Why Professional Development Matters

February 27, 2024


Interested in attending an event like APC as an admin or executive assistant, but not sure if it’s worth it? Hear from your peers on the benefits of having a budget for training and acquiring new skills, connections, and inspiration for career advancement. Featuring APC 2023 speakers Joshua Washington and Paul Pennant; ASAP Advisory Board members Norma Lemon-Turner, Krista Hopkins, and Peyton Ticknor; and APC attendees.

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

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Leah Warwick: Hey, everyone. I'm Leah Warwick, and you're listening to The Admin Edge. In a previous episode, we shared some clips from the Administrative Professionals Conference 2023 of attendees sharing the benefits of PACE certification. For our final episode of season one, here's even more about the importance of professional development for admins, starting with Donnisha Peacock, program specialist at the National Science Foundation. She begins by sharing why she came back to APC for a second year.

Donnisha Peacock: I came back because I had a great experience the first time. The first time I went was when you guys did the conference back in 2019, in New Orleans. The people were very welcoming there. I came by myself, and I ended up meeting these ladies at the airport. We just had a really good time. It is a great environment, where you can network with people, meet likeminded people like yourself.


I come from an organization that's mostly geared towards science, and so we feel like sometimes our positions don't matter as admins, and to finally go to a confidence that's geared toward your actual job title is just great. It's amazing. You learn a lot. You learn about people skills, communication skills, time management, burnout. It's just really geared toward helping you progress in your career, and that's what I like about it. 

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Leah Warwick: Next you'll hear from one of our APC 2023 speakers, Joshua Washington. 

Joshua Washington: A lot of people don't know what an assistant actually does. I think that is a great opportunity to kind of paint from a blank canvas. I would always encourage admins to make sure that you think about: Where do you want to go in your career trajectory? Then define your role based off of that. Make sure your role is specific to that point. 


This is my favorite group of people to coach and train with. I've coached up and down the C-suite, but what I love about executive assistants is they are hungry for the knowledge. I never have to worry about a disengaged group when I'm talking to a room full of EAs because... they're always attentive, and I think for a speaker, coach, or trainer, that is just so important. 

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Leah Warwick: Here's another of our APC speakers, Paul Pennant, talking about the importance of professional development for assistants. 

Paul Pennant: There's not often a budget for people who are assisting the leaders in an organization. Anybody who's trained better is going to do their job much more effectively. The one thing that's really funny about not having a budget for assistants is you could take all the world leaders, put them in the United Nations, and the world carries on. You have one or two admins leave their office, and everything seems to fall apart. So it's really essential that the assistants we have in our organization have high-quality training.

I think the one thing I've learned is, the only person responsible for your career is yourself. You might have a wonderful manager. You might work in a very enthusiastic organization. Or sometimes it's yourself that [has] that desire. Just asking your executive for some more professional development might be something they'll say yes to because, probably, with the pressure they're under, it may not be something they've thought of before. So you need to take responsibility for your career, and the first way to do that is to ask to go to events like this. 

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Leah Warwick: Now you'll hear from Peyton Ticknor, Senior Administrative Assistant, who sat down with some attendees to talk about their experience at APC. First up, Executive Assistant Norma Lemon-Turner.


Peyton Ticknor: I've got Norma here with me today. Norma is on the Advisory Board with me. Norma how many times have you attended APC? 

Norma Lemon: I have attended APC 10 times over the last 13 years.

Peyton Ticknor: Oh, wow. That's wonderful to hear. Tell me about a session that you've attended at APC this week, and tell me about something you learned in that session that you're going to bring back to your job.

Norma Lemon: Absolutely. So I actually attended that session today. The name of it was called — and I have it written down, just for clarity — was Leadership Principles for Executive Team Leads and EAs.

Peyton Ticknor: Who led that session?

Norma Lemon: Lisa Olsen did. And oh, my word, it was such an amazing session. She had such great tips. She's been an EA for about 20 years. She's moved around to different companies. She had some really, really great feedback for us, for not just those EAs who lead teams, but for also those EAs who are in managerial positions but don't have any direct reports. So it was pretty cool.


One key thing I took away — well, there were multiple things I took away, first of all, but one thing that stuck out to me was she mentioned a conversation she had with one of her mentors, and her mentor always mentioned to her that you, as an EA, have the keys to the driver's seat of your own car. You don't allow anyone else to say to you, "Hey, you should do this. You should do that." You are driving your own vehicle. You have the keys. You can start it up and turn it off when you feel like it. I thought that was really, really powerful; because sometimes as EAs, we feel like we don't have the power. But we honestly do. We don't realize we have so much power there. So I thought that was really good. 

The second thing I thought was super important that Lisa talked about in her session was she talked about when you provide feedback to someone. Sometimes feedback can come off as a negative connotation, like, "Hey, wanted to send you a note and provide you some feedback," and you're thinking — 

Peyton Ticknor: Uh-oh.


Norma Lemon: It's an instant red stop sign, right? But what she said is, sometimes it's about reframing it. So she suggested that, instead of you saying, "I'm going to provide feedback," [say] "I'd like to provide something called feed forward," which is ultimately your way of saying, "Hey, loved your concept. May not quite agree with 100% of it, but let me provide some additional feed forward information so that we can work collaboratively together to come up with a solution for what we're doing." So I thought that was super, super amazing.

Peyton Ticknor: That is really good advice.

Norma Lemon: Yeah, I thought it was great.

Peyton Ticknor: Because I do think when someone sees the word "feedback" they just automatically close off.

