, but she's gonna repeat it al e XA. If I say her name, she's gonna say it out loud, to play some soft morning music for me. And I let the music play and I literally laid in my bed and just stretched. I do this. If somebody could watch me in the morning, they'd be like, What is this crazy lady? What is this lady doing. But I do a series of sort of stretches and deep breathing in the morning that I swear if somebody was watching you, they'd be like, okay, she's gonna make it. And so if there's some sort of ritual like that occurs every morning, sometimes it's just dependent on if I oversleep, or I'm running late or need to get I'll go into my bathroom and start my day. But I always have, I may have meditation, like a guided meditation going. And sometimes I even listen to there's an app that I use called the first 15 that talks about having your first 15 minutes with God. So there's scripture and all of that, that. So I do some variation of that every morning. And I, when I'm leaving, because I have a variety of things that go on. So some days I work from home, some days, I'm in the office, when I'm working from home, I'm able to just grab my coffee and come down to this space and start my work, I often sometimes will work in the dark. I don't know if anybody else does this, because it just feels soothing to me to work in the dark until of course I start heading home and then or if I am going into the office, I obviously will, you know, put real clothes on, put makeup on, get dressed and drive over to the office. So that's kind of what my morning looks like. Now there are some days where if I am working from home, I will take advantage of going to work out or work out at Orange theory. I think lots of people are familiar with orange theory. It's all over the world. So I do get up and maybe get like a 615 or 730 class in the morning. And I will take advantage of that sometimes when I'm working from home. So that's what my morning looks like.

Nicky Christmas 14:46
That sounds a really nice way to prepare yourself for what's about to come, especially if you are going into the office because as you said you work in a fast paced environment. So could you give us a sense I know this is I say this in every podcast and obviously really difficult for assistants to do. But could you give us a sense of what an average day would look like and what kinds of activities you're doing or how you plan out the day, or don't in some cases.

So, I obviously am looking at the calendar all the time. So I kind of know what my week is gonna look like, I am very thoughtful about how I scheduled my day. Oftentimes, it is based on what my executives have going on, because yes, I'm responsible for them. But then I have a whole host of other things that I'm doing that I need to be present for. And so being thoughtful around looking at the calendar in advance, making sure I'm clear about what's coming up the week and the day before the day after, right, I am aware. And so that will determine how I plan or what happens that day, right? I drive everything by the calendar, if it's not on the calendar, it is not happening. I put everything my focus time on the calendar, my lunch is on the calendar, if I need to make a five minute call to call somebody, it is on the calendar. So the calendar drives everything that I do. And if I'm working happiness is such a bad thing. Because I have to force myself to get I am someone, even at the office, I eat at my best, I really leave my best. Because I have and my team will laugh at me, I have email anxiety. And so I don't like my inbox to be over 30 to 35 emails in it. And in order to stay on top of what is coming at me all day, every day, I have to stay focused. And so the time I start the day, the workday to the end of the workday, I am pretty planted. And so I have to force myself to get up, I do go downstairs, when I'm in the office and grab lunch, I usually eat the same thing almost every day, which is a Caesar salad. And I knew that my desk every now and then someone can drag me out to have lunch somewhere. And I will do that if the schedule allows. But I'm pretty head down. I know it's not that exciting. But I'm pretty head down. And for me, it's the only way I can manage the load that I have and stay on top of it. Because there's so many details. There's so many moving parts. And I want to make sure that I'm not dropping any bowls. And being absent for large gaps of time could be problematic. And so I just avoid

Nicky Christmas 17:27
it. I know, I know, no one can see me on a podcast, but I'm nodding away furiously because I'm exactly the same. I actually have just started setting a notification on my watch to tell me to get up and move, I would be exactly the same I have. I also have email anxiety, a must go back to my assistant days I to get through everything, I have to be really focused. So I often am just here. And it takes somebody to come in and drag me away to go and do something. So I completely get it, I really do not a good thing we really should know what we're doing. But at the same time when you have so much going on, and you have to be focused, if you're how much work are you getting done is probably a huge amount that you're getting through in those hours where you are able to focus swings and roundabouts.

