Is AI going to steal your job as an admin or executive assistant? Rhonda Scharf talks with Peyton Ticknor about how you should be using AI and ChatGPT to stay relevant.
Recorded at the Administrative Professionals Conference 2023 and produced by the American Society of Administrative Professionals - ASAP. Learn more and submit a listener question at asaporg.com/podcast.
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Leah Warwick: Hi, everyone. This is Leah Warwick, and you're listening to The Admin Edge. This episode was recorded at the Administrative Professionals Conference 2023 in Las Vegas, and centers on a topic of high concern for admins today: AI. So settle in for this conversation between Peyton Ticknor, Senior Administrative Assistant; and Rhonda Scharf, an APC 2023 speaker and author of the book "Alexa is Stealing Your Job."
Peyton Ticknor: Hi, Rhonda.
Rhonda Scharf: Hi, Peyton. Nice to be here.
Peyton Ticknor: There might be somebody who's listening to this who doesn't know what AI is and what ChatGPT is, so tell us: What is AI? What is ChatGPT?
Rhonda Scharf: So AI is artificial intelligence, often referred to as "AI," just shortform, and it is intelligence that your machine learns. Very much like a kid learns, you hold a ball in your hand and you say to your kid: "Ball. Ball." You do the same thing with AI. It watches what you do online. It learns from everything you do, and then it uses an insane amount of data to predict what to do next. AI is really just machine learning.
Now, ChatGPT came out in November of 2022, so at this point it's almost a year old. The GPT stands for "generative pretrained transformer" — fancy trivia question for you. But basically, it speaks our language. It speaks a bazillion languages; ChatGPT is not just in English. And it speaks human-based type language. You ask it a question, and it responds to you.
ChatGPT is not even a year old.
ChatGPT is just one AI program, but why it picked up so many users so fast is that it's just like talking to another human, and it gives you the answer within seconds.
Peyton Ticknor: So now that we know the very basics of AI and what that is, and what ChatGPT is, it seems to be all the rage, all the hype right now in 2023. A lot of admins — I've seen chatter all over LinkedIn and in various Facebook groups. They're saying, "Is this going to take my job away? Are companies going to look to take the admins away and just use ChatGPT, or use this artificial intelligence to do their job?" I want to know what you think about that.
Rhonda Scharf: Heck, no. I wrote the book. I wrote it in 2018. It was published in 2019. [It's] called "Alexa is Stealing Your Job" because everybody said to me back then, "Rhonda, what's the future of admin?" And I off-the-cuff one day said, "Alexia is stealing your job," but she's not. She's taking away all the boring, monotonous stuff that we do so that we can do so much more. I say to my admins, "How many times a week do you go home and say, 'Ugh, you're not going to believe what they did today?'" Because we have so much institutional knowledge, we are administrative experts. We see when our companies are doing things the wrong way, the hard say, the not-so-smart way, but we are so busy doing busywork that we don't have time to have the conversation, make recommendations, but we all know it. We all have that expertise, right?
What AI is going to do is take away the stuff that fills about 90% of your day that you could do with your eyes closed. It's going to give you time to do that stuff that actually most of us really love. No one loves calendaring. It's Tetris. Okay, I get tired after an hour. But get me into the weeds of something deep, and I get excited about it, so it's going to open up the time for that.
Peyton Ticknor: I agree. One way that I've used ChatGPT just for this conference is I'm helping to lead the orientation tonight, so I was trying to come up with some '90s trivia questions, and I was just stumped, and so I went on ChatGPT and I said, "What are some '90s trivia questions?" and it popped out 10 questions for me, and I was like, all right, there you go.
I didn't have to spend the time to search the web. It just, boom, had it in 10 seconds. So that's one way that I use it. What's one way that you use it every day?
Rhonda Scharf: That's actually a really good way to explain the difference between AI and Google. Google will go find a hundred sites for you with trivia questions, but then you've got to go to each of those sites, but AI compiles that information and gives it to you, so just think of the time. It saves an incredible amount of time.
Think if you were doing a retirement party. I don't want to plan a retirement party. Tell me what I need to do. To me, it's the spark that sends me to the area that gets me excited.
Peyton Ticknor: That's a really good way to put it. I haven't thought about it like that, but I almost think of it as like a template builder, getting the bones and then I fill it in with the meat.
Rhonda Scharf: Yeah. I use recipes. Who really follows the recipe?
Peyton Ticknor: Not me! [laughs]
Rhonda Scharf: It just gives you an idea of what you should have in the house before you make that. Same kind of thing. It gives you the recipe, and then you add your special sauce into whatever you create.
Peyton Ticknor: And that's why AI is not going to take away our jobs, because we're human and it doesn't offer that human touch; it just gives us the bones that we need to do our job.
Rhonda Scharf: Absolutely.
