Julia Schmidt, senior EA at IT company Basefarm AS, recently took home our Scandanvian PA of the Year Award – Claire Muir finds out how this multi-lingual assistant got to where she is today, and what the future holds, too…
Congratulations on your award! How does it feel?
Honoured. For me, the art of being the best assistant is about letting leadership emerge from within. It’s about discovering who you are, what compels you to do what you do and what gives you the credibility to manage others. The award came at the same time as my promotion to senior EA so these rewards affirm that I’m making a difference for my team, my organisation and the assistant community.
What would you say to other EAs contemplating applying for an award?
It’s time now to promote yourself and our profession. Participating will make you more visible and help you expand your network. You’ll be providing evidence of work you’ve done; illustrating your skills and abilities; showcasing the quality of your work and telling a story about your career and the challenges you overcame. People will see your skills, values, leadership purpose and beliefs. It’s your chance to have your personal knowledge and know-how highlighted.
How did you become an assistant?
When the desire to practise the languages I speak became stronger than the desire to continue work as a primary school teacher – I wanted to work internationally and discover the world through globalisation. So, as a French native, I interviewed for a position with Alliance Française de Rio de Janeiro. I was an administrative assistant for the Directeur des CoursExtérieurs and learned the profession by doing. I then worked in international companies and joined Basefarm AS in February 2015. I’m EA to the Chairman of the Board, CEO, and CFO – and, on the side, I’m the National Chairman of International Management Assistants (IMA).
What motivates you?
I enjoy the opportunity to work with top executives. I’m inspired by great leaders, a commitment to excel and learn, and knowing I make a difference in people’s lives.
What are your main responsibilities?
My tasks are like many other EAs but what can be different is the priority we give certain responsibilities. Our main objective is to serve executives and teams, and their needs very much set the agenda to what our responsibilities are. I see the most important part of my role as being a strategic partner to my CEO, maximising the productivity of my executives and teams, and inspiring teams.
How do you find the work/life balance?
I’m a wellbeing ambassador, which helps me keep updated about the importance of improving organisational health and wellbeing. I read wellbeing articles, do sports, go to bed before it is too late, eat healthy, allocate time to meet friends and avoid taking work home. I take breaks during working hours and go for a short walk around the building as often as I can. And I take long holidays, and allocate time for reading, mindfulness activities and innovative thinking.
To what extent do you have flexibility at work?
Employees in Norway are entitled to flexible working hours, provided that this can be accomplished without substantial inconvenience for the business. In Norway, family takes a huge priority and it’s not at all uncommon for someone to leave work 30 minutes early regularly to pick the kids up from school or take them to sports practice. You’re also involved with IMA – tell us more. I’m National Chairman for IMA in Norway and, during my mandate, we have had a significant increase in the number of members and level of satisfaction in the group. For me, volunteering has been a positive and successful way to contribute and add value to our community of support management administrative professionals.
How do you see your career progressing?
Each year I do a personal SWOT analysis to define goals. I see my career progressing to more leadership so my ultimate career goal is to continuously and consistently develop and facilitate the growth and development of myself and others, resulting in great performance and positive results.
What advice do you wish an established assistant could have given you at the outset of your career?
Accept feedback as a gift. When I was young, I did not have the positive approach to feedback that I have today. It’s a tool for improvement and starting career development plans.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about the assistant role?
The power of networking and being connected with the right people – it gives us the necessary diversity to keep evolving, seeing the big picture and tapping into the best sources of insight. You need operational, personal and strategic networks to develop personally and professionally. The operational network will help you to complete your professional tasks and perform effectively. Your personal network will help you to detox and have fun, and will link you to your family, friends and the friends of your friends. And your strategic network will help you follow a career path, find new projects at work, connect your executive with potential customers, discover the new trends, generate breakthrough ideas and avoid group thinking.
What will the role of an assistant look like in 25 years’ time?
I foresee an increase in what we’re already experiencing – we’ll have no tasks related to calendar or travel management, and no minutes writing. Robots will take over the repetitive tasks in our profession – though automation is not synonymous with job losses. We’ll be focusing on strategic thinking; having a 100 per cent managerial role and practising leadership at an important level. We’ll have mastered the art of being the best leader, alongside our executives.
||JULIA SCHMIDT – Senior EA
Basefarm, a leading hybrid cloud provider, has six offices and more than 520 employees across Europe’s IT hotspots.