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Looking Back to Look Forward

One of my favorite blogs. Submitted to and published by Executive Leadership Support Forum.

Taking a stroll with Gracie

Looking Back to Look Forward

By: Trish Stevens Stadler

I recently took a stroll down memory lane, feeling nostalgic about my esteemed career as an Executive Assistant and I found by doing so, it really grounded me in the knowledge that I am truly doing what I love to do. Take a stroll with me…

I guess it all started when I was in grammar school. My school was across the street from my father’s law office where he and my grandfather owned a private practice in a cozy converted home right in town. I loved going there after school and playing with all the machines. The IBM Selectric, the adding machine (yup, I’ve been around a while), the supply closet made me giddy. The files and the filing cabinets gave me goosebumps and the library with all the text books and the long conference room table (which now adorns my dining room, if that table could talk!). The “secretary’s” (this was the 1960’s) were all so nice to me (I didn’t understand the concept of Dad’s the boss so of course they are). They let me sit on their lap and type away and pull the handle of the adding machine (how annoying, over and over). I loved it all.

Fast forward to high school graduation and not having a clue what to do, I attended community college and ran a photo store in town. A friend of mine was working at a big company in my area and they needed a secretary so I came in and got the job. I was a natural when it came to organizing and typing, I had always surpassed everyone in my high school typing class, freakishly so. I was in my element, I found my thing. I was good at it because I loved it and I wanted more. I wanted to tackle the big city!!! One day, in between jobs, I sauntered into the city with a friend of mine, we were huge fans of the soap opera “All My Children”. We parked ourselves at a restaurant near the ABC Television studios on the upper west side of New York City when all of a sudden, who walks by: the star of the soap opera, Erica Kane (Susan Lucci), we were awe struck. It was the coolest thing for us small town girls from New Jersey. So, my friend suggested that I get a job at ABC. I walked into the lobby of the ABC building on 66th and Columbus and politely asked the woman at the front desk if she happened to know what temp agency they might use (figured this is best way in), and she kindly informed me that she herself was there from an agency and gave me the name.

The next day, I am in the office of this agency and the application asks, do you have a preference as to where you want to work, and yup, I wrote it down, ABC!! The next thing you know, the owner of the agency calls me in to her office and asks, “can you get to the ABC offices by 11:00am for an assignment?” Not knowing what is uptown, downtown, east side, west side at this point, I say yes and take the address. I call a friend and ask, “how do I get here?” They calmly replied, “go out to the corner, put your hand up and say Taxi!!!” Well, the rest is history. I started my long career at ABC Television, and over the span of 14 years I supported the head of the Corporate Travel Department, the Executive Producer of ABC Sports (best job ever!) and, finally, to one of the executives at ABC News, my news career did not end there, I went on to CNN to follow a great newsman I had the pleasure to work with in the hallowed halls of ABC News, he literally had me at hello as he was making his announcement to the news team that he would be leaving ABC News for CNN, I was typing an email to him pleading “take me with you” (think Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire). Finally, to round out my television career, it was off to the beloved British Broadcasting Company (BBC) where I was the EA to the President, a very well-known television executive.

After 20 plus years of working in the city, I hung up my subway card and train pass and came back to the suburbs. I continued my career as a seasoned executive assistant locally for highly regarded tech firms (as there were no television studios down at the jersey shore). I continue to support C suite executives at globally recognized firms when the right opportunity comes my way, in the meantime, I love what I do and now coach other executive assistants who might need to be inspired to love what they do or do more for their executive or have better work relationships with their bosses and other colleagues. I have been around a while and have been through just about everything: from tragic loss of one of my favorite bosses in a plane crash, to hardcore, tough as nails 24/7 CEO, to many great opportunities such as producing a vignette for ABC Sports and also working on the College Football halftime show. Yup, me the executive assistant, producing! I travelled a bit here and there for my job. I handed a pencil to Warren Buffet. The late (great) Peter Jennings, anchor at ABC News, carried my bags to my desk. I worked for a television executive who lived in the same building as Bon Jovi (hey I’m from New Jersey, that’s big!) I love what I do. If you don’t love what you do, maybe think back to how it all got started and retrace your steps. Perhaps come back into it from a different perspective, find a parallel in your childhood play that started pointing you to your true North and follow the trail. ∞

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