We got the chance to sit down with Stacie Hill, Executive Coordinator at WorkPac and the 2019 runner-up EA of the Year at our Executive PA Awards. Stacie is a woman built from hard work, resilience and determination and she uses every day to push herself. She shares with us her experience as an EA and tips and tricks to help juniors starting out in the role.
Stacie had humble beginnings working at Kmart for 7 years before progressing to I had her first job as an Executive Assistant at Dialog Information Technology, where she instantly thrived. Stacie was studying a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Marketing and PR at the time and starting off as an EA was a great way to get her foot in the door and learn how business works in the real world. And for Stacie, the EA role was love at first sight.
“Joining that role, I was involved in so many different aspects of the business and I picked up so much that I realised, I actually love this. It’s not what I thought I’d end up doing but I really loved that I was involved in so much and across so much information,” says Stacie.
“From there I realised this is where I want to go … I just loved the variety that the job brought. And I still love the variety that the job brings me. I mean, every single day is different, it’s great.”
After working for Dialog for three years, an opportunity became available through a connection. While it was an EA role, it was also a marketing coordinator position, too. Stacie then moved on to work for SMS Management and Technology and then to CUA as the Executive Assistant to the CIO. This role involved supporting a team of about 100 staff and 7 of the senior leaders that reported into the CIO. And if that wasn’t enough, Stacie was always on the hunt to do more.
“I was constantly in the habit of putting my hand up to be involved in other projects and … I suppose during all of these roles I started to find that I really loved the events side of things, too. I put my hand up to help out with large events like Christmas parties and forums where we’ve got people flying in from overseas to come together for a large meeting,” says Stacie.
But her main job was to work very closely with the CIO as the right hand for her executive and the team and was the glue that held them together.
After her time at CUA, she landed a role at WorkPac working for the subsidiary, Dingu Blue. Here she took on the immense task of being Office and Social Marketing Manager. Here, Stacie was in charge of a plethora of tasks. You name it, and Stacie did it. But this hard work was met with high reward.
“The chairman knew about my experience and saw my love and passion for events as well. And a position had become vacant, so he reached out to me and I applied for the role and was really lucky to get this job. And for me, this was the next steppingstone, the next challenge,” says Stacie.
During her time at WorkPac, Stacie has been dealt some of the most challenging projects and tasks, one of which being organising the 2017 annual leadership conference in Cambodia.
“The one in 2017 … was in a third world country probably the longest haul flight the group had done in a while … We built houses for those that were under privileged and put a roof over their heads—one of life’s basic necessities. The gala dinner was in a location that was out of this world, in a jungle with a temple as the background.
“For me that was probably the biggest project I’d ever had … I think not being able to speak the local language and using interpreters and trying to negotiate everything as well, is not an easy task. You’ve got to have a lot of patience for these things and for me that was a huge challenge. I thought, if I can achieve this and it be successful and run smoothly without a hitch—which is exactly what it did—I could do anything. So, for me that was a massive moment in my life where I proved to myself my abilities and capabilities and how far I can push myself.”
As any EA knows, planning events is a mammoth task that comes separately to the day-to-day work of supporting your executives and finding a balance between both can be difficult. Stacie is all too familiar with this challenge.
“There was very, very long hours and it’s just hard work and persistence, managing your time and working as fast as you can, as accurately as you can …
“I’d sit at home in front of the TV before I’d go to bed and I’d be researching venues or I’d be looking at menus or ideas for theming and styling or looking up bands, whatever it might be. I spent a lot of my spare time doing the research side of things and flicking off enquiries.”
EAs have to be resilient—this is common knowledge by now. As an EA you’re thrown into so many different situations and scenarios it’s important you take it on board.
“You’ll hear things that aren’t necessarily in your favour or it might be hard to take on as feedback, but it’s all a part of growing and developing. I’m very big on personal development and my own career development as well. If I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong, then how am I supposed to grow? So, I appreciate when I hear things like that,” says Stacie.
This positive attitude is something that she learnt at a young age and took with her along her career.
“It’s probably something my dad taught me when I was younger, and is part of my natural nature, too. As time goes by you just become more and more resilient to things and don’t let things faze you. There’s no point … getting emotional because then you’re just going to lose time and productivity.”
While EAs aren’t seen as “gatekeepers” anymore, they still need to guard top secret information. This can be tricky when you’re first starting out and Stacie is quick to share her top tips for juniors in this position.
“If there are emails then I file them straight away, so they’re not in easy sight. I code things as well, so that if someone happens to look over my shoulder, they aren’t going to know what it is because it’s under a codename only I recognise.
“One best practice I learnt from my very early days is, everyone comes to the EA because they know the EA knows everything and they want to try and get information out of you. And you just have to pretend like you don’t know anything, and say, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ With things that might be printed out I have things hidden in folders or locked up in drawers and I don’t leave anything laying around.”
If you’re constantly developing and growing, career progression is natural. But this often means moving on from your executive and building a new relationship from the ground up. With Stacie’s extensive experience, she’s no stranger to this challenge.
“It’s just letting them know that you’re getting the job done. So, when they ask for items just keep them updated on how you’re going and letting them know when things are completed … It’s about proving yourself and that tasks have been done to the highest possible standard. To me it’s also work ethic, and keeping yourself available to them when they need you.
“There are going to be times when your executive is travelling … out of hours or on a weekend. There’re things that will happen out of hours and they need your support, so you’ve just got to be there and be able to support them and action items straight away. I think it’s just letting them know you’ll support them no matter what, whatever the time is, whatever the day is and building the trust along the way.
“And it’s not just that it’s also building a bit of a friendship, too. You’re working closely with each other every single day and being able to have a bit of a conversation on the side that’s not necessarily work related just to break the day up a little bit.”
While Stacie is constantly pushing herself and developing her skills as an EA, she also believes in helping others and is passionate about mentoring.
“I want them to know that my door is open, and they can come to me for anything. It is really nice to give back and help people grow and flourish. And just for people to know they’ve got support there too, because at times things can get busy and you can get a bit flustered and you’re not really sure what to do. Just being able to have someone you can bounce off in moments where you’ve got to be thinking quickly … That’s what I want to be for others.”
Stacie’s skill and outstanding work as an EA might not be a surprise to everyone else, but even after so much success she remains humble about her career and never expected to become 2019 runner up EA of the Year at our Executive PA awards.
“I felt so honoured and humbled by the whole experience and to actually attend something and be recognised in my field and for what I do, is incredible. As EAs, we’re so busy running around and looking after everybody else that we kind of forget about ourselves, too. And to have that moment where you can be recognised for what you do, is a really nice feeling.”