Episode Six:
Abigail Jones, EA at Meta

Episode description

Abigail Jones always brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to these talks, and she doesn’t disappoint today. We discussed her career, her passions outside of her work, how she likes to work in partnership with her Executive, the strengths she brings to the Assistant role and how she protects her boundaries.

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 assistants, who all have first hand experience and lessons to share on what it takes to excel in the role of 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 prepared to move to the next level. Building a successful assistant career just got a little easier with the EA campus podcast. Welcome to episode six of the EA campus Podcast. I'm thrilled to be joined by Abigail Jones, executive assistant at meta and coach to many assistants over the years. I've had the pleasure of speaking with Abigail in the past and interviewing her for numerous panels and discussions. Abby always brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to these talks and she doesn't disappoint today. We discussed her career, her passions outside of her work, how she likes to work in partnership with her executive, the strengths that she brings to the assistant role and how she protects her boundaries. Please enjoy my discussion with Abigail. I am absolutely delighted today to be joined by the wonderful Abigail Jones, who I know for anybody who follows practically perfect PA or other things that we've done on the EA campus is one of our regular contributors. So Abby, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank

you so much for having me, always delighted to be asked and to take part.

Nicky Christmas 01:44
Now I love having you on all of the different things that we've done over the years, your insights are always really valid, valuable. And I know that you will get into all of this, but I know that you mentor and help other assistants. So thank you for joining us today. And I know that we're in for a treat. So thank you so much. Why don't we start with a look back over your career, which I know spans? I'm gonna say how many years? I'm sure you can tell us but it will be a few years. So why don't you just let us know a little bit about your career to date?

Sure, I started my career in the art world. So I was working at some of London's biggest galleries and auction houses. And I started off life as a press PR and Pa like when those slash roles. And then I discovered that I liked doing the PA side of things more. And so I moved from the art world into the charity sector because that's quite closely aligns to the hour. And then as I got got more experience, I was able to get more senior and I worked got more and more corporate. So I ended up working in luxury fashion and beauty and travel and finance. And I ended up sort of found myself in more senior roles supporting at the C suite level, where I've been for several years now. And I'm currently at meta more specifically Instagram working as the executive business partner to the VP.

Nicky Christmas 03:05
Wow. So yeah, you've done lots of things over the years. Can you tell us some of the different brands that you've worked with that anybody that anybody would recognise?

I get? Yeah, the v&a, Tate, Christie's Sotheby's L'Oreal, The Body Shop, Amex DHD, the hair straightener and everything? Well, yes, of course Facebook and Instagram, I do try to work for big names because I find it's a little bit more helpful on your CV if you have big brand recognition. But it's not the be all end all your work speaks for itself rather than naming the brand. But I also live in London, so it's a little bit easier for me to go to slightly bigger companies.

Nicky Christmas 03:43
It definitely helps isn't it, you've got that exposure to so many different organisations that are based in London and big cities like that. So your Instagram now I know it's a fairly new role. But can you give us an overview of what your role is like and some of the aspects of the role that you're in now? Sure. So

at the moment, I'm doing quite a big project on change management, working very closely with my VP, which has a lot of moving parts and is very confidential, so I can't talk too much about it. But that takes up a lot of time. I'm also quite heavily involved and planning strategy. So once the strategy has been set by our CEO, then figuring out how do we align our vision and our mission to that strategy. And that trickles down to the basic things like as we all know, calendar diary management, I do a lot of relationship building. So that's not just with SFM partners, but that's a lot with internal external communities, including like our admins and providers, vendors. I think relationship building is sort of 80% of what an EA or a PA probably does. We just don't necessarily give it a name and I also do a lot of coaching and mentoring of EAs and pas based in my work but also in my private life. I just think it's so important. And now that the world is opening up planning, travel expenses, all that I kind of regular stuff as well.

Nicky Christmas 05:03
It sounds like a busy role, and it's fairly recent, you've just moved into this role, right? Just a couple of months now.

So I moved over, I was with Facebook for about two years, just over two years. And then I've moved over into Instagram now. And I, we were

Nicky Christmas 05:18
talking about this before we hit record, but the culture is similar. So although a new role, the kind of awareness of the organisation and how it operates, it's not something you've got to relearn, which is good.