And then some days it feels like not enough time. And so there and again, when I'm in the office, there are clearly things going on around me people come into my dad's people pinging me, Hey, can I come up there and talk to you for a minute, there's clearly things interrupting what I'm doing. And so sometimes I do find myself I have to bring it home, I have to do some of it later in the evenings or at home. But the best way for me to manage that pace is to just be head down and getting it done. Yeah,

Nicky Christmas 18:42
I guess there's different techniques for everybody. But yeah, I can completely relate to that one. As you said, especially when everything is moving fast paced, the last thing you want to do is lose it not be in the loop and not know what's going on. So I can completely get that. It sounds like I said busy is an understatement. So I wonder what are some of the challenges that you face in your role? If you could give us a look at that.

I think that one of the biggest challenges is navigating when you're pulled into certain things that really don't need to be pulled into. And I think people so there's it's there's a it's a double edged sword because I think people see me as a resource. And so it's very easy to contact me to ask a quick question or what they think is a quick question. But if I get six or seven quick questions in a day, that's taking time away from what I need to be focused on. I think that can be a challenge, right having to get those situations to send people to go fish and figure it out on their own. It can be tough, but I think the other big challenge and I know a lot of assistants can relate to this. And I have been fortunate that I had the same leader for last decade. I just got a new leader within the last year and a half to two years but I think one of the biggest challenges that that I have faced, and again, and I haven't had to face it a lot, but is showing executives what I'm capable of doing. And sometimes executives will come in with a mindset around what an Administrative Professional is capable of doing, what they should be doing. And I think that in so many ways, I have tried to expand that view, and even expanding it not with just people I directly report to, but just executives that I engage with, in general, right, that understanding that you can require your assistant to do something other thing in manage your calendar and book your travel. And the two challenges that you mentioned there often go hand in hand, don't they? Because a lot of the time that people that interrupt you and ask you things that aren't necessarily part of your the overview of what you can do ties in really nicely with telling people that all of the amazing things that you can do, and actually, maybe your expertise don't lie in helping people with things they should be doing themselves. Yeah, that's, that takes up so much time. So I think the two challenges you mentioned really go hand in hand quite often. It's true. It's true, I think, sometimes it is. And here's the other thing like I want, I want to be stretched, even if I don't know how to do something, I at least want to be considered for certain things. And I think that's the case for a lot of assistants, right. And so having being in the room with executives, and hearing some of the conversations that help us better understand like business and what's happening in the business. And quite frankly, I don't think that every assistant needs to know all the details, like our business is super complex. And I will never know all of the details of the complexities of our business because I really feel like my focus is the business of my executive. But understanding what they've got going on with some generalised understanding of meetings and what the purposes are, and those kinds of things. But for me, overall, I think those have been the two biggest challenges. And you're right, they do go. And I never thought about it that way, but they do go hand in hand.

Nicky Christmas 22:18
So how have you gone about getting people to understand what you can do it I love the way that you said that they're getting them to give you the opportunities and realise that you are there and you can be stretched? And you can try these things. So how have you gone about kind of initiating those conversations?

Mickey it's exhausting.

Nicky Christmas 22:39
Yes, it is exhausting. It is exhausting is such a good way of putting it is soul destroying sometimes

it is exhausting. It can be very exhausting. Because you always feel like you're like on a, like a sales pitch. I can do that. Would you be open to letting me do this? Or can I see you feel like like you're at the sales pitch. But here's what I would say. Can we give this advice to an assistant who is in a space where they feel like there's more that they can be doing? The first thing is do what you're currently doing very well make it look like this is light work, what you've assigned to me, and I can do this work with my eyes closed. And I do it very well. Because work done well over and over again, gives people the impression that you're an expert in a particular area. So that's the first thing before you start trying to do something stretched, you got to make sure you're showing up to do the thing that you're expected to do very well. The second thing I would say is relationships. I think people underestimate the value of building strong relationships with your manager relationships with other executives, because people are watching and people are paying attention and sometimes having the right relationships, when you are ready to have the conversation you want to have about your career. If you have the right relationship with individuals, they sometimes are more susceptible to championing whatever it is that you want to do, or may even be the people that are in the position to make it happen for you. So that that's number two. The third thing I would say is just be mindful of like your brand. We don't often talk about branding in the administrative space. And one of the things that I've always told assistants that I've hired and brought on board to our organisation is operators if you sit in my seat, because, again, executives are paying attention. You never know when there's going to be a shift and an opportunity for you to showcase your skills and talents in front of an executive. And so build a brand and a reputation that if power is not available. If this person is not a thing trouble if the assistant to the CEO is not available, you are the resource that I can tap into, because I trust that you know what you're doing. And if you don't know, you're going to try to figure it out. And so that those would be the things that I think are critically important when you're thinking about asking to be stretched or wanting to because once you do all of that, building relationships, doing what you do building a brand, when you are ready to have the conversation, your reputation precedes you. And so people are a little bit more open to considering what it is that you're asking for.

