These Assistants Are Leaving a Legacy

November 7, 2017


Administrative professionals Holli Campolongo and Chris Weldon live in different professional environments. Holli is an Administrative Assistant in the Research and Development Department at corporate giant Procter and Gamble. Chris is the Executive Assistant to the CEO at the Indiana Soybean Alliance, an organization that works on behalf of agriculture and soybean farmers in the state. Holli and Chris were both 2017 finalists for ASAP’s Eureka Award—for very different projects: Chris for a G-suite Migration project and Holli for a technology newsletter.

What Holli and Chris have in common is much more important: each of them has successfully created and executed a project to address a need in their organization that went beyond their individual performance and these projects enhanced efficiency and productivity across the organization. Holli and Chris both innovated within the organization to meet a need and solve a problem; they got buy-in for their ideas and effectively implemented them. They have made their mark beyond their position and made a difference in their organization.

What does it take for an idea to become reality…for one person to make a measurable difference in the operations of an organization? How can pursuing a goal and making a contribution beyond your own performance take your own career trajectory to another level?  We asked Holli and Chris to tell us more. Read on.

The Projects 

Holli Campolongo’s project, "The Productivity Professor," is a newsletter developed based on her observation that the generational gap in her company left many experienced employees feeling uncomfortable with the quickly changing technology of today. With P&G’s goal of becoming a more efficient and digital company in mind, she saw an opportunity to share her knowledge of all things software within the company to make technology user friendly for even novice users. This “bottoms up” project—begun at the staff level has been a great success. Holli has gotten “amazing” feedback. It's also spun into "tutoring" people 1:1, where Holli can make possible for people to ask their questions in a private, less intimidating setting.  She’s expanded her network 10 fold! Her distribution has grown from 100 people at one location to over 1200 people at five sites.

When Chris Weldon was hired, he was almost immediately tasked with organizing board meeting minutes and committee minutes for three organizations that work under the Alliance.  Each organization had three separate boards consisting of at least two committees; each met four times a year, and minutes went back to 2007.  As he began the project, Chris found that the on-site server was maxed and the Alliance faced the decision of moving to a larger, much more expensive server, or looking at moving data and file sharing to a cloud-based server.  After researching cloud-based servers, he presented a cost-benefit analysis to our senior directors and CEO.  Following his recommendation, they chose to migrate their file storage system to what was Google Apps for Work at the time, and is now G-Suite.  Over the period of two months, he collaborated with staff and G-Suite help representatives to transition both staff and boards to the Cloud.  Once the migration was complete, he created a variety of Power Point presentations for staff and board members so they could understand how Google Drive and various Google Apps worked and how they could save time, energy and money while making file sharing easier and more efficient. The result of the project was a successful time- and money-saving initiative that allows for instant collaboration, file sharing and storage of more than 500 gigabytes of predominantly non-media data. New staff and board members have on-boarded seamlessly and given positive feedback regarding the ease with which they can work, live-collaborate and share their files.

How They Made It Happen 

In general, what role did goal setting play in the success of your project? 

Holli: I think setting a goal and having a direction to aim for was extremely important in the success of this project. Going out on a “ledge” and sending this brand new newsletter and standing up and letting everyone know “I’m an expert” was so terrifying!!! My biggest fear was “what if I don’t know the answer?!” I had to set a goal for myself to push through these initial fears. My goal was – send 1 newsletter – ask for feedback – plan your next move.

Chris: Goal setting was critical to the success of our project because of the broad scope, complexity and timeline of the project.

Did you articulate your project purpose and specify its goal and objective from the beginning or did they evolve as you worked?

Holli: Both. It was important to have the larger goal to aim for – could I make this newsletter a monthly thing? However, it was also important that I remained flexible and let the newsletter “flow” where it needed to go in order to be a success.  Goals to me are always a work in progress, sometimes you need to tweak them – you may end up setting a goal for something you didn’t realize was possible at the beginning!

Chris: As an EA, my timeline was given to me.  Because of the stress that was being placed on our in-house server, it was a firm timeline that needed to have clear objectives accomplished and there was little room for delays.  After evaluating what currently served as our file storage system (goal #1), I set a fairly aggressive schedule in which most of the objectives were set from the beginning.  That only varied when I came across particular obstacles that forced me to adjust my objectives. 

How did you go about planning the project –were there any particular tools or techniques that were really helpful?

Holli: As tech savvy as I claim to be – I’m totally old school when it comes to planning… It’s my brain, a sheet of paper, and a pen! I outlined what would be in my first newsletter, what I would talk about, what screen shots I would need to make the instructions make sense, my “target market”, How I wanted people to see me after reading it and what potential topics I could include on future newsletters should this one be successful. Our brains move so quickly sometimes, sometimes it helps to have an outline on paper.

Chris: There is so much software out there that it can become overwhelming.  I didn’t have time to learn any new planning software programs, so I went back to the basics: pen, paper, dry-erase boards and markers.  In the end, it was the right move because it facilitated more effective presentations for our senior directors and CEO.  Everything seemed more tangible when it came to a whiteboard, which was important when trying to get buy-in.

Looking back is there anything you would change about your process?

Holli: Well, I definitely didn’t realize my distribution would grow from 100 people to over 1200 people in such a short time. I wish I had had the confidence to push this out to that many people from the beginning. Each newsletter I put out the distribution grows; I’m now global!

Chris: Of course.  Due to the short timeline, I would have gotten more input from the staff as to the structure of the filing system and what would best and what they saw as challenges.  I also would have spent more time on educating the board members and staff, possibly even bringing in an outside source.  As far as the whiteboard and simple project sketches, however, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It made such a difference.

Do you think this project will impact your next performance review--and how?

Did the project meet any of your performance objectives?

Holli: This project has been career changing. In such a large company the ability to be visible across categories is difficult. I’ve increased my visibility, virtually introduced myself to over 1000 people and branded myself as an “expert” when it comes to Microsoft/Most software issues. This newsletter could help me get that next role – you never know!

Chris: I do not know whether the project will impact my next review, even though it did meet some of my performance objectives.  I don’t believe enough people realize yet the amount of time and money accomplishing this project has saved.

From a personal perspective, what influence, if any,

has goal setting had on your career and/or advancement?

Holli: It has always been important in my career to have a goal, something to strive for. I’ve never been OK with doing to bare minimum, when I accomplish a goal I’m immediately setting the next goal. This mentality has not only gotten me advanced, it’s allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and grow.

Chris: This project, as well as past projects and advice from my current workplace coach have all convinced me that though it can be the most tedious part of a project, it is just as important as placing the capstone in order to finish the project.  My goal setting in the project enabled me to grow in confidence when it comes to seating career and life goals because the goal and objectives serve as the foundation of the future progress.

Thank you both for your time and for sharing your experiences

—and congratulations!!

“Eureka!” is an exclamation used when one finds or discovers something. In other words, “I’ve got it!”  The Eureka! Award is sponsored annually by The American Society of Administrative Professionals (ASAP) and is the only national award that recognizes administrative professionals for successfully executing innovative projects that solve organizational problems or meet organizational needs. Our goal is to shine a light on administrative professionals whose contributions make a difference and benefit the organization.

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