As it happens, I interview a lot of admins for roles across Metacom. And one of the things to notice that if you've been in tech before, you probably have a little more experience of what to expect when you move into tech. And if you've never worked in tech before, I would say that it's quite a conscious shift in terms of culture. And in terms of ways of working. And when I joined Mehta, although I'd been working across so many different industries and sectors, I've never worked in tech, and it was a bit of a jump for me to get used to as it is in any job, right. But happily, this time around moving to Facebook to Instagram, I know what I'm in for.

Nicky Christmas 06:10
It's definitely as I say, in such a busy role is super helpful that the culture is not something that you've got to pick up on, you can just hit the ground running, which I'm sure it will be really helpful for you. It's such a, what sounds like going straight into projects that are such high level. So I want to come back to that and dig into your career and some of the particularly around some of the mentoring that you do as other assistants. But before we do all that, I'd really like to get a sense of what life is like for you outside of work as well. Starting with the right at the beginning, at the beginning of the day. I know you said that you work in London, you live in London, but tell us what your morning routine is and what you do before you get into the office,

I wake up, get ready and go straight to the gym first. So my gym happens to be 24/7. So as soon as I wake up, I can just go which suits me. And it's not because I have any strong love of exercise, I literally do it to keep myself alive, because it's what you need to do to keep your body healthy. And to have quiet space in the morning, I don't want to get to the end of the day and then feel like I've got to go and lift weights or run like that, that to me would be very stressful. So I like to just get it out of the way, get it done. And then I'm usually quite quiet in the morning. I'm a really strong introvert. So I just like space and quiet alone time before I have to start interacting for my job.

Nicky Christmas 07:28
Yeah, I completely understand that. It's something that I have to do as well both with exercise and just having some quiet time before I start work. And then you go into performance mode, don't you where you're on and you're switched on and things. So I completely understand that. And it's a little bit about what's happening. And what happened with you over the course of the pandemic. Are you back in the office? No. Are you working from home? How has it been there at meta?

So we our offices open if you wish to be in but some folks have decided to be part of the work from home, some folks want to be part of the office and other folks probably like me to do a return just because most of my team is actually based in the States. So my working day significantly bit busier when they wake up in our afternoon. So it's a little bit easier for me to be at home to take those calls that are later on in the night just because I don't want to be commuting and miss something at 6pm, which is the goal whether the golden hour time. So for me being able to work from home has great flexibility really worked for me.

Nicky Christmas 08:25
It's so true, isn't it? And I'm so pleased, we've got to that point. Now where that makes so much sense, particularly when you if you work in with like the west coast of the states, then, you know, previously, so many people have just stayed in the office into the evening. And now you don't have to do that. It's what a difference that makes to everybody. And it makes so much sense. I don't know why we weren't doing this years ago. For sure. So I don't want to be too negative. But I know we all have challenging aspects to the role. So I'm wondering what are some of the challenges that you find in your role,

I think to actually linked to what we were just talking about the problem we have, or I have is that if 90% of my workload comes from America comes from, say, San Francisco, or I'm dealing with a project that has the bulk of the admins who are also in San Francisco, then obviously we always have a days delay, right? Well, we can do anything and as much as you can send emails, we can send pings with time delays on them. The reality is it's you're not quite working in real time. So the hardest part, the most challenging thing is working around those timezone restrictions. And to do that you really have to manage expectations, letting people know I will respond by this, I need a response by that. Here's all the information meantime, here's a point of contact in your country you can speak to like that is the most challenging part because we all want to move fast. We all want to be efficient and successful. But sometimes time is literally against you. Like you

Nicky Christmas 09:53
said that it's just about being really communicative isn't it and having that flexibility of when you actually working or not working? And I guess as well for you, it's that, okay, I'm going to be working into the evening on this day, but it means I'm going to start later on that day so that you're not burning out? Is that how you find it?

