Meet Senior Executive Assistant and Founder of Audacious Admin Debbi Shaffer.
This month I reached out to Debbi and asked if she would share her administrative professional career journey with you. She agreed.
Debbi and I both share a passion for sharing educational resources with administrative professionals. I am convinced that you will find value in connecting with Debbi. She’s a committed leader within the administrative professional profession. What Debbi has accomplished is impressive!
Tell us about your administrative professional career journey.
I stumbled upon my career as an executive assistant. I was a concierge until the recession in the early 90s when my job was cut from the hotel where I was based. For the next several years, I was a waitress/bartender until I moved to California in the late 90s. When I arrived in San Diego, I accepted a temporary job offer as a receptionist at an asset management firm just to bring in some money while I looked for a job. One month later I was supporting the Vice President of the firm. A short time later he left to start his own firm and took me with him. I supported him for the next eight years until my return to the Washington, DC area. I’ve held some fascinating positions supporting senior executives at executive search, architecture, marketing, and government consulting firms.
You are the Founder of Audacious Admin. Tell us about Audacious Admin and how to access this incredible resource for administrative professionals.
I began Audacious Admin last August after attending the annual IAAP Education Forum. While speaking with my fellow admins during the conference, I was shocked by how many were unaware of the numerous online resources available to them. It was also disheartening to learn that many of my colleagues longed for additional responsibilities but didn’t know how to go about approaching their executives or even if they could ask for additional duties. On the return flight, I set up the Facebook page and began sharing articles I had bookmarked. Honestly, I was overwhelmed by the response. I’m very grateful for the support the admin community has shown.
Audacious Admin is currently a blog page on Facebook. I’ve recently purchased the domain name, and I’m working on creating a web-blog. Unlike your wonderful blog, A Great Day’s Work, most of the content I share are links. Facebook seemed like the best platform at first, but now I’m finding much of what I share is being missed due to the newsfeed algorithms. Please keep an eye on the Facebook page for an announcement of the launch of www.audaciousadmin.com.
You have been employed as an executive assistant for many years. What advice do you have for someone who is considering or preparing to transition into the role of a “C-suite” executive support position?
I find it hard to believe it has been almost 20 years. The best advice I can give is to be sure C-suite is what you really want to do. The executive assistant position at this level is never a 9 to 5 job. You need to be comfortable knowing your life may take a back seat to your job. I’ve worked 20 hour days, woken up at 3 a.m. to connect conference calls, and I’ve had to cancel dinner dates and vacations due to demands at work.
If you truly desire to move to C-suite support, you need to demonstrate initiative, competence, reliability, and dedication. In this position your soft skills are just as important as your hard skills, if not more so. Communication skills and the ability to work independently are vital. C-suite EAs must be proactive, not reactive. Having a thick skin is helpful. Being timid will not serve you well in this role.
What do you most enjoy about being an executive assistant?
There are so many things I enjoy about my job. I like the fact that no two days are alike. Most days present some sort of challenge, and I love a good challenge! I’ve learned so much from the amazing executives I’ve supported, not just about business, but about the type of person I want to be. Knowing how much I’m appreciated is also a nice perk of the job.
What skills do you find necessary for today’s administrative professional to be successful?
If there is one thing I’ve learned in my tenure, it is that every EA position is different. The skills needed vary, but in every industry EAs need professionalism, emotional intelligence, adaptability, reliability, loyalty, and trustworthiness. Organization and technology skills are also very important.
Are you available for speaking engagements? How does someone reach out to you?