Executive Assistant of the Week: Houston

Jill Schons
Executive Assistant / Project Manager
UnitedHealthcare Community and State

Jill Schons has over 20 years of experience as an executive assistant. She started her career at the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis supporting several executives including SVP of Sales, CFO and COO. She has spent the past 14 years as an executive assistant in different areas of UnitedHealth Group, UnitedHealthcare and Optum. She is currently supporting the Senior Vice President of Policy & Strategy.
Jill is also the Director of Administrative Operations for Daylight Center and School which is located in Kenya. Jill supports the U.S. Director and Board of Directors in Minnesota.In her spare time, Jill loves to travel, enjoys plays, musicals and outdoor concerts. Jill is a Minnesota native who lives in the twin cities area with her wife, son, dog and four cats.

Jill Schons will be one of the distinguished contributors at the ELS Forum: Dallas October 23-34, 2019

If you could say something to people who think you’re “just an admin” or “just a secretary,” what would it be? What would you say to other assistants who still have that mindset?

In a recent team meeting we were all asked to explain our role in 5 or less words (but not using our title) and mine was “Air Traffic Controller”. As an Executive Assistant, I am constantly managing numerous projects and tasks that are all high priority (just like every airplane in the sky is a high priority). I believe we EAs are able to take the 30K foot view and know where things should land and what to prioritize first. We are the central role that everyone knows they can count on to give them the answer they need or the directions to get them where they need to be. Our roles are as valuable and important as the executives we support.

What is your biggest joy in the administrative support profession?

I derive so much joy in my role from the trust my team has in me. I love that they know if there is something they need done once they request it from me they can cross it off their list. No matter how large or small the task they feel they are my top priority and know it will be done.

When all hell breaks loose, what is your first step?

Breath!!! Things WILL go wrong. This is life, we’re all human and its bound to happen. In a moment that feels like everything is an emergency, take 15-30 seconds to sit back and think. Knowing the steps you need to take is important in these situations. 1. Assess the emergency; 2. Decide on a plan of action; 3. GO! Knowing we are only one person and can do only so much, if you can try to stay calm and just do what needs to be done, things will fall into place.

How do you practice self care?

I have learned that taking care of myself is a priority. Our roles can be overwhelming at times and we may feel like we’re on call 24/7 (and some of us literally are!), so making sure I prioritize time with my family and taking care of myself is key. I make sure I exercise regularly, even when I have to travel for work, get a good night’s sleep, and use my vacation time to recharge!