Yeah, so I tend to once I've come back from the gym, I log on, because I want to see what UK is saying. And then there'll be a brief period of time in the morning where I can just focus on the UK, then straight after that New York breaks up, so I catch up with them. And then by the time it's the afternoon, so I try and take a make sure I try and take a lunch break, I make sure that I am being really realistic with the meetings I have that day, but also how many hours because I also think one of the things working from home is it's really easy to have your laptop in front of you 24/7. So if you're happy with that is fine. If that is detrimental to you, then that is not fine. So it's everyone finding their personal balance of what does that look like? What does that balance look like for you? And one of the most enjoyable aspects of the role that you're in at the moment, I absolutely love the autonomy. So I've certainly had roles in the past where I felt like I've been micromanaged or you almost need permission to do something very basic in your role, which you could do with your eyes closed standing on your head. And this can't roll my VP absolutely trust me to be able to get on with things to do things to execute and articulate anything that I need or any problems. So I love that sense of autonomy and being able to just progress with things rather than have to wait for someone else's opinion. I like the fact that meta changes all the time, the work environment changes, we pivot really quickly to new challenges, there's always things going on. I like that fast paced, I like things that keeps keep my brain active and engaged. So I like the difference every day, I find that quite almost calm and quite soothing to see how things fluctuate and change. And you just you just learn how you take it in your stride. And like the priority of yesterday is no longer the priority of tomorrow. And I think I also really enjoy the opportunity to be creative, we are encouraged to have creative solutions, we are encouraged to try new things, you don't have to do something just because that's the way we've always done it. It's very much try something new, see if it works. And I think that gives a lot of freedom in the role to grow your career as well. And so that's something else I really like.

Nicky Christmas 12:24
You can imagine for someone like you knowing you for the last few years, that's going to be something that keeps you going keeps you motivated. Because I would imagine that somewhere that's stagnant or somewhere where like you said, you're being micromanaged. I would imagine what your motivation would just dig.

Yeah, it doesn't get micromanaging does not get the best out of me. And I think you have to be really honest with you have to know your personality type. And you have to know your triggers. And you also have to know where your strengths are. My strength is being left alone to do things. I'm very good at that and where I feel despondent and I feel stifled is being overly managed to do things without then in a sort of autonomous without autonomy, or without that sense of growth and freedom and excitement about all I've figured out a new process or I want to try it this way.

Nicky Christmas 13:17
And it sounds like it's not necessarily your VP that has that personality, it sounds as well, like the culture absolutely supports that. I would imagine if there are micro managers in meta, they probably don't last for very long, because it's not the culture. So as we were saying earlier, your career has been varied. And you've done lots of different things. I wonder if there is I'm sure there's a few. But are there any highlights that you can pick out for us?

I think there's this couple. So one purely from a professional point of view is I've been lucky enough to win several awards for my work like to have a year or network of the that kind of thing. And that I think recognition is always good. On a purely practical note, having that kind of thing on your CV is extremely helpful. So that's been one thing. And another thing is I think it's taken me a lot of my career to find. What kind of role do I really want to do? What kind of company do I want to work for? What kind of team are my best in? What do I like the most? What do I not like doing and that really has taken me years to figure out what suits me and what doesn't suit me and I wouldn't have known that had I not made errors and mistakes in the past or done the wrong roles. And then the third and final thing I think is I've been privileged enough to work in support and mentor and coach a lot of admins who've also gone on to win their own award. So their success becomes my success, which is amazing. And getting to work with so many different admins from so many different organisations. I think we need to invest in our community and that's something that's really important to me.

Nicky Christmas 14:55
What was the thinking behind starting to mentor assistants because you're in such a big numero uno, it's important, and I absolutely understand that. But you're in such a busy role. And you've got a lot going on. I wonder, what was the in the initial days of mentoring? What was the thought process for you there?