Nicky Christmas 25:37
Yeah, it becomes easier as well, doesn't it? I think, as you said, around relationship building, when you've developed that trust with your executive, I know for a lot of assistants, they reached the point in their relationship with their executive or in the organisation where they've hit that glass ceiling, like you said at the beginning of our discussion, and they leave, because they don't feel like the jobs going anywhere. But in your case, somebody who's stayed in the organisation working with an executive a long time, you can clearly see the benefits of that trust building over a longer period of time. So sometimes assistants have to play the long game in a way because the benefits really do start to come in at a later point. Is that something that you've noticed in your career?

Yes. And here's what I would say, we can't necessarily like, this doesn't work for everybody in every situation in every executive. So let's just get that out there, right, I think. But I do think what we have to do to show up because of course, we can't make someone do something different. We can't always make them do what we want them to do or what we're asking them for. But what we can do is control how we show up in the space, right and be self reflective around. I've had assistants come to me and say, How did you get to this place? How did you get this role, and one of the things I will say to them is the three things I just mentioned to you. But I also will say I spend time with myself analysing certain things about how I show up what my skills are like when I feel like maybe there's a gap somewhere and I go about trying to figure out how to improve that or fill that gap. The other thing I am very comfortable with asking is for feedback. And the truth is, there are a lot of people who want to expand and do additional things and be seen a different way. But you've got to be open to receiving feedback that may not feel so good coming to you. And then you've got to take that feedback and do something about it. And I think, yes, over time, if I didn't show up in the door, and all of a sudden, I'm a senior manager of Administrative Services, it definitely has come with, over time showing up performing with excellence and more about what I could do in the space. But also, I think having the right person that you work for who allows you to do your thing without always blocking it or intervening, obviously giving oversight to say, okay, maybe you should think about doing it this kind of way, but you want somebody to trust you. And sometimes you do need to exit maybe it's never gonna happen with your current executive. But you show up in the best way you can and do all the things that you need to do to if you're asking to be stretched, you need to be ready for when it comes your way, as well. And whatever that looks Yeah.

Nicky Christmas 28:32
doing the work doing the work yourself as much. Yeah, absolutely. So that yes, there comes a lot of challenging aspects to the role. But what I would say from what you've described so far, it sounds incredibly exciting, the work that you do, so I wonder what some of the enjoyable parts of the role and your day. So I am the linear thinker. And as you can imagine, so I think the most enjoyable parts of my day is the people that are in my sort of immediate kind of I am an introvert although people are shocked when I say that I could quite frankly work in a bubble and not talk to anybody. Clearly I can't do that in order to show up and be successful.

The people I have been fortunate to have managers particularly over the last decade that I love working with I am comfortable with them I think one of the things that is I was just having this conversation with someone so my former manager one of the things that I appreciated most of us still dot along work for but who I appreciate Moses, he's always allowed me to show up in the space as I am. And I think that's rare that people can really show up in at work and be really who they are. They're truly authentic self and not have to be worried about any sort of backlash or judgement, or those kinds of things. And so that the people I say would say and I will add to that my team I Love My Team I, they are so much fun, I enjoy being with them. Our staff meetings are hilarious, we get the work done, we have a good time too. And then just the executives that I have and the relationships that I've built over the last few years that I think I've learned so much. And so for me, the people are probably the most enjoy. Ben, let me add to that too, because I like the work itself, right. I like planning meetings and events, I like project managing things I like because it's just innately who I am. And I that even transfer into my home life I like structure, I like order, if something is out of place in my house is screaming at me from across the room. And so I think the job in and of itself, but then the people are just the icing on the cake. So that's, to me the most enjoyable parts, I do also appreciate that I've gotten to a place in my career that I do have a lot of flexibility. And that the people that I work for, I feel like trust me. And so if my if life happens, and I need to be unavailable or out of the office, or work from home, or if I'm appreciative of that flexibility, and that I have established myself as someone who is reliable and trustworthy. And so those things are probably the biggest state pleasures that I have working in and doing what I do.

