How to Be an Intrapreneur

April 9, 2024


Admins and EAs are well-positioned to influence and innovate within their organizations. Intraprenerushup expert Dr. Chithra Anand shares ways you can take initiative and make an impact on your business today. 

Recorded at EA Ignite Fall 2023 and produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals - ASAP. Learn more and submit a listener question at

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Leah Warwick: Hi, everyone. I'm Leah Warwick, and you're listening to "The Admin Edge." This episode was recorded at EA Ignite Fall 2023 in Austin, Texas. Maybe you've heard of entrepreneurship, but what about "intrapreneurship?"

Intrapreneurship involves developing innovative ideas within a company, to which administrative professionals and executive assistants today are well suited. My guest, Dr. Chitra Anand, presented a keynote on this topic and wrote the book "The Greenhouse Approach: Cultivating Intrapreneurship in Companies and Organizations."

Dr. Chitra Anand: I grew up in the technology industry. I spent about 25 years working in large, complex companies, like the equivalent to Verizon. I spent about 10 years there, and then some time at Microsoft, and then a few years at a software company.


I always found myself at the intersection of always questioning why we were doing the things that we were doing. Why didn't we experiment more, shift ways... and always sort of questioning the status quo, and I also observed the rate of change. It happened so slowly amongst these large, complex organizations. 

I started to, over the years, be assigned to projects that required transformation, and the more complex the problem was, the more drawn to it I was. Then I started to develop skills around being able to deal with those levels of complexity within large organizations, and I found myself [hearing], "Well, give that to Chitra. She'll be able to trailblaze through the company to make things happen." I started to develop a bit of a brand, like, "She makes things happen quickly. She knows how to get things done." 


I have a passion for academia because my family is academic. My father is a retired principal and has a PhD and master's, and my sister does. I never thought I would be an academic, but I certainly wanted to give back and leave a bit of a legacy to companies. So I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to produce a body of knowledge where companies can start to use it and institutionalize it within, around something meaningful? So I took my time in the field and developed a thesis around intrapreneurship. 

This is going back 20 or 15 years. I started to think about entrepreneurship inside a company, and how could we create more of a deliberate model, a way of thinking, in order to ensure that companies thrive. 


The EAs inside these companies are quite powerful and quite influential, and have access to many different things in terms of the business because they do see things across the board, from finance to HR to ops to marketing, and they have the ear of the CEO. [EAs are] like this hidden powerhouse inside the company, yet they don't get the attention perhaps that they deserve. I was listening to a couple of the women talk at my table, and they said that they want to develop more of a strategic lens. 

I think that [EAs] are naturally are in tune and inclined to be strategic thinkers because they have access to all of this knowledge, and they can start to look across the board at all of these different cross-sectional teams and initiatives, and start to ideate around: How do these teams come together around particular problems or issues? [EAs] are equipped with the insight and the foresight around intrapreneurial thinking, where they can take problems and look at things from a multidimensional lens, and then offer those solutions back at the C level, quite honestly. 


They're almost like this superpower that exists within companies, where they can start to flex that muscle a bit more intentionally. 

Leah Warwick: Right. I heard someone mention, "We're already innovators. We're innovating all the time, every day," and I love that you brought up that innovation is not just bringing a new product to market. It's about: How can we innovate our processes? Administrative professionals are masters at innovating processes and being on the fly, and so creative. What kinds of tools would you recommend? In terms of, you talked about the intrapreneurial process, what are some tools that they can put into action to start being that leading voice and strategic voice at their organization?


Dr. Chitra Anand: The fact of the matter is they have access to a vast amount of knowledge and key insights, so I think, as an EA, it is incumbent upon them to start to look at things from a more holistic perspective and say, "If we're trying to solve for X problem in the organization, I see all of these things that are variables or that can influence how we solve for that."

Start to put those ideas into practice, whether it's a business plan, whether it's a new business model, and start to take that seed of an idea and cultivate it into something that's much more meaningful. So if they're coming across—and I talked about data—data where they start to see things that could influence the organization in a positive way, start to extract that knowledge and turn it into something that's insightful and bring that knowledge to the table, to the C-suite, and say, "Hey, look. If we're trying to solve for this, here's a potential solution where I've extracted this information, and I've come up with a new potential solution," or a model or a process or an approach, "in order for us to do that." 


Many organizations are operating on a bunch of assumptions that may or may not be correct. Start to challenge those assumptions and say, "Hello, Ms. CEO. I've seen us try this before, but what about trying it from this point of view?" because [EAs] have the ability and the foresight to be able to see things in a completely different light that somebody else may not be able to have seen. 

They can also act as a conduit of information that can be passed onto the C-suite. During my keynote, I talked about this concept of insularity, where people get stuck within their organization. They don't know where to go, how to go. They want the C-suite to have access to information, but they don't know who that conduit could be. 

During my time at Telus, for example, I did work in the office of the CEO, and many of the sales teams, for example, wanted to table a problem that was impacting customers, and they wanted [the CEO] to be aware of it. So, who could that conduit be? Why not be their EA, who is right beside [them and] has that person's ear? Really reimagining the value of that role and taking a very proactive approach in preventing things from happening on the negative side and really creating proactive opportunities. 


It can be overwhelming at times. I would pick the top priorities that are where the CEO is focusing their time, and then try to be a critical addition to solving for that. So, if there [are] three or four priorities that she or he is working on, take those and take the initiative of studying what that is. What does it mean from a data perspective? What are the things that you're seeing, whether there are reports, whether there [are] cross-functional teams that may touch you, and turn that into something meaningful for your leader. 


From there, really start to shift your role into a more strategic advisory [role], to say, "I know that these are the things that you're working on or that keep you up at night," whether it's a new product to market, whether it's a revenue problem, whether it's a customer problem. "This is what I'm seeing, based on some of the data that I've seen, and here's where I think we should focus our time." 

If you start to shift the conversation, you [can] change the narrative, if you will, from things that you don't want to focus on to more of the strategic conversation. Then, very naturally and organically, the relationship and the dynamic shifts. It's not going to happen overnight, but if you start to do that slowly and over time, then very quickly the value is being shown, and the nature of your role will shift. It's really incumbent upon you to take active participation. You're accountable for the value that you bring, right? And it's really about showcasing that in a meaningful way, and not being afraid to take a risk and say, "I know we're focused on this. I've got some insights. Here's what I've read. Here's what I've seen. Here's what I think we should do." 


And then continue that dialogue and then continue it again, and then that shift just naturally happens, but you have to be an active participant in the journey, and you have to start that shift. 

Leah Warwick: Thank you for listening to "The Admin Edge," produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals. Original music and audio editing by Warwick Productions. If you liked this podcast, please leave us a five-star review wherever you listen to podcasts, and subscribe. If you want to send a listener question, you can submit via the form on our website at

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