It was born very much from when I started my career, there just there were very, there was maybe one network and it wasn't even a network. And there was no training, there was no formal training for admins. There was no networking, there was nothing that really drove a career, I think there was the word secretary, was much more commonplace than it is now, although, of course, it does still exist very much in the legal sector. But it's certainly not a word that exists in tech. And there was just no, there was nothing for admins. And unless you'd been to secretarial college, there just wasn't anything. And I had often wished that I had had the opportunity to either speak to someone or be in a network or have some guidance as a young admin, to know if what I was doing was the right thing, if I should have been doing it better or differently, some support, and it just didn't exist. So over time, networks just spring up, but there was still that lack of kind of coaching and mentoring, it's really taken off now. But back in the day, it wasn't a thing. And so I decided that I would retrain and get coaching and mentoring qualifications, so I could know what I was actually talking about. And then I would exclusively only mentor and coach EA CPAs. Because that is my sector, I understand. And I always think you can have a coach from any walk of life, that's completely fine. But isn't it better sometimes, if you have a coach who understands fundamentally your job, and then you're not explaining it, like you are sharing an idea that you want someone who's just sympathisers, or who just gets what you're trying to talk about, without you having to give all the backstory of what your role is, and all those sorts of nuances that make the admin role. And I just thought that was something really important. So as time has gone on, that's just become a priority for me. Yeah.

Nicky Christmas 17:09
And you're so good at it. And I think it's exactly that you've from the hours that you gave us earlier, where you made mistakes, and you carved out a career sometimes took the wrong role sometimes took the right role, the people that you mentor to be able to avoid those things. And what those setbacks and careers a lot of assistants had, I certainly did as well, where you think you're taking the role for the right reason. And then it turns out, it wasn't your confidence, dips, all of those kinds of things, to have somebody that can help you move forward in your career like that and

avoid some of those pitfalls is so important. And I think also just having a Summon, I think it's important that we all need to be open in our careers about this, when I made a mistake, I shouldn't have taken this job. This was the right job at the wrong time. Or this, I handled this situation badly. This is what I've learned from it in the same way we need to be more open about pay and about salaries about all these things. If you have someone that you can talk openly and honestly about. I think that can only be a bonus. I completely

Nicky Christmas 18:07
agree. So I'm sure this is one of the conversations you've had with many of the people that you've mentored. But I wonder if particularly for assistants who are just starting in their careers, what is the one piece of advice that you would give them for those that are just starting out?

Alright, so I've got three pieces. Okay. So the first one is you need to drive your own career, and you need to be very strategic. I think when most of us start in our careers, we just pick up a job, right? We don't necessarily have a goal plan of where we want to go. And it's only as time goes on, that we start to think maybe I should be a bit more strategic. If you can try and be strategic right from the get go. Think where do I what do I definitely love doing? What do I definitely hate doing? Where can I get roles that will play into those? What strengths do I yet have to acquire? Like, we're not born perfect into the working world? So all those kinds of things like what are our goals going to be? Be really strategic right from the end, it's also okay to change your mind perfectly fine. But if you have some plan, because no one else but you can create that plan. So don't wait for some company to say, Oh, if you stay with us five years, we might give you a bonus, that is not enough of a plan. You need to be driving your career because the only one that cares about your career is you. So it's on you. The second one is to take risks, but take them mindfully so it is okay to take the risks with the fear of failure. It is okay to be not sure if this job is really the one and it is okay to discover that you definitely love something or definitely hate something. All the risk you're going to take is fine if you're doing it mindfully. So I'm not advocating that you quit your job tomorrow and then figure out how to get a new job. But what I would say is that if something comes your way, and you're not sure Be very mindful, weigh out the pros and cons and make that risk and make that leap with the confidence that it's okay to lose. And it's okay to fail, it's fine. And the last one is links, which is be really courageous in setting your own boundaries. So when I was starting as an admin, I didn't really know what I could say no to, I didn't really know if I could say no to doing the personal work, like getting the dry cleaner, hiring the nanny, all those kinds of things, you have to decide what you're comfortable doing. And you have to cite as the salary you're getting for it is worth it. And you have to decide where your personal boundaries are. So if you can't work after certain time, because you have childcare, or you have commitments, or quite frankly, you just don't want to wear that time, because you want to go to bed at a reasonable time, what you do need to do is communicate those boundaries, and you set them down. So in the same way, you wouldn't phone up your boss at one o'clock in the morning on a Saturday, and ask them to get you some milk, for example, they should not be doing that same thing to you, unless you're being paid extraordinary amounts of money to do that. And even then you have that conversation. So be very courageous and confident in creating boundaries for you. And if you need to sit down with a pen and paper and figure out what your boundaries are, you do it, that's fine. And

Nicky Christmas 21:23
actually, I would actively encourage assistants to write their boundaries down because then they become more tangible. So they're thinking if you've got a piece of paper, and if you're not good at sticking to your boundaries, and having that piece of paper that you can return to and read and just get it back into your system, then that's going to help you as well, because I would imagine that you were the same epic that that takes, you're not sure when you're starting out in the road what you can and can't say no to and it takes a lot of time. But I think exactly as you said, from the get go, the quicker you can get better at setting boundaries, the better it will be for your career.