Nicky Christmas 31:18
Yeah, it's a nice place to be in, isn't it when you are, as you said, you've built up that trust you people know that you if you need to leave work for a personal reason that the work will be picked up. And it's not an issue. Oh, it's a lovely place to be. And when you get to that point with an organisation, I'd like to pick on pick up on working and managing the team that you do, because I know there'll be a lot of assistants who have got to your point in your career who would like to manage a group of over assistants and I think it's becoming from speaking to assistants over the last few years, it's definitely becoming an opportunity that's more readily available. So kind of just how did that happen for you? And how has that journey been from going into working and managing a team of assistants,

how it happened was we were growing, our organisation was growing, and just an observing like executives doing all kinds of things that in my opinion, in my mind, were not the best use of their time. And as we had gotten larger, we had assistants who were supporting our SVPs. But then they were also trying to carry the load for our VPS. And some of the requests of the teams even below the VP level. And it just began to be like, Why aren't we looking at putting out a level support that helps that next level, the VPs, a team that maybe can pitch in and help when you have a director or a senior manager who may need some administrative support. And so there's tiered level of support which the way we provide it, but my team has changed a little bit. But we can get into that, because we started one way. And we're now doing something a little bit different. But so it was really a matter of having a conversation with HR about it and getting with HR and then taking that to the president who was my manager and saying, I think there is value in looking at getting another level of support. Because our VPS are spending their time doing lots of things that really are not the best use of their time. And they really should be fully focused on the core functions of the business and what parts of the business they're responsible for. Again, I was in a trusting sort of relationship with the person that was that manage me, I think the insight which he may not have necessarily ever had, because he had support. The insight to what's happening out there at the VP level and how VPS had been spending their time. I think being able to say this is a thing like this is happening, we've grown so significantly, and we can't have one assistant supporting not only two senior vice presidents, but then VPs and their teams and it was just a line of that my team was created. Initially when we started and formed the organisation we were supporting VP level, there was a tier of support we were providing to them. And then we also operated in a shared services capacity where we had a ticketing system, if you were someone below the VP level that needed administrative support for a project or task, then you could submit a ticket, that ticket would come to me I would then review what the needs were and then allocated amongst the group based on that interest and different variety availability, those kinds of things. But in the last year, we had to do a little bit of a shift that we have eliminated the shared services component of this because we have now taken on we used to only support the Central Division executives that sat in our office we now support all of the Central Division vice presidents and so we've removed that shared services team is so that we can give all of those VPS the attention that they need in terms of managing calendars and things like that. Now, in terms of my team, essentially we have I have one on one sessions with them, I also have bi weekly, where we come together as a group. During that time we share out with each other, if they're things that have come up for an individual that maybe would be beneficial for the others to know, we do like a round robin kind of thing. And someone finds out, Hey, I learned a new process and cases comes across your desk, here's how you do it. So we do those kinds of conversations. I also have conversations with them about updates, or things that they may need to know things that may be coming down the pipe that's not broadly known that obviously would maybe confidential that we keep in that space that we need to prepare for, or changes, some of the org changes, things like that. So we have those kinds of conversations. I have also started, we did a summit a couple of years ago, we did two summits where we put all of the division assistants in for training and guest speaker, we didn't do it last year, but it is something I'm hoping to do it again, coming up. And then the other thing as a relates to my team is I also am someone who solicit feedback from the vice presidents. And so I'm able to, again, I think I mentioned this current liaison between the two, right. And so I have quarterly conversations with Vice Presidents about whether their needs are getting met, what kinds of things even though my team is i They are responsible for also having those kinds of conversations, but I come behind them and also get feedback if there's anything a VP wants to share with me that they may not share directly, like things that I can coach and go back and maybe course correct. We have those kinds of conversations quarterly. And so I feel like I have a good pulse on what the needs are of the executives, and then making sure the team is showing up to support them in the way that they need it. And that's most effective. And how

