Dayna Richardson has worked in reception and office assistant roles for several years since she came to New York in 2013. With a degree in communications and a knack for delegating tasks, she naturally fell into higher level executive assistant roles as she gained experience as a temp worker at several different offices. She was kind enough to sit down with us and take us through the ins and outs of this often hectic role.
How did you become an executive assistant?
I was looking for work that was flexible. I started working with a temp agency, doing smaller office projects at first, then moving on to reception work. I gradually moved up to executive assistant at the various offices they placed me in.
What were you doing before?
I was working reception at an investment firm in midtown.
Did you understand what the position would be like when you applied and did you have any idea what an executive assistant actually does?
I thought I did! But there are things that pop up that aren’t in the description or even if they do describe it, they don’t give you the full brunt of what you’re about to experience. I‘ve had to play this role before but it was nowhere near as involved as what I do now.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I schedule meetings and answer A LOT of emails and requests. I make sure my executives get to their meetings, the rooms are set up properly, things like that. This can include making their expenses and reservations. Every now and then I handle personal things like doctors appointments. It’s a lot of herding people to make sure they get to things on time. In terms of office management, I sometimes help the receptionist in restocking the fridge, and other things specific to my team (booking flights, reserving cars, hotels, etc…).
What do you think is most important for someone on an operations team?
You have to be very proactive and you have to try to think 2-3 steps ahead of everyone in the office. You should know what your team needs before they need it. You also have to be the event planner and a ton of things that you necessarily didn’t go to school for, but it’s still expected of you!
How do you establish goals for yourself and the company?
I talk to everyone about where they’ve been as a company and what did or didn’t work before. I focus on what needs to be fixed or improved and prioritize tasks for myself in terms of how soon it can get done. I collaborate with my manager to determine exact deadlines but if everyone around me is too busy I usually set my own benchmarks.
What do you love about your job?
I love when it’s crazy but I make something work. I love the sense of accomplishment when I can complete something or maneuver a project with everything going against it.
If you could give advice to yourself before you started what would it be?
I would tell myself to not take anything personally. It’s easy as an executive assistant to take blame on yourself when someone on your team doesn’t show up to a meeting, or misses an email. But you have to realize there’s only so much you can do and that whatever the mix-up is, it probably won't be the last.
What’s the hardest part about being an office manager/administrator?
Different personalities, different demands and juggling different priorities. Sometimes you just have to be the person to say “no” for whatever reason and not a lot of people like to hear that.
What are you most proud of in your role?
What makes me happy is knowing that I leave the office better than when I found it, that I changed things for the better for the next person coming after me.
How do you communicate with remote employees?
Usually through email or phone. Sometimes it’s difficult to get a hold of people in different time zones but usually a direct phone call works to get people in line.
What software does your company rely on most/ project management tools?
Outlook, Slack, Ring Central, Zoom (if other companies send the invite).