Yeah, and you don't want to burn out and you don't want to be miserable. I would say that it's taken me years to get to the point of that confidence. But if I can, if we can bypass or if we can skip, hop and skip over those years of that. And I can tell you right now take it is okay to say these things. Do you feel like

Nicky Christmas 22:17
the younger generation that are coming into the assistant role now are clearer at setting boundaries? Just in terms of a generational thing? Have you noticed that at all,

it's a tough one, because you don't want to say all generations are like a different than not all one homogenous mass, I hope that they have the confidence. But I also think we can't confuse confidence with arrogance. So sometimes you need to know what you don't know, in order to move ahead. And when you're quite young, and you're starting out, you don't know what you don't know. So that is your time to listen and to watch and to learn from the people who have gone before you all who are doing the work or can give you advice. I would not like to be 20 for all the tea in China. At the moment. I just think that's a lot. And I can't be bothered to keep up with tick tock for one thing, it just seems exhausting. Yes,

Nicky Christmas 23:14
I think it's, if I think back to when I first started as an assistant, and I was in my early 20s, looking at the assistants that were working for the CEOs who were 20 years older than me. So my age now, you can see the difference, you can see the confidence, confidence, and they were absolutely concrete in their boundaries, and they would not cost them and the respect that they had for that that was given to them because of that was something Yes, if I had taken a minute and thought I'll be more like that. It would have saved

me years. What would you do if you weren't an assistant, I am a qualified art historian and curator. So my degrees are all in art history of curatorial studies. So I would probably be a museum curator or a curator or fashion or fashion historian, something along those lines, I think

Nicky Christmas 24:10
I know that you spent a lot of your time outside of work, going to galleries and art shows and things like that. So I can completely see that. It's nice that you've got a balance where you're still following something that you're really passionate about. Yeah, I

just love it. I love that every exhibition is a new way of learning visually. I love that. I just think that's such a gift we have. Yeah, absolutely.

Nicky Christmas 24:31
And London's a great place to live. To get that culture. Just soak it up. You did say the beginning which I think was really interesting that you there was lots of options for you when you first started out and you realise that you really were interested in being an assistant. That's the thing that you could see your real strengths. So I wonder, having looked at your career, is there anything that you're grateful for that being an assistant has brought you? Yeah, on the practical

side of things, being the first Dinner has let me play to my strengths. And my strengths are being very organised. I love being a problem solver. I like creating solutions and patterns and executing things that usually, they usually have an immediate effect. So you've booked the travel, the person goes to that meeting. So you can see an immediate cause and effect. And that that suits me. And I like that kind of flow. So I'm quite good at that. I'm grateful that on one hand, it's it's strengthen those abilities. And not everyone can multitask. Not everyone is good at diary management. And not everyone could do this job. Otherwise, everyone would be doing this job. And I think also, it's helped me be very confident in my choices. Because I think most admins, when you make a decision, you're making a backup plan, okay? I've booked this flight from my boss, but I'm pretty sure they're going to be 20 minutes late and missed the flight, here's my plan B, or here's my plan C are what happens if they don't make the meeting or what happens if this project fails, I like that it helps me create a sort of other ways of doing things, and has allowed me to get that confidence and making choice and I'm pretty unconvinced of this, you get confidence by failing and realising that nothing that bad is going to happen, you have to fail a lot in order to get more confident. Because when things go, well, that's great, but then you don't dwell on it. But when things go badly, or they don't go as you're expecting, you have to then do a little bit of a smash and find out why didn't this work? Why isn't this the best thing that I did what went wrong, and that is going to give you confidence in the future. So being able to take risks and being able to fail, and know that everything is actually going to be okay, even if I lost my job as a failure, even though that's not happened. But it's still not the worst thing that could ever happen to me. It's a thing that could happen. But it's not the worst thing.

