Looking for ways to use AI in your daily work as an admin or executive assistant? Tech experts share their tips, predictions, and takeaways from the AI hype cycle. Featuring Molly Denham (Vexa Software), Haefa Mansour (EA Buddy), Matt Martin (Clockwise), Matt Oden (Execify), Alex Bayer (Vimcal), Kevin Jacyna (Circleback), and Melissa Peoples (Admin Gurus).
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. I'm Leah Warwick, and you're listening to The Admin Edge. This season was recorded at the Administrative Professionals Conference 2023 in Las Vegas, and we're doing something a little different with this episode. At APC, we had a lot of people come into the podcast booth to talk about how AI and new tech are transforming the administrative profession, so we're going to share some of those clips with you. First, a conversation between me and Molly Denham.
Molly Denham: My name is Molly Denham, and I am CEO of VEXA Services. It's a virtual executive assistant agency. I'm also CEO of VEXA Software, which is what I'm here at APC for this year, because we are launching our new software called VAST, which is a calendar and contact functionality.
Leah Warwick: Just for EAs?
Molly Denham: Just for EAs. I'm an EA. I've been an EA for 30+ years. I created it for me to fill a void, and I figured, I can't be the only one that has this problem, and so I got with a software developer friend of mine and brought a piece of paper and said, "Can we do this?" [chuckles] That's where it came from.
Leah Warwick: Wow, that's a long time to have been in this profession. Tell me how you've seen it evolve over the past 30 years.
Molly Denham: Oh, it's been a lot. I will date myself a little bit. When I first came into this profession — I was in the Air Force for 22 years, and I was an admin while I was in the Air Force. I had the typewriter on my desk. I had the steel cabinet behind me. I had the actual inboxes on my desk. I remember our first computer that we got. We had a computer room with a computer in it, and I was kind of designated the person to learn what it could do.
I remember when email first started, and only select people in the office had email access. I've been around a little while. I've seen it evolve a lot and it's exciting. Everybody says, "Oh, it's going to take over my job." They said that about computers. They said that about email. No, your job just evolves, and you have to evolve with it. Your job doesn't become obsolete. You become obsolete if you don't embrace [it].
Leah Warwick: It's such a great perspective. We've heard that at APC. It's interesting, too, with AI. It's just the next thing that people are afraid of, or any kind of automation.
Molly Denham: Right. Because it's brand new and you don't understand it. I'm a virtual worker now, so I work at home. The amount of information that is out there is just astounding, but the admin community has really embraced AI, and the amount of webinars that are out there, the amount of online information that's out there, is just amazing.
There's a lot of free information, so I don't have to pay for it, because I still don't understand it enough to know what I'm paying for. So it really surprises me how much the admin field is embracing AI, which I think is wonderful because it's the future.
Haefa Mansour: My name is Haefa Mansour. I am the founder of EA Buddy, which is a small startup that brings AI tools to admin professionals. So we've been leading trainings on showing people how to use the platform, also just kind of more general AI training and advice. This is such a hot topic and something that folks are really excited about, so it's been cool to see the energy.
Less than a year ago, I was working at a consulting firm, and my desk was right next to the team of EAs. We were both doing a lot of scheduling and they had so many fantastic ideas for internal tools that they could develop to make things easier. I have a background in technology, so I was like, "Wait, let me just build a couple of these for you." In a weekend project, we made a couple of the simple tools that they requested. They absolutely loved it, and it kind of took off from there. It spread across the company, someone posted about it on the internet, and then other people found out of about it. It's grown very organically. It's been very cool to see.
Matt Martin: My name is Matt Martin. I am a cofounder and the CEO of a company called Clockwise. We're here because we've seen so much conversation in the space around admins, executive assistants, around AI and what help can it provide? What threats does it maybe present? For us, as a calendar automation company — that's what we do at our core; we work with great companies, like Netflix, Uber, Atlassian, and Chime, where we help provide better schedules for everybody in the organization — we've seen how AI, when harnessed correctly, can really help empower people. Even though it's for power users of calendar, like so many admins are. It's been an area of conversation that I've been really excited to be able to participate in, and having great conversations at the conference.
One of the things that's been mind-blowing to me is the range of scope and control that I find here. Some folks, they work with one exec, traditional, kind of straightforward relationship. They're supporting that exec. Some are supporting 5, 10, 50, 70, and it just blows my mind that a single person can be asked to help out across a 70-person scope of control. It just seems insane.
That's a story that I've found so common here, is that people are being asked to handle more and more and more, either because of the economics of the moment, where companies are more and more under the gun to increase profits, or they're just looking at how they can get more leverage out of those EAs. Their scope of control is high. They're overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that they have on their plate. And I think, whether it's a company like us that does time management and scheduling or if it's another tool, something that helps empower those folks to do more of the high-leverage work that really makes them strategically required and essential to the business is a huge value-add.
Matt Oden: My name is Matt Oden. I am the CEO and founder of Execify, and we build a modern software platform for executive assistants. What's amazing about this particular event is the concentration of EAs that come in, from all over the country. And you see as you meet dozens and hundreds of people really, because we've had so much activity at the demo booth and people looking at our software, is there's a common thread. Although they'll span industries from high tech to education to government, they all share this palpable problem set, and they seem to be able to come to an environment like this, connect with each other, and really create a strong network of allies and advocates as they map their careers. It's incredible here.
