A Day in the Life: Consultant Profile
A Day in the Life of an Administrative Assistant: Colleen Davie-Janes
A New Yorker since 1992 and a graduate of Boston University, I’ve been pursuing a life in film since 1991. To pay the bills and stay alive, I’ve been a temporary employee of Wall Street Services on and off since 1996. I’ve worked as an actress, an agent and a film coordinator. I’ve travelled to Iraq as a Production Manager on an award winning documentary. I’ve directed theatre, performed stand-up comedy professionally, and am now directing and producing films. For the last five years, I’ve worked to get my first feature film off the ground, and to my joy it is scheduled to film in the spring/summer of 2012. “Never give up, never surrender” is my motto, and it appears to be working. In the meantime, I have relied upon my skills as an Administrative Assistant to pay the bills, and let me tell you, it has made me better at my “real” job of film. There is no better boot camp for film production than to work at the top tier of a Wall Street bank.
WHERE I WORK
I currently work at one of the top investment banks in the world, i.e. one that has thus far survived the economic turmoil around the globe. I have been on assignment as a “floater” for over a year.
My hours are technically 9-5. My true hours are usually 8:30-5:30, as the busiest time on the desk is 8:50am until the closing bell. Depending upon what group I’m in, my day goes something like this:
I arrive and let the other admins know I’m in. We have a tight system of phone coverage. We all support partner’s of the firm, and it is imperative that phones be answered by the end of the first ring. I check the calendar of my PMDs (Partner Managing Directors) and check my grid of who is traveling and where they might be in the world in order to anticipate any needs.
Besides the PMDs, I also support 20-40 additional VPs, Analysts and Associates. At any given time, 10 of them could be traveling all over the world, and arranging and staying on top of travel, hotels, cars, and getting approvals for every portion of travel is a not stop flurry of work. Not to mention the hours you spend on the phone with the travel department when things do not go smoothly, which is often.
10 minutes before a PMD has a meeting, I email him/her to make sure they are on time. I then email the person they are meeting with and either 1) it goes smoothly or 2) we have to push and reschedule later the same day. Usually, that happens when there is no space open the same day, but everything needs to happen NOW, TODAY, and so you become a master at manipulating a calendar. You must know the hierarchy of the company, and whose meeting you can move, whose you cannot touch, which admins will work with you easily and which ones, unfortunately, will not. By the time you surface from the morning rush, it is 1pm.
In any “spare” time I have, I process the travel and expense reports for all 20-40 people. This requires, usually, chasing down receipts from people who are too busy to remember where their taxi receipt from Brazil is located. But, due to compliance issues, I must have receipts for everything, and so, it is not rare for me to call Hong Kong and ask a car service to email me a receipt with only the cost amount as a record of reference. This, needless to say, takes a long time. Multiply that by the amount of people and the amount of receipts missing, and you can imagine, T&Es take several days to process. Not always, but usually.
Other duties include creating Power Point presentations (an absolutely necessary skill for an admin nowadays) and filling out paperwork for Visas. I fill out the Visa forms, get them to the embassies, and follow up to get the visa back in time for the traveler. Often these are rush jobs, and attention to detail is imperative. I deliver mail to everyone, and generally make their lives as easy as possible so they can do their job seamlessly.
My best advice for anyone pursuing a career as an Administrative Assistant is to be very focused, have an amazing memory, really love helping people out, have unending patience, and be able to work with some incredibly difficult personalities. Approach each day as a fun challenge.
What I love about being an admin is the non-stop action and the myriad of personalities. It goes with my love of directing and people watching, I just really enjoy the human interaction. It is NEVER boring. The hardest part of being an admin is that you are a helper, you are customer service, and as such, there’s no time for being down, or grumpy, or having a bad day. It’s your job to make everyone else’s day easier, so suck it up and smile!