Admin Spotlight – Liv Wilson
Name: Liv Wilson
Job Title: Snr EA & Business Partner to Head of APAC
Our Admin Spotlight for October is the amazing Liv Wilson (crowd goes wild). Liv’s originally from the UK and has lived in Sydney, Australia for 13 years. She married the IT guy from work (this has proven very handy through the pandemic). They have two canine fur children, Kevin and Barbi. When not being a super star Executive Business Partner, you can catch Liv playing netball. She’s also a keen creator of fun graphics to articulate some of the complexities and challenges of the EA role. Without further ado, please give it up for Liv Wilson 🙂
Admin Avenues: How long have you worked in admin?
Liv Wilson: I’ve been an admin professional ever since my first job working as an admin assistant in the office of our local cricket club when I was a teenager – which was longer ago than I care to admit!
The roles I’ve had over the years include admin assistant, receptionist, procurement administrator, and office manager – and in each of those roles, I have partnered with people and teams to help them to be successful. I have spent the past decade specifically focussed on providing Exec level strategic support.
AA: What did your first day as an Executive Assistant look like?
LW: I was working for a boutique consultancy firm as EA to the CEO. The first day was really about getting everything organised! That meant sorting out the CEO’s diary, her office, her files. And then getting to know her; her preferences, her dos and don’ts, her priorities and goals. This role taught me that although we may want to jump straight in and become that ‘strategic partner’, it doesn’t happen overnight – you need to create solid foundations first; get to know each other, get the transactional side of things in place, and as you get to know the Exec and the business better, and most importantly – build trust, you’ll be able to progress to being the trusted advisor, sounding board, and strategic partner.
AA: From your first day to now, how has your definition of the Executive Assistant role changed?
LW: The biggest realisation I’ve had since working in partnership with Execs over the years is that while many people see this as an admin role, it’s really about people. Sure, you need excellent admin, organisational and technical skills but I believe the key to success in this role is in building relationships with the Executives and their teams, finding out what makes them tick and what their priorities and goals are, and having the creativity, courage and confidence to help them achieve them.
One thing that has remained consistent in all my years in this industry though is my belief that the EA is there to manage their Exec’s time and focus, and do whatever it takes to enable the Exec they support to be successful. One of the many things I love about this role is that every EA is different, every Exec is different, and every partnership is different – figuring out what works for you and your Exec is all part of the fun.
AA: What has been your Executive Assistant career highlight thus far?
LW: Joining Slack as the first EA in region to partner with the Head of APAC as he’s grown the business here. Since I joined him in May 2021, the ANZ and India teams have grown significantly, and we have established a new team in Singapore, many of whom I played a big part in onboarding.
I have been able to help him build out his leadership team, finding ways for us all to connect and get to know each other, and implementing operational structure and business processes. I have been given the autonomy and support to make the role my own, and my Exec and I have worked together to establish trust and respect and build a strong partnership. It’s been the role every EA / Business Partner dreams of and I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity.
AA: How does your role at Slack differ from your previous role at LinkedIn?
LW: I think a big part of an EA /BP role is to help create and maintain a strong culture. Coming to Slack right before a period of significant growth meant I could contribute to growing the culture here, whereas at LinkedIn that side of things was already quite established.
Also, I supported two Execs at LinkedIn which was great for getting exposure to different areas of the business. Supporting multiple Execs takes a certain set of skills, and I take my hat off to all the EAs out there that do it! But my style is far better suited to 1-1 support which is what I have now here at Slack.
AA: What skills do you possess that you believe are crucial to your Executive Assistant role?
LW: I believe creative thinking is essential in this role; figuring out how to solve problems or how to get to an end goal – and having the courage to put your ideas forward. I also think a good eye for detail, ability to think on your feet and identify areas for improvement and efficiency are important. My (somewhat cheesy) mantra is ‘Make things happen, and make things better’
AA: What is the one thing you can not do without in your job?
LW: Well – I have to say Slack, not just because that’s the company I work for, but the fact that I literally live in Slack all day long. It’s changed the way I communicate and do my job and I think I would struggle to move back to an email environment after experiencing the dynamic and transparent communication platform and Digital HQ that is Slack.
AA: What are 3 items you can’t work without?
1 – My trusty notebook and pen. No matter how far technology advances, for me, nothing beats that pen to paper feeling, and being able to look back at those handwritten notes and lists. And I LOVE a fancy notebook with my name on the front.
2 – My phone – being a strategic business partner is not a 9-5 job, especially not in a Global company! So having everything on my phone means I can get away from the desk, walk the dogs, go to the gym etc without worrying about missing any important messages.
3 – And finally I would have to also say my ring-light because I am on a LOT of zoom calls every day and I need all the help I can get when it comes to lighting and filters.
AA: What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of your position as an Executive Assistant / Exec Business Partner?
LW: Without a doubt it’s the relationships I’m able to cultivate, not just with my Executive but everyone across the business. EAs are in the unique position of having contact with people across the board; for example if we’re in a period of rapid hiring, I’ll be working closely with the recruitment team; if there’s a big event coming up I’ll partner with the comms and marketing teams, and I am in regular contact with other EAs globally. I truly love getting to know people and hearing their stories and working on projects with them, so I count my lucky stars that I’ve found a career that allows me to do that.