Norma Lemon: They shut down, yeah. And imagine if your supervisor says, "Hey, I want to provide feedback," you're thinking, oh lord. What have I done? What's happened? Instead of saying, "Hey, have some feed forward information for you. I'd love to share." And you're coming in and you're excited like, oh, my goodness. What is it?

Peyton Ticknor: I like that. Thank you so much, Norma, for coming and chatting with me about your session. It sounds like that might be a session I need to look into.

Norma Lemon: Yes, it was super awesome. Thank you for having me, Peyton. I appreciate it. Good seeing you.

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Leah Warwick: Next, let's hear from administrative professional Matthew Williams.

Matthew Williams: With APC, coming here — this is my third conference now — I'm very technological and very Microsoft-oriented. A lot of these sessions have elevated my knowledge and awareness of different products. Also, with the different types of instructors and their backgrounds, it has given me actual Microsoft certifications to say, "Hey, you've done this. Look, you're certified. Here's your little badge."


And I can bring that back to my work and be like, "Hey, see? I am progressing my career. I am getting extra knowledge," and all of that enhances my ability to support my team more efficiently. And now I have a network of people I can reach out to any time, and they will support me. 


Peyton Ticknor: We talk daily, our group. We have a core group that we've all met from conferences. Matt met several people in Chicago. I did not get to go to Chicago in 2021. And then Matt came to Florida, to Orlando, last year in 2022. I met Matt, and we've just built this whole network of our core peers, and we're all over. He's in Alaska. I'm in Tennessee. We have people in North Carolina. We have people in Pennsylvania. We have people all over the United States, but we all come together at this conference once a year. It's kind of our reunion. I don't see us ever not coming to APC.

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Leah Warwick: Finally, Peyton talked with Krista Hopkins, executive assistant and fellow ASAP Advisory Board Member, who shared why it's so important for her to attend events like APC each year. Krista speaks first.


Krista Hopkins: I will never forget coming back from my very first conference and just... I was by myself and the whole week it was just me. But I remember coming back to my office and just thanking my boss for letting me go, telling her how amazing it was, and I just never looked back. 

Peyton Ticknor: So you've been attending for about 10 years?

Krista Hopkins: Mm-hm.

Peyton Ticknor: Wow.

Krista Hopkins: Well, I missed a couple years in between, with COVID and kids, but yeah, for the most part.

Peyton Ticknor: Wow, that's impressive.

Krista Hopkins: I have a supervisor who is 100% all about professional development. She was very much on board with me being on the Advisory Board. She was very much on board with me attending two conferences a year. I don't have to write up a report to take back to her because she understands — which is a lot different from previous supervisors — that what I might not get out of a session, I'm definitely going to get in networking, because she has seen me pick up the phone or email or FaceTime with all of these amazing people that I've met to ask questions that I might be stumped on. 


So I'm very lucky. I don't have to ask for a whole lot. 

Peyton Ticknor: For me, I'm not shy, and so I will just ask. The answer might be no, or the answer might be "bring me more information," so I almost go into it with more information than they might want as far as attending the conference. I know out on the ASAP website there are templates that you can play with, a letter that you may want to email your boss to ask for approval for PACE or for attending the conference. They have that built in. So I have used that in the past.

Now that I've been attending for a few years, and I've been on the Board for a few years, it's just a given. If I want to go and advocate for myself above and beyond what I'm already doing, I actually don't know how I'd do that, other than just ask, right? It doesn't hurt to ask. But always come with all the information when you ask, so make sure you pull budget. It doesn't have to be to the dollar amount, but you want to pull a budget of how much is this training or this event going to cost? How long is it? What are you going to do there? What is the outline? What is the content? Are you going to be able to bring it back and share it with other admins on our team, that kind of thing? 


So when you go to ask and advocate for yourself, make sure you have all the information right there, ready to go, when you ask. 

[music playing]

Leah Warwick: We're ending this final episode of season one with Mary Wilkins, administrative assistant for the Office of Regulatory Policy at the Farm Credit Administration. 2023 marked her fourth year attending APC.

Mary Wilkins: So my initial conference, I came by myself and I stumbled onto a group of introverts, and we met up and we started to go to everything together. I found my people, my village, through APC, so now, even if some of the other ones can't come, I still come, because I always meet new people and it's worth it.


It just helps me to come out of my shell. I'm sure you can't tell now that I'm an introvert, but yeah, it just helped me come out more. 

Training is important because staying on top of my skills, knowing what's going on in the industry, changes in the industry standards, knowing where I should be going to develop myself presently and also for future goals, because I want to be able to advance... Coming to APC keeps me on the top of my game. 

The importance of attending APC, to me, is there's a toll, an emotional toll, from being in the administrative service industry. Often, we are overlooked, we are underpaid, and sometimes taken advantage of. To be around people who understand what that feels like — because it can be very hurtful when you're giving your best, you're doing your best, and at times you see people who it appears aren't doing as much as you're doing, and you're the go-to person, but the other people are the ones who get the accolades and the training in different things. 


So when you can be around peers who understand what it feels like — and it can be hurtful — but to have an opportunity to be around people who can encourage you, who can lift you up, and often they'll give you some practices: "Try this. Do this. Don't do that." Or they'll tell you, "Hey, you better speak up for yourself and ask for the things that you deserve. Make sure that you're doing your inputs and you're keeping track of what you do throughout the year, so at the end of the year you know everything that you've done, and you can legitimately sit down and ask for what you deserve, and you have the reasons in front of you." 


To me, that's why I support it, because you have the camaraderie and everyone coming together in a synergy that only admins can create together. 

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Leah Warwick: We hope you enjoyed season one of The Admin Edge podcast. We'll be taking a break in March, and coming back with even more episodes in April — or, as we like to call it here at ASAP, Admin Month

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.

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