Peyton Ticknor: Well, I appreciate you breaking that down and giving me a different way to think about ChatGPT. \
Rhonda Scharf: Stop sticking your head in the sand. I have heard from so many people, "I'm afraid of AI. I don't know what to do." And I'll say, "What have you done? What have you looked at?" "Nothing." Okay, stop doing nothing. Even if it's just listening to this podcast and you're like, "I don't even know what ChatGPT is," go on YouTube. Go to Google. Look at it. Look at all of the stuff that comes in the ASAP mewsletter. There's always AI stuff. And stop being afraid of it and start jumping in and just looking.
Peyton Ticknor: That is really good advice.
Rhonda Scharf: We are early in the curve here, but don't stick your head in the sand, because then you will be in trouble.
Peyton Ticknor: I would say I'm probably guilty of maybe sticking my head in the sand the first few months. When you say it came out in November of 2022, and it's almost a year old now, I was resistant for a good three to six months, and then I was like, you know what? I've got to figure this out if I want to be good at my job, and I want to be with the trends of today.
So I downloaded the app on my phone, I added it to my bookmarks, and I actually use it quite often now.
Rhonda Scharf: It's fun just to play with, even in your personal life. I'm gluten-free, so I can go to Google and search for 100 gluten-free recipes, or I can go to ChatGPT and say, "Give me a gluten-free recipe that's keto, low sugar," all of the things that I want — again, in seconds. Even if you just use it to your personal life, you get very comfortable, so don't panic about work yet, but don't stick your head in the sand.
Peyton Ticknor: Get comfortable with it for personal use, and then you'll be able to talk the lingo, and then you'll get a little bit more curious, and you'll figure out how to plug it in, in your daily work. Alright, well, thank you for that.
We had a listener question submitted anonymously, and so I'm going to read that and get your feedback. This person writes in: I'm an executive assistant, and I'm curious about how I can use artificial intelligence to be more productive and efficient. There was a lot of buzz earlier this year when ChatGPT came out around whether artificial intelligence is going to take away admin and EA jobs, but this doesn't seem likely — like you said earlier, Rhonda — at least for now. In the meantime, where should I start with making sure I control the AI tools at my disposal and not the other way around?
Rhonda Scharf: There's a lot of apps out there. ChatGPT is one and that's a research-type app or a creativity app. There's lots that are going to make your job as an EA easier. For instance, one that I'm familiar with that if you're not, you should be, is called EA Buddy.
It knows how to do all of that stuff instead of you going, "Now what are the different time zones? How do I do that?" I know we can all use like timeanddate.com, but that's going to give you one at a time. It allows you to do your scheduling. Certainly, Microsoft is getting way more AI-friendly in that we're getting Copilot coming, and you're going to see stuff like that, where it helps you.
Remember, back in the day, we used to have Clippy on Microsoft? Everybody loved Clippy, right? He'd jump up and go "I see an easier way to do this!" That's really AI. It's just a matter of time until those things start coming on. As soon as you see that we've got — I don't work for Microsoft, so I have no idea if they're bringing Clippy back, but if they're listening, I really hope they do — that type of thing, where it jumps in and says, "There's an easier way to do that"? We're getting more and more tools like that.
Lots of us use Canva. If you use LinkedIn, if you go to put an update — let's say you got your PACE certification, and if you type in the LinkedIn thing, it says, "Do you want me to AI this for you?" Well, yeah, tell me a nice way to say, "I just got my PACE certification." Play with that sort of stuff if you do social media or you do news broadcasts and things like that.
I use Grammarly. I think it's probably the best program ever made, and it's AI.
Peyton Ticknor: I have it plugged in.
Rhonda Scharf: Oh, I totally have it plugged in and have for years, and it learns Rhonda-speak. It learns everything. It just makes me way more professional and way more efficient, so these are all programs that exist right now that you build in as an EA that [are] only going to help you. I think anybody that doesn't use Grammarly is like, hello. You're hurting your reputation. Why would you not use this stuff, because it's going to save you time and it's going to make you look better.
Peyton Ticknor: Absolutely. I never even thought about Grammarly as being AI, and I've been using Grammarly for years. People who might be resistant to AI, they may already be using it, and probably are using it.
Rhonda Scharf: Oh, they are. If you're using Amazon or Netflix, you're using it.
Peyton Ticknor: Absolutely. Well, Rhonda, thank you for a great conversation. Where can our listeners find you online?
Rhonda Scharf: Everywhere! [laughter] So my hashtag, of course, is #adminsrock, because admins totally rock, so you can search that and find that, but you can also find me, Rhonda Scharf, and I'm easy to find and would love to connect with everybody, help them out, because I'm really excited about AI. Like I said, I think we're in the really baby steps, but I think our future is pretty darn strong, but don't say no.
Peyton Ticknor: Absolutely. Stay on top of it. Stay relevant. Thank you, Rhonda, for joining us today.
Rhonda Scharf: Thank you.
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, with audio and video production at APC by 5 Tool Productions. If you like this podcast, please leave us a nice 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 asaporg.com/podcast.