AA: What’s your admin superpower?
LW: I think there is still a misconception around admin roles that ‘anyone’ can do them. While there are some skills that can be learned, it takes a special set of innate attributes to be an EA; to want to do a job that centres around other people’s success. One of the key things an EA needs is a high EQ and I think I have been blessed with that. I have strong intuition and I’m able to pick up on subtle nuances in language or behaviour which flag that something that may be going on for someone or there may be some potential issues or challenges coming down the line which I can get on top of and raise with my Exec.
My other superpower is my curiosity – and my ability and willingness to respectfully ask questions.
AA: What do you consider to be the most difficult part of your day?
LW: Calendar management – it is a vastly underestimated skill; far more complex and time consuming than most people realise. I don’t dislike it, I actually find it quite satisfying – but what I find a little frustrating is that most people just see the end result – the beautiful, perfectly colour coded calendar – and they don’t understand or give credit for the time, energy, negotiations, strategy and problem solving that have gone in to making everything fit!
Another challenge I and I’m sure many other EAs have is when people communicate directly with our Exec about business issues and don’t loop us in. For an EA / Exec partnership to operate at the highest level, we need access to all the information and comms they have so we can identify areas where we can help, and ensure the Exec stays on track with all their incoming and outgoing requests.
AA: Can you recommend any helpful books, programs, or podcasts that you love?
LW: I recently came across the Courageous Help podcast series from Base which I am loving! Some great advice for EAs in 30 min episodes so easy to fit into a busy day. Also a shameless plug that I will be recording an episode with them soon! You can tune in here.
AA: You have such an interesting and varied selection of previous work experiences. What motivated the career changes you have made, and in particular what made you move to the tech industry?
LW: One of the great things about this profession is that it can take you anywhere – every industry needs admin support! I’ve worked for an oil company, an animation studio, small companies, big companies and I have learned so much about different ways of working through each of those experiences. I have definitely found my home in tech though because it’s fast moving, innovative, and creative and I feel like it’s a great fit for my personality and work style.
Pretty much every career move I’ve made has been due to outgrowing the role I was in and not seeing any scope for progression within the company. Sadly this is all too common for admin professionals. We are ambitious and are continually striving to learn more and do more and if that’s being stifled or we’re stagnating in the role then I think it’s a sign it’s time to move on.
Progression doesn’t have to necessarily mean a role or title change though. If you partner with an Executive or team who supports your growth, there are plenty of opportunities to increase the scope of your role through taking on more projects and investing in professional development.
AA: What role have you owned, or what experience have you had, that helped shape your career?
LW: My role as EA to the CEO at a Government agency taught me so much and absolutely confirmed that this was the right career choice for me.
My Exec was appointed as CEO not long after we started working together, following a restructure. It was his first CEO role and together we navigated through the challenges and opportunities that come with essentially rebuilding a company from the ground up.
I also had the unwavering support of the business operations manager; she interviewed me, saw my potential, and became a confidant, cheerleader and mentor to me. She had a huge impact on my career and in turn I strive to pay it forward and help to empower other admin professionals to see their worth and value.
AA: Do you have any tips that you would like to share?
LW: Have confidence in what you do. Working so closely with Executives means they have to place a lot of trust in you and they need to know their time and information is in safe hands! And have the courage to speak up – if you see something that could be done better or have ideas, share them!
AA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
LW: Never let anyone else hold you back. It’s important to listen to advice from others but don’t let them get in your head and dictate what you can and can’t or should and shouldn’t do. Often as admin professionals we are underestimated and people who have never been in this profession are quick to pass judgment on what we’re capable of. Don’t let anyone put you in a box – seek out your community who will empower and support you, and carve your own career path.
AA: What advice would you give other admins thinking about changing companies/employers?
LW: You are a huge asset to your organisation. If you’re not happy or being treated with the respect you deserve, find somewhere that will appreciate you. By nature, admin professionals are very loyal but it’s important for us to prioritise our careers and go where we will be happy and successful and have opportunities for progression.
AA: What are your top tips for keeping your resume up to date and job-ready?
LW: Do it while you’re still in your current job, don’t wait until you start looking, you never know when a great opportunity might come your way and you don’t want to be scrambling to pull it together.
Also – your CV is important but so is your LinkedIn profile! These days it’s the first place potential employers will go to find out about you. I didn’t even apply for my role at Slack – I was approached through LinkedIn! So make sure your profile photo looks good and you’ve filled out your profile page – and keep active on LinkedIn, it’s also a great place to connect with others in the admin community.
AA: Is there anything else you would like to add?
LW: Just a huge thank you Candice, for the opportunity to speak to you, and for all you’re doing for the admin community!
AA: How can our community stay in touch and follow you?
LW:Please connect with me here on LinkedIn
AA: Thank you so very much for your time Liv. What an incredible story and gems of advice. Thank you for sharing it with the Admin Avenues community.
Want to be featured on The Admin Spotlight?
We’re always looking for admins to share their experiences, advice and tips with our admin community. If you would like to be featured, send us an email at [email protected].