5 Keys to Getting a Great Executive Assistant

5 Keys to Getting a Great Executive Assistant

How to find and keep a CIO’s best friend

When Eugene Nizker, then CIO of Custom House Currency Exchange in Vancouver, first met Jessica Raichl, he doubted her ability to be a great assistant. For one thing, she seemed young for the responsibilities of the job (she was 24). For another, when faced with her trademark energy and optimism, he thought she was "putting it on".

Great assistants take pride in anticipating what executives need before they even needs it, in being organized and reliable so that the department runs seamlessly

In fact, she turned out to be the real deal. Raichl won him over in the interview, and although they both left the company toward the end of 2006 — she for a temporary stay in China with her husband, he to become an executive at PRJ Group — Nizker would be thrilled to hire her back. Four years later, he speaks of her in glowing terms, and it's not hard to understand why. Even her photo and e-mails pulse with enthusiasm and motivation. His team "loved her" — she executed her day-to-day duties and more, often working 10-hour days. She found frugal ways to acknowledge everyone's birthday, ordered out food unasked when the team was working late, protected Nizker's time and protected the department from the cops (more on that later).

"Indeed, my assistant was the face of the entire division," says Nizker. "The amount of energy and enthusiasm in this young lady is unbelievable."

Great assistants take pride in anticipating what an executive needs before he even needs it, in being organized and reliable so that the department runs seamlessly, and in being just the right mixture of friendly and protective. For their part, great bosses are equally protective, providing generous amounts of appreciation, opportunities and training.

Thomas Jarrett, CIO and secretary of the Delaware Department of Technology, has also been blessed with a wonderful assistant. Dawn Hill, Jarrett's executive secretary, was working in the governor's office when she heard that a new department was being created. Jarrett was charged with dissolving the old Civil Service IT department and rebuilding it from the ground up. "It was literally like starting a start-up company within state government," he says. Building a department from scratch, an IT department that would be run like a business, with a team that was performance-based and a compensation schedule set by Jarrett and company. An unusual situation and challenge to be sure. Jarrett's assistant would have to help him build a department from scratch, and since he came from the private sector, helping him and his department build relationships throughout the state government would be critical. He or she would also need knockout interpersonal skills, availability 24/7, the ability to accomplish secretarial duties while helping to build relationships with everyone from the governor to legislators, judges, representatives of the school systems and so on.

Because a newly created department was clearly an exciting opportunity, and because the compensation would be competitive, Jarrett had no shortage of interested candidates, but Hill was the only one he spent two hours talking with. She was motivated, enthusiastic and proactive — she had done her homework on what the job would mean.

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

More about BlackBerryBossLeaderLeaderMicrosoft

Show Comments