Nicky Christmas 36:55
is that? What differences have you noticed in terms of productivity, but also in terms of the, I guess, the kind of understanding between the group of assistants because I really love that network that assistants have when they come together as a group in the kind of structure that you've that you've just detailed there? I think it gives real power to the assistants when they are meeting regularly having those conversations keeping up with each other. So I just wonder what difference that's made in terms of escalating, I guess, the productivity and level of work within your department. It's hard

to measure. And I think it's best measured by asking executives that question, I obviously think from the standpoint of folks managing calendars, especially for our super busy execs with crazy calendars. I think if you were to ask him them, they would feel like it's great to have someone paying attention to that and managing that. So all I have to do is show up and sit down harder for me to gauge, I think it's a better question for them, I think, or maybe even a better question for my team. Because they are each supporting anywhere from like 12 to 14 people now, we all get the same level of support, because everybody doesn't require the same level of support. But I think they would probably better be better received that question and say, okay, when I got this person, this is how they lived before. And now that I'm involved, this is a little bit what that looks like today. So it's, there's a lot of people so harder for me to gauge that. But just in general like and having conversations with our executives, I feel like they feel like, it's great to have someone who's paying attention to all of those things, and that they can rely on to schedule meetings to make sure all of the logistics are taken care of for meetings. And in particular, now it was much easier in this virtual space when everybody was home with COVID. But now we're back in the office several days a week. And so I think for a lot of them, having someone who can manage logistics, making sure there's a space making sure there's a meal, making sure it is engaged and involved. I would think the productivity of the executives has increased significantly over the last couple of years because of them because prior to their existence, all of those things they were doing themselves.

Nicky Christmas 39:24
Yeah. Which is never a great place to be when you're that senior in an organisation. Yeah, it's great that you notice that and you are able to take it to your executive and they listen, I hope that the people listening to the podcast today who are in a similar situation. It gives them the confidence to go and have those conversations because you are best placed to notice that no, it's when your executives are doing things they shouldn't be doing and you will be doing it is having that confidence to speak. So thank you so much for sharing that. It's a great piece of advice. So I love asking this question generally but I love asking the next question for assistance who If it wasn't necessarily their real career, so I wonder if there is one, one thing you now know about the role that you wish you had known when you became an assistant?

The one thing I wish I had known is that being in this role, you do feel like you're selling yourself? I would. And that sounds crazy. Let me rephrase that. I think I never realised how vast people's opinions or ideas or notions about what an assistant is in does, I never realised how vary that that is, and how it would show up. To me, and let me see if I can explain that a little bit better, because I think there's a school and you probably understand where I'm going with this. But I think there's a school of professionals who think it's very important to be aligned with the assistant to understand like, they understand that we have knowledge of things that we understand the inner workings of certain things, they understand that we have influence over the powers that have been, and then there's a school of individuals that you engage with who dismissive is not the word I'm looking for, but almost don't even realise that we do have this level of inside, you know what I mean, we have some inside access to certain things. And it's been an interesting thing to watch and navigate over the years. The other thing I think is interesting is often sometimes underestimate what your knowledge, your skill, set your experience, your education, people will often underestimate that, and it's not always a hard line or someone saying that to you. But it's a feeling it's an experience with an individual that lets you know that either this person is doesn't think I'm either capable, have the authority to have access to get information, do something or whatever the situation might be. But I think, Hey, I wish I would have known that prior to getting into the role, not that I could have stopped it. But I think I would have been better prepared for it when it showed up.

Nicky Christmas 42:25
You Yeah, it's interesting. And I wonder how you deal, I guess you could call them stereotypes around the role, because yet there is absolutely a group of people out there they get the assistant role. One attack, is that that's kind of a whole other thing, dealing with people that want your influence and want and how they go about getting in with you as an assistant. That's a whole other thing for those other group of people that don't get the role. I wonder how you've gone about navigating, I guess that stereotype that kind of negative stereotype, how have you gone about navigating that a couple