Nicky Christmas 26:53
It's really interesting that I think there's a lot of assistants who absolutely thrive as well, when there are problems to be solved, and the office is on fire. Your desk is up in flames. And then suddenly, you're at the absolute peak of your performance. I would imagine that's absolutely the case with you. And it's then that bleeds into your personal life as well, doesn't it when you everyone else is flapping around and things are crashing down. It's so often people that I found that work in roles similar to assistants and assistants that are just getting everything done and absolutely thriving in those situations. So think absolutely having that confidence know when things are failing that you've still got, it is an incredible competency to have.

Yeah, I quite like quite like the odd crisis just because it gives me the opportunity to try a new way of solving something or a new way of fixing something or a new way of creating a solution. And I quite like that challenge. I think that's quite interesting. In my spare time, I'm a weddings registrar. So I get to marry people at the weekend, right. And you would be amazed about the amount of things that could go wrong in a very short space of time. And they do not faze me or flap or stress me out because either the couple's gonna get married, or they're not. It's one or the other.

Nicky Christmas 28:17
It's imagine you're such a safe pair of hands. When people like I don't know whether or not to marry him, you do. Or you don't.

Maybe it's really, and I think if I wasn't in the system, small things, not small things, but things like that would faze me a lot more.

Nicky Christmas 28:35
So there is this kind of typical stereotypical aspects of the role that I think we've all been railing against for decades now. So I wonder how you've gone about challenging the boundaries of the stereotypical assistant role.

When we think of stereotypes? I think we in this role, Hollywood has a lot to blame for I don't think he's ever had a good role portrayal of an accurate assistant or admin. And I also think there's some fallacies that come into play. So I think when people think about this, they might assume that everyone is a people pleaser, and that everyone is an extrovert and I am neither of those things. I never will be extremely strong introvert and I also am not a people pleaser. So I'm a creator, and I'm a doer and I'm a solver and I'm a fixer, but I will not bend over backwards to put someone to raise someone else up while putting myself down that level, that kind of people pleasing where it's at a detriment to your mental health or your physical health or whatever it is. I don't do that. And I think that's the stereotypical I think when I started, I tried to be a people pleaser, and I can't sustain it for very long and it doesn't make me very happy. And I think I'm much better at working in partnership with the person I support, rather than trying to please them in everything because I think that's a really I think it's somewhat toxic, a little bit unrealistic as well. I don't think that's a healthy working relationship. And I think on a practical thing, I think, challenging assistant stereotypes is I created my own mentoring programme, my own coaching business. And I think it's almost I think initially I was being told that your assistance didn't need or ablin student need. Why would they coaching or mentoring and as we all know, in any role, someone might benefit from coaching and mentoring and finding, getting people to understand there is investment in growing your business support your ablin. That's something that happening is changing over time.

Nicky Christmas 30:42
I think just over the last five years, the difference that there's been and I think a lot of it obviously is also due to the pandemic, everything is available online now. But there's so many resources that are available to assistance, and it's all for the better, because it wasn't it still continues to be a very underserved industry. So yeah, the changes that, as I said, that have just taken place over the last few years are really encouraging for sure. But talking about the industry, I wonder what changes you would like to see made in further progress taking place.

