Interview with Sassy Assistant - Steph Brilley

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of our very own Sassy Assistants, Stephenie Brilley, who is the awesome EA to Ray Itaoui,  owner of Sanity, Bras N Things, Honey Birdette and Mr Vitamins. She gave us some great insights into her career journey, life as an EA and tips for having a successful work & life balance while being a working boss mum. Keep reading to see how she does it all..

1. HOW DID YOU BECOME AN EA AND WHAT WAS IT THAT DREW YOU TO THE ROLE?
My background is actually in Retail Management at a state and area level. I loved the continually changing environment and the fast pace. To succeed in that role, I relied heavily on my people management and customer service skills, good time management & a high productivity level was essential. There was quite a bit of travel involved with the role, and due to my plans for a family I was hoping to secure a role that didn’t require as much travel.
So… when Ray was looking for a new assistant, I jumped at the opportunity convincing him that the same skills I mentioned previously that assisted me successfully with my role in Retail would do the same in the role of his Executive Assistant… and my knowledge of the Retail section of the business became extremely beneficial also!

2. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS A KEY STRENGTH OF A SUCCESSFUL EA/PA?
A strong Customer focus is the key strength. You have to think of your Executive as your Customer and your role is to help your Customer achieve their goals, succeed in their objectives and always put their best foot forward. Whether it is submitting presentations/documents at the highest level, ensuring they are adequately planned/have the tools they need for each meeting or just making sure they actually eat lunch(!)… as your Customer, what they need should be your focus.

3. HOW DO YOU BUILD THE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR BOSS TO GAIN A HIGH LEVEL OF RESPECT & TRUST?
In my view, there are many answers to this question, such as exceptional work output, outstanding Customer service as I mentioned before, the ability to anticipate your Executive’s needs etc, but I believe the key is unwavering confidentiality and trust between you and your Executive. As an Executive Assistant you become privy to many details, and in some instances, you may become the sounding board for ideas and decisions and it is essential that all is done to maintain their confidence and trust in you.

4. HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR WORK LIFE BALANCE?
I am blessed with two small children, so a work/life balance isn’t a ‘nice to have’, it’s necessary! While the reality is achieving a work/life balance can be a struggle and there will be times that one or the other dominates, there are a few things I live by as a busy working mum that help me achieve my balance.

  • I’m extremely organised! A diary is my ally at work and I’m an avid list maker at home.
  • Tame technology – it can be very tempting to log on at home and respond to a few emails, but I try to ensure that emails/calls are kept to a minimum when at home with my kids. Keep most emails short and succinct where possible, not all emails require an essay!
  • I value my time - act with a sense of urgency to ensure maximum productivity at work
  • Prioritising tasks is really important… while the temptation is the need to be Superwoman and get everything done today, it’s just not always realistic.
  • I am also incredibly blessed to have a wonderful boss! He himself is a family man and I think through ensuring he has what he needs (part of which is a work/life balance for himself), he is very understanding in my need to achieve that also.

5. WHAT ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS OR TIPS AND TRICKS THAT YOU UTILISE WHEN SWAMPED WITH WORK? HOW DO YOU GET THINGS DONE EFFECTIVELY?
I mentioned it previously, but a good old fashioned A4 Diary is still my best friend! I know there are plenty of time management tools available out there for EA’s, but I still find this the most effective and it will be the first thing I suggest to an EA with our organisation that is struggling with their time. I take it everywhere and apart from being able to write down what you need (the more you put on paper, the less you have to remember), it really helps me prioritise my workload for the day. If a task doesn’t require attention until the following week, you just turn the page and record it in the correct day and you can concentrate on the tasks that are important today – believe me, it’s liberating once you get used to it!

6. WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO EA/PA'S WHO ARE JUST STARTING THEIR CAREER?
I would say the best advice I would give is that relationships in the workplace are critical to your success as an Executive Assistant. There is always a team of people that are responsible for the running of any business and it is important to get to know each person and their role if you are to ensure your Executive succeeds (and in turn the business).
Having a good work relationship with other team will assist you in getting things completed quicker, keeps the lines of communication open between the team and your Executive (even if it is through you) and additionally allows you to keep in touch with any issues within the workplace that may be important to your Executive.

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