Executive Assistant of the Week: Vancouver

Karen Dales
Executive Assistant to VP, Environment, Community & Government Affairs and the VP, People & Business Performance
Karen Dales is a highly engaged, senior executive assistant with more than 20 years of broad experience of partnering with C-suite executives. In this role, she manages more than the executive’s priorities: she also manages their energy, focus, mindset and relationships while facilitating and coordinating the appropriate flow of information and access to the executive team.
With a professional background in legal services and human resources and a management certificate from SFU, Karen excels at coordinating and continuously improving office administration and project management. She is a strong relationship-based communicator who consistently demonstrates influence and leadership. Karen’s role requires the utmost ethical standards; as such, she ensures highly confidential information is handled with diplomacy and discretion.
Karen will be one of the distinguished contributors at the ELS Forum: Vancouver on July 24-25, 2019
Is the executive assistant role a long-term profession for you?
Absolutely. I am a career EA and being an EA for over twenty years means that I have a keen awareness of just how much this role has changed. My first ever assistant job was basically a typist (using Word Perfect!). My male boss at the time called me “kitten” – which was not an uncommon platitude given to assistants back then, unfortunately. Today, as an EA, I work in partnership with my executive. I manage the executive office in a way that enables them to be as effective and productive as possible. I anticipate their needs, while managing their priorities in line with shared and understood goals, values, and objectives.
How do you describe your role when people ask what you do for a living?
The easiest way to describe what I do as an EA is to say that I’m a project manager and that my project is my executives. A more detailed explanation is to say that as an EA, I am in the fortunate position of learning from, and working daily with, the executive team of my organization. In my role, I manage more than the executive’s priorities: I manage their energy, focus, mindset and relationships while facilitating and coordinating the appropriate flow of information and access to the executive team. A large part of my role is to act as a gatekeeper. Though, this does not mean I keep people out; instead, I let the right people in at the right time. All the while, I ensure that the executive’s brand, their teams, and their interests are protected.
What is your favorite depiction of the EA role, accurate or not? (Mad Men, Veep, The Devil Wears Prada, Suits, etc.)
My favourite depiction of the EA role is Gary Walsh, Personal Aide to the former President Selina Meyer in VEEP. As her Aide, he is literally always by her side, telling her who’s who facts, making sure she has her speeches, carrying anything and everything she could ever possibly need or want. Their relationship is an intimate one where they share, at times, way too much information! He even took a “sneeze bullet” for her. So funny and, in some ways, very relatable.