I think we need to see a greater step towards gender equality in the role is heavily still I think it's currently saying something like 98% female dominated role. And you have to wonder why that is, I don't believe that one brain is better than another brain or a doing the role. So then you've got to wonder why are more women than men during the role? And I wonder if that's actually done due to salary? Or is that dude down to reputation of the role? I think there's, I think there's a lot of socio economic factors that come into play as to why that is the case. So I'd like to see more equality and that I think we need to reflect on job titles. I'm not sure that assistant is the best descriptor, because it doesn't necessarily take into account festivals wide range of the role in itself and what you do as a system. But also it doesn't factor in the idea that an assistant in one company can be very different from an assistant if we're talking about a legal I'm going to use the phrase legal secretary and your very traditional law firm versus your Executive Business Partner at something like Google, the roles might be quite similar and that you're booking travel, you're doing diary, your whatever it is you're doing, but we're using different terminology. And I don't think that helps with parity across the job market and therefore impacting salaries. So I think we also need to be seeing a link towards salary, parity and increase, I think that's the big thing. And I think also LinkedIn to that is changing of the business titles. I quite like the title, executive business partner, executive assistant sometimes, but I think we, we could be doing better to create a more inclusive, more well rounded, applicable title, although I know that titles aren't everything, but actually, when you're applying for a new role, and you're looking for a job, those recruiters are looking at your job title, we can't get away from that.

Nicky Christmas 33:12
Now, it's really interesting, isn't it? I wonder? I don't know the statistics. But I wonder if there are more men working as executive business partners at Microsoft compared as well to assistants working at other tech companies into whatever it happens to be because that is such a assistant is very much associated with women working in business, as you said, it's 90% 98% women who work in the admin industry. So be interesting to see what the demographic is at Google, because it is a less gender specific role, isn't it? It's, it just doesn't have the connotations or the stereotypes that come with the word assistant. So I'd be really interested to know that if there are more men that are applying for those roles in Microsoft, it would be interesting to know for sure, because I think absolutely everything you said there

is maybe Gen Z can take this up for us. But I think it is part of that battle of why do things have to be gendered in the first place, and job title or idea of role? And actually go back to my original point. I do think Hollywood could step up here, because I think they've really done some damage to the to the industry. And I think we need to see an accurate positive reflection of a system that is not a woman working for a man or a woman working for very stressful women and is not very basic and very unrealistic and is not as nuanced. And when I think that a film nine to five, yes. And it just the amount of sexual harassment, I know setting a different time I understand that. But those are long lasting, impactful visions that people have with that role, and we are not going to move away from that until we start getting new, impactful portrayals They show the reality.

Nicky Christmas 35:02
Yeah. Or the great example then ends up involved romantically with the boss. Yes. Just yeah, there's nothing you're absolutely right. There are some examples of, I guess, an understanding a little bit more of how the partnership can work. But yeah, they're they're few and far between. Absolutely. You mentioned this working at meta, and it's something that I do think of when I think about you as an assistant. And that's how you think creatively about the role and how you pay you do things and operate in your role, where you're getting to work on exciting projects, or do things that are maybe not the traditional aspects of the role, what advice would you give to assistants who who want to think more creatively about the assistant role,

one of the things you can do is to be very directional and how you're approaching this. So let's say you knew what your skill set was, that's great. So write that down somewhere, because that is your core skill set. But it's also realistic to think that there might be skill sets which you are lacking, or you haven't had the opportunity to practice, or you really don't know much about. And I would start identifying what those are, because in your next role, or you might be looking for a new role that requires these things, for example, project management, or you might need some knowledge of HR or you might need to understand budgets, these kind of things, I would start trying to find creative ways that you can plug those gaps. So if your current company can't offer you any opportunities to shadow or train or learn more, I would be looking for ways in which you can find solutions to these problems. So if you have no project management experience, who really knew pretty sure that's a gap on your CV, you can be taking LinkedIn courses, you can be looking at the various system networks to see what offerings they have, I think there's ways in which you can seek to grow yourself, even if your current job doesn't give you the scope to do it. And I think you can be very strategic and thinking about if there's something you really want to do. And let's say you really are passionate about a particular project, you can just ask if you can be involved the leader, you can suggest it if your company shuts it down and says no, that's not an option. I will be looking externally for those kinds of options. Can you volunteer? Or can you network with EAS or admins who do have those opportunities and start to pick their brains

about? How did you get into this? Where should I start because, again, no one else is going to do it for you.