of things that are so what I clearly if I have the opportunity to inform someone, directly, I will do that I'm a pretty direct person. But you know, what's been the best part of that is when the executive is in a position to say, see, Tara about that, or Tara manages that, or Tara handles that redirecting someone who may not have assumed to come to me for maybe whatever reasons, and then they get redirected to. And I can think of several different instances and occasions, I won't go in and get into specifics. But I can think of several different locations and instances where people were clearly shocked about the fact that I would either have access to this, or would know it and that they would not need to talk to my boss to get it. And so that's always nice when that happens, right? When you are spoke about in a way that allows people to know, she is the expert on this, she is the person that will get you what you need. She is the person that can provide you with this level of information. So that's always nice, but I think I just have always tried to be fairly direct about it. I also give that messaging to the team, that it is often our responsibility as frustrating as it can be to show to prove to educate folks on how we show up what we're capable of what we can do, because the notions around it is just so varied that you don't you just don't know what people think of the role and what you're capable of. And so I talked to them about that. And I also talked to them if you're working with an executive. And there are some sort of limiting I don't know if beliefs is the word but they're limited in what they're giving you. Dig a little deeper when it comes to that and volunteer to show that you can do something or better yet, take it a next step, do something and say hey, I just wanted you to know you had this conflict. I talked to your direct report, they were perfectly available and fine to take the call in your absence, let me know if there's any issue or concern. Initiative goes a long way. Now, I don't want you out here, you got to do an initiative after you've been supporting somebody for a little while, you can't just be making decisions and you don't have all of the information. But initiative goes a long way in showing someone that you are capable to make decisions like that on their behalf. And so those would be the things that you know, God wish I had known going into this, it can

Nicky Christmas 45:34
be tiring. But yeah, it goes back to the point that you made earlier about having a brand doesn't it because there's that really famous quote, your personal brand is what people say about you, and you're not in the room, if you work really hard on creating a reputation of brands, a lot of that work is done for you, because you've already created this persona. And people were in the room talking about you when you're out there, and hopefully in a good light. So that hat building that brand definitely helps with that aspect of the kind of stereotyping of the role. And let's

do something about brands as we're on it. Because when I'm having conversations like this, I always want to say to people, listen, I haven't always had the squeaky as clean as brand. And partly because I think I've had to work on my directness, which is sometimes perceived as abrasive. It's never my intention, but I have had to, I'm just naturally direct. And I know that everybody doesn't receive directness the same way. And so I have over the years had to work on that from a brand standpoint, right? No one would ever be able to tell you that I didn't get work done, or I couldn't get something done, or it wasn't a subject matter expert that was clean and perfect. But certainly how I engaged with individuals, I had to again, look at myself, and address some of those things, because that matters. And so in building my own brand, I've had to adjust. Sometimes my approach to certain things in my comp, like the way I approach and the way I address certain things, because I know that my directness, even though I'm thinking, I'm just giving you the information. But I know that sometimes it's perceived, like she's so oppressive kind of thing. That must be tough, though.

Nicky Christmas 47:23
Because when you're working in a fast paced environment, and also, as you said earlier, you are having to sell yourself all the time. And when your mind, you can do everything, probably better than half the people that work in the organisation. It must be really tough to just not pass on the information and then move on with your day. That must be difficult.

And I've had to check myself and then but I think that's all part of the journey, particularly for folks who want to get to the next level.

Nicky Christmas 47:52
Yeah, yeah, you've got to be realistic about that sometimes, right? Yeah,

it's a flexing to what isn't your natural style, but to accommodate whoever you might be communicating with. And that's not always easy, and it's not always comfortable. But it is something you have to do to get to the next level,

Nicky Christmas 48:11
there's two questions I've got left to ask you. And they're both I think, are going to be full of great answers. So I'm excited about those. There's a lot of change happening in the assistant industry in the admin space. And I wonder if there is some changes that you would like to see I've come in or maybe happen a little bit quicker than they currently are. I mean, yeah, it talks to what you were just saying there.