One of the things that I showed in the talk this morning was the Gartner Hype Cycle on AI for 2023. We're at a point right now where AI is hyped to the max, especially the generative AI. AI has been out for 20 years, but generative is the thing that everyone's talking about right now, so we're at the peak of the Gartner Hype Cycle. We're at the top of the curve, in the beginning, right? The peak of expectations.
EAs, professional admins, are having tool after tool after tool thrown at them, which is not sustainable at all, because you can't pay $40 for this $20 for this and get a big sprawl of software that's maybe not compliant with your IT department. So what we're doing here, in addition to sharing our platform, which consolidates a lot of different AI tools into one tight set of workflows for EAs using AI, is we're actually sharing in the morning talks different quick-hit AI tools and showing a realistic view of how people are using AI today. And the way that people are using AI today is by kluging together a bunch of technologies.They're going from the Bing window over to the beautiful AI window to make their decks. We walked through a whole offsite event creation workflow where you make a deck and a calendar all using AI tools. We come up with a logo using Bing's DALL-E 3 image optimization.
It's a time where EAs have to really figure out: “How do I work, and what tools are going to work for me?” I think it's a time to pick up on four or five of them for the day-to-day work or for the image generation or for the text processing and summary capabilities and work them into your toolset while this market matures. But on Execify, we create AI prompts that are completely related to all of your execs' emails, their calendar invites, your open tasks, and you can drive AI workflows that'll help you complete things like agenda creation, moving meeting times with your voice — like "push my one-on-one back 30 minutes." We're putting that all into one platform so people can consolidate some of that tool, without getting too much sprawl and too many tabs open in their browser.
Alex Bayer: My name is Alex Bayer, and I work for a company called Vimcal, but we're building a calendar specifically for EAs called Maestro, with the idea that EAs are the conductor of the organization (hence the Maestro). Vimcal has been a company for four years now, and we initially were selling to people with a lot of external meetings, like founders, CEOs, people who work in venture, private equity — busy people who spend a lot of time in calendar.
Obviously, EAs spend a boatload of time in their calendar, so that became a pretty pattern — huh, EA, EA… we should do something about this. We ultimately wanted to do a spinoff on a dedicated calendar for EAs because their needs are really inelastic. They can't mess up. If they mess up, people get angry and they shouldn't be getting that angry, and it's a whole human disaster. So we want to make sure they can trust fall on a good calendar that is made for them. That's why we have different executive profiles. If an EA wants to put a hold on an executive's calendar, maybe some exec wants it in all capitals, or maybe an executive wants it in all lowercase. People are very particular, and if you're not meeting their particularities... it's not a good day for you at that point. Specificity and catering to the specific execs is what we're trying to enable.
Kevin Jacyna: I am Kevin Jacyna. I am a cofounder at Circleback, and I'm here getting to know EAs better, more about their problems and how we can help them with Circleback, which is an AI-powered meeting tool that writes incredibly accurate meeting notes and action items. The number one thing that stands out is just how incredibly engaged and eager to learn this group is. I've been pretty blown away by that. It's really cool to see how many questions we're getting around AI and how eager people are to understand and best leverage this technology. It's been inspiring to see. APC as a whole has been amazing. It's my first time being here, and Circleback's first time. We'd love to be back. It's been an incredibly well-run event, and we've loved every second of it.
Leah Warwick: Finally, here's APC 2023 speaker Melissa Peoples talking with me about her experience at the event, using AI, and the power of knowledge sharing in the ASAP community.
Melissa Peoples: My name is Melissa Peoples. I'm a speaker here at APC. I think this is year four — four or five. I love it. It's the highlight of my year. I am talking all about AI in action and strategic calendar planning, so lots of really cool stuff for administrative professionals that are just trying to get to that next level and be really strategic in their role. It's been so much fun. There's so many people here, I can't even believe it. I think that APC is so great because people are so excited, and there's such empowerment here.
You're around people that are likeminded, so when you get to have fun, there's lots of laughing and real stories that other people don't get. They don't get the jokes that we tell to each other, so it's always fun.
For me, the way that you do that is you go look [at]: “What am I spending the most time doing that is really technical?” The lower-level meeting management, not like the strategic calendar planning, but just the real tactical pieces — moving around a hundred one-on-ones, or if you are writing communications for your team and you realize that you're procrastinating because you always have to start from scratch. I know that's me. If I have to write something that's very long or complicated and I'm starting from scratch, I just procrastinate because it's easier to go with something than nothing. I always tell people, "Go find something that is taking you more time, and then let's find an AI tool that can help you go faster," and then you've got two wins right there, right? You've just increased your bandwidth and you've gone faster, and now you're using a tool.
I think that there's so much information here, you can't help but get fired up.
Leah Warwick: Of course. That's why ASAP exists, too. So when you leave APC or EA Ignite and you say, "Oh, I wish that I could've learned more. I didn't go to every session I wanted to go to," we keep the training going year-round. Melissa Peoples is one of our fabulous webinar hosts. We do webinars. We do courses. We provide downloads, templates. We also have a community online called Circle. It doesn't have to stop when the conference ends.
Melissa Peoples: Right. Yeah, and I think that's the thing, right? People are coming here and they're making connections, because when you get back home and you're trying to implement the things that you learned, and maybe you met somebody and you have this connection or they give you advice on something, it's such a great way to just call, like, "Hey, walk me through how you did that again." Not just the learning, but the community and the relationships, I think, are really important. And then we always see people that'll come back, like, "This is my fifth year, and I'm so excited." It's just a brilliant opportunity.
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.