Nicky Christmas 37:32
You're really lucky if you work with an executive or a manager that really puts your career development and career growth at front and centre of what they do as a manager with are so few and far between. I'm sure you've got absolutely experience with that. It's rare, because they're so busy, and they're putting their career and their profession first. It's so rare to actually find an executive that's that's supportive of you and wants to see you grow and develop and then maybe ultimately go and do something else or work with somebody else. You quite often find with executives, if everything's working, they just want it to stay the same. So you're so right, you have to take control of that aspect of your career, which was nicely into my next question, which is, can you recommend any events, books, publications, websites, training programmes for resistance? And of course, you can include yours? Well, sure, of course, practically

perfect PA, there's a huge wide range of resources that I definitely encourage people to start looking at. And I think they're all available on your various platforms and so on. You could also look at the assistant room has sort of similar ways of information and knowledge for admins. I would also keep an eye out on some of the other networks, it very much depends on what you're looking for. So if you're wanting like professional development and growth or if you just want to know what venues are opening for Team bookings, you can have a look on LinkedIn, there's some courses that you might like that are relevant trial role. I think also, trying to find your tribe admin has a wide role, lots of different personality types, working different industries, you might need to meet with lots of different admins externally before you find your tribe or the people who are going to what your gangs and so I'd encourage you to cast your net initially very wide start networking, start socialising, I would suggest you do get a coach or mentor I would get one for a defined period of time. You don't want one that goes on forever in a day when there's a certain amount of sessions. Go in with a solution if there's a problem you want to find a solution for so you want to find a new job or you want to practice you practice interview technique or you are struggling how to say no to a boss or you've got to work with difficult personalities or you're unsure if you're being working in the best of your ability. So pick an obviously I'd say pick me but pick the mentoring coaching is right for you and check they've got qualifications. There's a lot of people out there saying who are unqualified who are offering advice and I think try to follow some of the networks and groups on In tennis, we'll start to see what your community is talking about. Because this will be useful when you want to do things like benchmark your pay. If you want to talk about a pay rise or you're looking for new job, you want to know what job opportunities are going out there. You want to know what issues are affecting your community. So I would suggest that starting to get involved would be a really important step in any admins career. And

Nicky Christmas 40:22
just as a follow up question, because I know you are an introvert, and I know for a lot of introverts, networking is a, an uncomfortable prospect. So just for those who are introverts or just find networking a little bit scary. So any advice that you can give, because it is so important for an assistant, it's so beneficial. So I wonder if there's any advice we can

give, I can tell you what I do. And I'm not saying this is what everyone should do. But you need to know your limits. So I know that most networking events generally are about two hours long and duration, assuming it's not an all day event, I know that my first 45 minutes at any networking event is my best 45 minutes. So that is the time where I network hard I want to speak to everybody want to share information, wanna see what's going on, right? That's the biggest impact I make in the first 45 minutes to an hour. Anything after that I slightly start to get a little bit drained and I'm not as good. So then I'm more likely to go into listening and receiving mode, which is fine, because that's when people will get the opportunity to talk to me, but be realistic. If you know that you're not gonna be great, go for a chunk of time, take a break and step outside for 510 minutes, I believe is an integral thing. And speaking, communicating to people is really important in our line of work. So also tell people you can say I'm an introvert. And if I go a little bit quiet, I'm just recharging my batteries. Now come back, you can also network online, you can do it virtually. So the fifth face to face is quite draining, you don't have to do that. And if it is an all day event and like a conference or something, I would say just take regular breaks. And just be really honest about it. We all have, we're all different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. And if you can put yourself with an ambivert or an extrovert they can talk for you. Brilliant. Yes,

Nicky Christmas 42:05
absolutely. I think definitely again, just over the last two years, the conversation around mental health but also just different personality types. And the way that you operate in the world has become such, it's become so much more open. And I remember just the other day I was saying Sunday, everybody's just like you do you whatever is best for you. Those stigmas have really fallen, which is a brilliant thing. Yeah, says everything that I've got to ask you for now. But I know I could talk to you all day, but I know you probably need to go and recharge your batteries. I so appreciate your time and your wonderful words of wisdom. So thank you so much.

You're so welcome. And thank you so much for having me.

Nicky Christmas 42:48
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 AE campus.com forward slash podcast forward slash episode six Abigail Jones and take a look at everything we discussed. You can also find all the links to 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 EA Campus website. The community continues to grow and we have an amazing group of assistants sharing their careers. We have ongoing events and training from 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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