So here's what I couple things come to mind for changes in what I would like to see happen. I would like organisations to start to reevaluate how they see the role and how they utilise the role. Some organisations are further along than others, I have the pleasure of interacting with EAS at companies all across the world, actually, mostly in the United States, but have over the last few years interacted with folks who have worked for organisations that are far ahead of a lot of others in terms of how they see the role, how they value the role in a way that shows up is there they've built a real structure in place where you have a structure where you have a lead or like a chief administrative officer who is has oversight for the administrative community, right, and that person is responsible for making sure that these individuals are developed professional that they have. That person has a seat at the table around compensation as it relates for these individuals in the administrative community. This individual also can be responsible with fleshing out the structure and making sure that there is a career progression in place for Administrative Professionals and in an ideal world. I would love to see all organisations start to do things like that because what it does is it allows the executives to really focus on what they need to be focused on. And you build this community of administrative professionals who are handling so many things that maybe someone that's at a manager level was potentially handling before. So it really allows and people gives assistance and feeling like you this organisation values what I do, they value this role I've chosen to be in this role, it's not just a role, I'm doing a pitstop in to get into a place or to get to a next level because some people want to be in the wall, they also want to be in a place that values the role that they can grow, that they can be developed, that they can move up the scale that they can. So all of the things that you see with any other profession, having organisations consider that this could be that same thing would be amazing. The other thing I will add to that is I recently and this is sort of a shameless plug kind of thing. But I also think there's benefit to this for those who are working in an organisation that maybe doesn't exactly have all of the things that I just referenced. Right? And so they may be feeling like, what can I do to leverage my skills and talents that are not being utilised in my day job, what can I do to earn additional money because maybe I'm not being paid in the way that I need to be paid in my day job. And I'm encouraging folks to consider thinking about becoming a virtual assistant and operating in a virtual assistants face part time. Because if you want your day job, and that's very important to you, if you wish for a lot of us it is there's a whole world out there where you are able to utilise your talents, leverage your talents and support a business owner, maybe it's a small business owner, maybe it's someone who just needs some temporary project work, where you can leverage some skills that you're not using, but also get paid for it. And so last year, in the summer of last year, I started a virtual assistant agency, and it is called evolved assistant. And I am super excited I started it because I again, passion and purpose. This is my passion and purpose. And so I feel like not that I'm not busy enough in my day job because we are clear that I but I also appreciate being able to leverage my skill set, particularly for bipoc. And women owned businesses. That's my target audience, I have friends who are business owners who would ask me to help them with things. And so I thought why am I not leveraging this under my own organisation. And so the other component to that is not just me doing it, but building an agency. So a space where other corporate trained executive assistants who have day jobs, many of which are working in large organisations, if they are looking to leverage their skill set in the small business arena, but earn and also earn additional money, I've created a space for that. And so the business is new. I'm still growing, I'm still learning in that space. I do have clients. And so it's been really a rewarding experience for me. And those are two separate worlds. There's no no reason they would ever need to collide. But I think it's a thing that people we should offer this advice to assistance. If you're working in an organisation you like where you are, you're making good money, I don't know that I'm going to do anything else or be able to do anything else. This is also a viable option.

Nicky Christmas 53:38
Absolutely, absolutely. Well make sure that we add all of those details to the show notes, because I know there'll be a huge amount of assistants that are listening that are just like ding ding, why haven't I already thought Why haven't I thought of this. And he also goes to a VA space has just exploded over the last kind of it's been around for a long time, much more in the States than it has in the UK or Europe. But over the last few years, it's absolutely exploded. And there are so many small businesses, small business owners, entrepreneurs, startups that are looking for those project work, little things to help with the admin, whatever it happens to be or specific projects, projects where assistants can really come in and leverage their skills, as you said, that are being utilised or that are not being utilised. But some of that you can do in your time outside your corporate job. And I think it really goes to show how our systems are and the skills that we have and how in demand they are. So think for assistance, listening, just having that awareness and hopefully some constant gives you confidence that your skills are and will be valued wherever you happen to be that your skills are valuable out there. So actually working

on another extension and Nikki please don't say where do you have time to do this because I don't know when the time is going to appear at some point. I am also working on an e book that it will literally walk assistance on how because I know the notion of starting your own business or how to get started with doing virtual assistant work. Most people will be like, Well, I don't even know where to start this ebook that will come out at some point, I started working on it. It's slow and steady for me over here that will literally walk folks assistance through how to get started with their own business as a virtual assistant. And it's not as difficult is, I think people think because sometimes when we're thinking about doing stuff, it seems more enormous than it really is. But I want I'm creating something that anybody could pick up and just follow step by step.

