Admin Spotlight – Alexandra Marks
Name: Alexandra (Alex) Marks
Job Title: Executive Assistant to Founders (President & CEO)
Admin Avenues: Thanks for joining us Alex. I know you must be crazy busy so thank you for fitting us in your schedule. For our readers, if you don’t know Immutable and who Alex supports, you must be hiding under a rock but here’s a Forbes Australia article to bring you up to speed. Now, lets jump right in. How long have you been an Executive Assistant?
Alex Marks: It’s my pleasure. I have been an Executive Assistant for 11 years! I didn’t know that, wow!
AA: What did your first day as an Executive Assistant look like?
AM: I took what I guess you could call is the traditional path to becoming an Executive Assistant and started out as a Receptionist, then Office Manager and onto Personal Assistant. My first proper EA role was an EA and Office Manager hybrid role so I don’t remember anything specifically apart from my head spinning trying to get up to speed with who everyone was and what I was meant to do!
AA: From your first day to today, how has your definition of the Executive Assistant role changed?
AM: When I initially started out as an EA, the role was very transactional and reactive. We definitely weren’t viewed as business partners, invited to attend meetings and given context on anything that wasn’t need-to-know. Over time, I’ve found that both executives and executive assistants have realised that most EA’s are incredibly competent and have a lot to contribute. We can do so much more than scheduling meetings and booking travel.
AA: What has been your Executive Assistant career highlight so far?
AM: Definitely all of the travel I have been incredibly fortunate to have done. There’s nothing quite like spending time with your team away from the office and home and building connections that go much deeper than surface level hallway chat. A lot of my friends today are former colleagues that I share many happy memories and crazy travel stories with.
AA: How does your role at Immutable differ from your previous roles?
AM: My role at Immutable is different from my previous roles in a few ways:
- I’m supporting two executives now, whereas I’m used to working in a 1:1 relationship. I’m supporting both the CEO and the President which are both incredibly busy roles so that has taken some adjusting and a lot of work on my side to make sure I’m not dropping the ball anywhere.
- I’m supporting two brothers! Their working styles are very different so that has been a challenge for me to adapt the way I work for two different people at the same time. There’s often a lot of context switching throughout each day so I’m obsessively making notes and tracking everything we do. I also feel quite privileged that I get to work with them together and get to see how they interact as brothers, not just founders.
- The scale-up environment is totally different to an established big tech company. After working at Adobe for almost 7 years I was ready to give a start-up/scale-up a try. I wanted to go to a smaller company to have a greater impact and a chance to get involved in different parts of the business. It was exactly the change that I was looking for and is pushing me in ways that I really needed to keep growing and learning.
AA: What skills do you possess that you believe are crucial to your job?
AM: I think the number one thing is my ability to build relationships and lead with empathy. I try my best to always keep in mind that when someone comes to me for something, although it might not be important to me or my executives, it’s most likely very important to the person asking. So I always try to do what I can to help. However, I have learned the hard way that you need to keep strong boundaries otherwise you can end up taking on other people’s problems by accident!
AA: What is the one thing you cannot do without in your role?
AM: Slack! I really struggled with Slack when I first started at Immutable. I found it to be so noisy and confusing but when I finished my pity party and accepted that I needed to get on board I invested the time looking for hacks and now I love it. Not a day goes by that I don’t use it. We really only use email for external communications so everything internal goes through Slack.
AA: What are the tools you can’t work without in your job?
AM: One of my superstar EA friends shared this amazing new productivity software called Akiflow with me and I would actually be lost without it now. It is the one central place that I can send all of my tasks across the multiple platforms I work on (Gmail, Slack, Trello etc). It allows me to schedule and set recurring tasks to make sure that I never miss anything. I’m beta testing the app on my phone so as I remember things that I need to do on the go I throw them straight in. I love it!
AA: Can you recommend any helpful books, programs, or podcasts that you love?
