Looking Back to Look Forward

By Trish Stevens Stadler, Executive Assistant/Manager Tata Communications & Mentor and Coach to Executive Assistants

I recently took a stroll down memory lane, feeling nostalgic about my esteemed career as an executive assistant and I found by doing so, it really grounded me in the knowledge that I am truly doing what I love to do.

Take a stroll with me.

I guess it all started when I was in grammar school. My school was across the street from my father’s law office where he and my grandfather owned a private practice in a cozy converted home right in town. I loved going there after school and playing with all the machines. The IBM Selectric, the adding machine (yup, I’ve been around a while), and the supply closet made me giddy. The files and the filing cabinets gave me goosebumps and the library, with all the text books, and the long conference room table (which now adorns my dining room; if that table could talk!). The “secretaries” (this was the 1960’s) were all so nice to me (I didn’t understand the concept of Dad’s the boss, so of course they were nice). They let me sit on their lap, type away, and pull the handle of the adding machine (how annoying, over and over). I loved it all.

Fast forward to high school graduation. Not having a clue what to do, I attended community college and ran a photo store in town. A friend of mine was working at a big company in my area and they needed a secretary, so I came in and got the job. I was a natural when it came to organizing and typing. I had always surpassed everyone in my high school typing class, freakishly so. I was in my element, I found my thing. I was good at it because I loved it and I wanted more. I wanted to tackle the big city!

One day, in between jobs, I sauntered into the city with a friend of mine. We were huge fans of the soap opera “All My Children”. We parked ourselves at a restaurant near the ABC Television studios on the upper west side of New York City, when all of a sudden, who walks by: the star of the soap opera, Erica Kane (Susan Lucci), and we were awe struck. It was the coolest thing for us small town girls from New Jersey. So, my friend suggested that I get a job at ABC.

I walked into the lobby of the ABC building on 66th and Columbus and politely asked the woman at the front desk if she happened to know what temp agency they might use (figured this is best way in), and she kindly informed me that she herself was there from an agency and provided me the name.

The next day, I am in the office of this agency and the application asks, do you have a preference as to where you want to work, and yup, I wrote it down, ABC! The next thing you know, the owner of the agency calls me in to her office and asks, “can you get to the ABC offices by 11:00am for an assignment?” Not knowing what is Uptown, Downtown, East Side, or West Side at this point, I say yes and take the address. I call a friend and ask how to get there. She calmly replied, “Go out to the corner, put your hand up and say Taxi!” Well, the rest is history.

I started my long career at ABC Television, and over the span of 14 years I supported the head of the Corporate Travel Department, the Executive Producer of ABC Sports (best job ever!) and, finally, to one of the executives at ABC News. My news career did not end there, I went on to CNN to follow a great newsman I had the pleasure to work with in the hallowed halls of ABC News. He literally had me at hello as he was making his announcement to the news team that he would be leaving ABC News for CNN. In response, I typed out an email to him pleading “take me with you” (think Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire). Finally, to round out my television career, it was off to the beloved British Broadcasting Company (BBC) where I was the EA to the President, a very well-known television executive.

After 20 plus years of working in the city, I hung up my subway card and train pass and came back to the suburbs. I continued my career as a seasoned executive assistant locally for highly regarded tech firms (as there were no television studios down at the jersey shore). I continue to support a C suite executive at a globally recognized technology firm.

I still love what I do and now also coach other executive assistants who need inspiration to love what they do, do more for their executive, or have better work relationships with their bosses and other colleagues. I have been around a while and have been through just about everything: from tragic loss of one of my favorite bosses in a plane crash, to hardcore, tough as nails 24/7 CEO, to many great opportunities such as producing a vignette for ABC Sports and also working on the College Football halftime show. Yup, me the executive assistant, producing! I travelled a bit here and there for my job. I handed a pencil to Warren Buffet. The late (great) Peter Jennings, anchor at ABC News, carried my bags to my desk. I worked for a television executive who lived in the same building as Bon Jovi (hey, I’m from New Jersey, that’s big!) I love what I do.

If you don’t love what you do, maybe think back to how it all got started and retrace your steps. Perhaps come back into it from a different perspective, find a parallel in your childhood play that started pointing you to your true North and follow the trail. ∞

Trish Steven Stadler is a seasoned administrative professional, experienced in multiple industries including 18 years in the television industry, as well as various technology firms. Sought out mentor and coach, she loves what she does and loves to pass on her experience as the role of the executive assistant evolves and becomes more significant to the C Suite executives of today.

Trish will be one of the distinguished contributors at the Executive Leadership Support Forum: New York City on September 12-13, 2018. The Executive Leadership Support Forum is proud to share her story.

Keeping a forward thinking mind is crucial for any executive assistant. Tackling new challenges will prove your worth to a busy executive. The Executive Leadership Support Forum provides executive assistants the confidence and technical knowhow to achieve their highest goals.

If you have not attended an Executive Leadership Forum in the past, we hope to see you at one of our upcoming forums in New York, Seattle, Minneapolis, or Dallas. If you have attended one or more Executive Leadership Forums, we encourage you to describe your experience in the comments below. The Executive Leadership Support team is endlessly thankful for all of the past, present, and future attendees.

For more information on how the Executive Leadership Support Forums can provide you the professional development to succeed within your career, visit: www.elsforum.com/events