Nicky Christmas 55:38
Got one last question before we wrap up. And I think from what we've discussed over the last hour, anybody listening can understand how incredible your role isn't, and your career has been to date. So I just wonder if there is, and I know this again, this is a tough question. But if there is one tactic or strategy that you've implemented in your role that's made you successful.

Ooh, I've thrown this one out, you know, because it's hard to say just one, maybe it's more of an approach, as opposed to always trying to find I'm clear about what I'm supposed to be doing. But I always try to be thoughtful around where I could be inserting myself and adding more or taking something off someone's plate, the president of our division is been in the role, I guess it's a little under two years now. And she's so we've had some change in leadership. And of her direct reports, so some of our functional areas have had some changes in leadership. And I have tried to make sure that and having that transition, even though those individuals have their own executive assistants, I have tried to make sure that I have made myself available to them for things that they may not automatically go to their assistant for kind of thing. And I think we had a meeting my president with her direct reports. And I think, because of the way I've extended myself to some of the new folks on the team, I was asked to be in the room to participate in something that I wouldn't necessarily have been immediately asked for. And so I think finding opportunities to showcase what you're capable of doing outside of just the people you report to, I always am mindful of them. And I think I've always been mindful of that throughout my career. And so when things come up, people think of me, oh, we can have tar would be great at this or tar would be the perfect person to do this. And so that's what I would maybe offer as a tactic to folks is, think about things outside of your day to day management all so yes, you're doing things for your manager, yes, you may be helping with some of the things the managers team needs to kind of thing. But think about other things outside of that space where you could show up and offer support, because it does a couple things. Number one, it gets you connected with relationships outside of the folks in your day to day, but then it also allows you to have some exposure to things that maybe you wouldn't have exposure to in your day to day. And then people when opportunities present themselves, because you've taken the time to go out of your box, they think of you when things come up that they may need support with or just want your thoughts. I get a lot of people who call me and say, Okay, listen, this has nothing to do with you. This is going to like Office moves, for example, like people will call me and say listen, this has nothing to do with you see, I love it. You love it when they start. Let's see if I

Nicky Christmas 58:54
can I pick your brains? Yeah,

like I don't have time for this, but how can I help?

Nicky Christmas 59:01
But you know, what is the most funny things that assistants don't think about? And I think it's something again, it ties in with something you said right at the beginning of our conversation, which is you are a resource and that is a huge value that sometimes is not a price is not put on that. It any should be it absolutely should be because you people come to you for things that then move their side of the business forward. And I wish assistants again, and maybe this is a nice way to close off our interview, but I wish assistants would realise the value that they bring just by the amount of sheer knowledge that they have in an organisation. Yes.

And I'll tell you in working in some of the cross functional things that I'm working with, like different teams I'm on. I keep a lot of things because it's funny. This is gonna sound crazy, but people have come and gone and then someone comes behind them to try to reinvent something. And I'm like, we don't need to reinvent this Yeah, I got pictures, I got images, I got notes. I got directions, like and so that historical knowledge goes a long way. And Assistants underestimate the value of it. And sometimes organisations under underestimate that. You're absolutely right. Yeah, yeah, Tara, I

Nicky Christmas 1:00:20
think I could speak to you all day. But you're a busy lady. So I don't want to take up any more of your time. But thank you so much for all of the incredible wisdom that you've shared and the advice that you've given. I know that assistants are all points in their career, we are going to really value that. So thank you so much.

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. I love again, when you are operating in your passion and purpose, like doing stuff like this is so much fun because you feel like I feel like I get to give this message out to folks that I wouldn't necessarily touch otherwise. And so I appreciate you even asking me to do it.

Nicky Christmas 1:00:54
Thank you so much for listening to the EA campus podcast. We would love for you to take a minute to subscribe to the EA campus podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. If you could give us a review, we would so appreciate that too. If you want to check out the show notes. You can do that by going over to the EA campus.com forward slash podcast and take a look at everything we discussed. You can also find all the links the resources, articles and tech that we mentioned during the show. If you want to join the conversation inside the EA campus community, you will also find all of the information on the AI Campus website. The community continues to grow and we have an amazing group of assistants sharing their careers. We have ongoing events and training for our members and we would love to see ambitious and career driven assistance join us. Thanks for your time and I hope you tune in again to the next episode of the EA campus podcast.

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