Employer: Angie’s List

Job Title: Executive Assistant to Angie Hicks, CCO

Degree Path: Bachelors in Fine Art, Kansas State University

Hometown: Inman, Kansas

Current City: Indianapolis, IN

What led you to your getting into tech and this occupation? What was your first job in tech?

I have an art degree, so I fell into tech unintentionally. I began working in the Angie’s List Call Center after moving to Indy. I was eventually tasked with handling the calls from customers that wanted to speak with our executives. That’s how I got on Angie’s radar and when the opportunity arose to work with her directly, I jumped at the chance.

What has been your career path so far?

My career path began in the medical field. I was planning to go to grad school to be an art therapist. But during a year-long stint as an art therapy assistant after undergrad, I realized I was better suited for something else. After a few years working for Habitat for Humanity, I began working with a surgical practice, helping with the management of the front office and coordinating with the surgeons. Unknowingly, that experience prepared me for working with executives. When I moved from Seattle to Indy, Angie’s List had openings so I took a chance since it sounded like a great environment to work in.

When you think of a day in your life, what are the main work activities you do or responsibilities you have?

Being in the tech world, things can move pretty fast sometimes, so no two days are really ever the same. From ‘normal’ things like managing requests for my exec and tracking budgets to organizing events and leading our company’s Foundation, I never really know what I’m going to encounter from one day to the next. But that’s the beauty of being an executive assistant: you have to think on your feet and problem-solve quickly as you go with the flow.

Help us picture your work environment.

I mostly work out of our new downtown office. It’s a beautiful and modern space and with a lot of open areas for collaboration. I enjoy interacting with people, so this role is great in that respect. I get to work with people from all departments in the company, in addition to working so closely with Angie. Day to day, my schedule really changes. Some days, I’m just working through my inbox at my desk, going to meetings, and making sure my exec’s day goes smoothly. But I also spend a fair amount of time meeting with community partners and occasionally will need to travel for commercial shoots or press events.

What do you love about the work you do?

I love the variety of projects that come across my desk. I appreciate working with such a great manager, who also happens to be a strong leader and role model. I have learned so much since I’ve been in this role. Continuing to learn as I encounter new situations is a big part of my job satisfaction and what has kept me interested in my current role.

Which personality traits, interests, and abilities are important or common for a person to succeed in and enjoy this occupation?

It’s important for someone in this role to be organized and professional, of course. But it’s also important to be flexible. Anything that can be planned, can be changed. You have to learn to go with the flow as things come up because things are bound to pop up. It’s imperative to be a good listener. You need to absorb all kinds of details so that you can anticipate needs and be ready to act when your exec needs you to. You should be comfortable being a gate-keeper. Deflecting requests politely is a necessary part of this role because you have to make sure your exec is accessible for the most important tasks that day. Prioritizing those requests inevitably means telling someone no.

Anna Linsenmeyer, Executive Assistant to Angie Hicks, COO, of Angie’s List, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. (Doug McSchooler/Angie’s List)

Which tools/technologies or technical skills are particularly important for a person in your job to be proficient in?

From my experience, there’s really no one system or technology. Being in the tech industry, we tend to adopt new programs every year, so the most important thing is to just learn how to make the most of whatever systems your company uses. Every program has tips and tricks that you can learn to make your life (and your executive’s life) simpler, so take the time to do that. Being proficient with email and your calendar system is a basic requirement, but see what else it can do for you.

Which soft skills (aka general business skills or employability skills) are particularly important for a person in this occupation to be proficient in?

For an EA, good time management is crucial. Having strong written communication skills is also very important since so much is done over email or text and you’ll need to be able to communicate clearly, sometimes on behalf of your executive. You must be able to prioritize and problem-solve on your own, but also know when to take requests to your exec.

From your experience with new grads applying for and beginning jobs in this occupation, are they missing any particular knowledge, skills, or experiences that hold them back? Please describe.

Two of the biggest things I’ve learned in my professional life were how to own my mistakes and how to take criticism. It’s tempting to pass the buck when things go wrong, but that really doesn’t serve anyone well. If you waste time pretending that you didn’t make a mistake, you’re just delaying getting to the solution. Own your mistakes and move forward. And if someone critiques what you’ve done, take a step back and actually listen to what they’re saying. What initially feels like a punch to the gut may be just the advice or the idea you needed to take you to the next level.

Which resources, people, books, websites, etc. would you recommend to those who want to learn more or advance their skills in this occupation?

“The Effective Executive Assistant: A Guide to Creating Long-term Career Success” by Chrissy Scivicque has very practical suggestions for someone new to the role of assisting executives.

What encouragement or advice would you offer to others considering this occupation or wanting to stand out amongst others?

A good attitude is huge! When you work as closely with someone as an EA does with an executive, maintaining a helpful and can-do attitude is vital. I mean, would you want to constantly be around someone who was persistently negative and acted like every request was a pain to do? Nope. Neither do they. You should be honest about your limitations. But you’ll accomplish far more if you say ‘I’ll figure it out’ instead of ‘no.’