AM: I’ve done a lot of reading since joining Immutable. My boss Robbie is a big proponent of continuous learning and I had a pretty decent list of reading to get through during my onboarding. I’m very grateful that he set that standard and I now commit to reading 2 development books per quarter as part of my cycle plans.
Some great books that I can highly recommend are:
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott – I’m an introverted person and giving or receiving feedback doesn’t come easily to me. This book has really helped me gain confidence to have different types of conversations with all kinds of people and to not take feedback so hard.
- The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch – this book was a game changer for me! Since reading this book I have saved so much time cutting out anything that is unnecessary and letting go of the guilt about not doing everything to 100% all the time.
- Burnout by Emily Nagoski – I would highly recommend this book to any woman who is feeling burned out and looking for some practical ways to overcome it. Read all of Emily’s work, she is amazing and a true champion of women.
AA: You have such an interesting and varied selection of previous industry experiences. What motivated the career changes you have made?
AM: To be honest, I’ve been very lucky with every opportunity that I’ve had. Until my current role at Immutable I have never made conscious choices to change industries, rather I went for the roles and companies that I was most excited about. Before I made the move to Immutable I sat down and worked out that I wanted to go to a tech startup next because of the specific experience that I wanted to gain. It’s a bonus that I’m working in web3 and have had to learn essentially a whole new language around what it is that we do.
AA: Do you think that your particular history gives you any unique insights or abilities in your EA role?
AM: I think by now I’ve seen almost everything that tends to happen in the corporate world so I can offer insights into how to or how not to handle things or perhaps flag something that hasn’t been thought about. Looking back now I think my experience in finance and legal teams set me in good stead to always be thinking about privacy and safely handling documents and information.
AA: What is the most exciting opportunity you have had as an Executive Assistant?
AM: I loved planning an offsite in Bangkok for 80+ people. It was so much fun and I got to manage the entire event end to end. It was a massive undertaking but the connections made through bringing our regional team together in one place for the first time ever was so rewarding.
AA: Do you have any tips that you would like to share?
AM: When the time comes for development conversations don’t shy away from sharing your aspirations. If they aren’t regularly scheduled, put a plan together and book the time in – be selfish. Nobody else is going to do this for you.
I spent so many years worried that if I said I wanted to do or learn something outside of my current role that it would upset my executive but I continue to be surprised by just how supportive most people managers are in investing time and energy into developing their staff.
AA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
AM: If you are given an opportunity, say yes! Even if you’re not sure you can do it, say yes and then figure out how you’ll deliver. EA’s by nature are resourceful problem solvers. Sometimes we underestimate what we can do. Tap your networks, colleagues or even ChatGPT and you can make anything happen.
AA: What advice would you give other admins thinking about changing companies/employers?
AM: Remember that you are interviewing the executive and the company just as much as they are interviewing you. Before you start searching, get really clear with what you want in your next role. Set some time aside to write down your “must have” list and say no to anything that doesn’t meet your criteria. Also, trust your gut and backchannel your networks about any companies or executives you’re thinking of working with to make sure you know what you’re saying yes to.
AA: What are your top tips for keeping your resume up to date and job-ready?
AM: I think like most people, I find updating my resume to be a chore but I’ve found that having a note in my phone helps me to track when I do something new or something of importance. I can jot a few points down and then when I actually sit down to update it I have everything there already. It saves so much time and brain power and ensures I never miss anything key.
Also buy a coffee for a friend in talent acquisition and ask for their feedback on your resume. I’ve had a lot of great feedback this way and then you get the opinion of someone who reads resumes all day.
AA: What do you consider to be the most difficult part of your day?
AM: I have a 3 year old little girl so definitely the most difficult part of my day is the morning routine. My husband has a global role and his meetings can start any time from 6am so it’s often a juggle trying to get everyone ready and out the door on time.
AA: How can our Admin Avenues community members connect with you?
AM: You can find me on Linked in HERE.
AA: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us Alex. There’s some nuggets of gold in here so thank you for sharing with us.
AM: Thank you so much for having me!