25 Years in Perspective – Three Seasoned Assistants Share Their Insights!

December 28, 2016


What aspect of the profession has changed the most over your career?

Kathi Henriksen, Amazon Consumer Marketing (Previously EA to President of Concur) - “I remember interviewing for a receptionist role back in the early ‘80’s. The key requirements for the job were a typing speed of 75+ words per minute, and knowing how to use a facsimile.  They also wanted to confirm the highest number of phone lines I'd answered previously.  Obviously, things have changed dramatically! Having just gone through an interview process again, the requirements are extremely different.  I was asked to describe situations where I influenced my executive in their decision-making process, or had made decisions on my executive's behalf.  There were a lot of questions about building the executive's brand and being able to easily navigate the multiple layers you’re exposed to when you support a high-profile individual.”

April Stallworth, Executive Team Assistant/Superintendent Cabinet, Waukegan Public Schools  - “The aspect of the profession that has changed the most over my career has been our serving more and more in a managerial role as opposed to just an administrative one.  When I first began my career my duties were very clerical in nature, such as typing, filing, phone coverage, etc.  As I have progressed and become more seasoned, I find that I am being called upon to manage my office, my bosses, processes and the like.  I stand shoulder to shoulder with the other professionals on my team and my level of responsibility is just as great as theirs.  This is something I am thrilled about as I know Administrative Support Professionals are quite capable of increasing levels of accountability.  We need to just be given the opportunity.”

Cathelene Thomas, Chief of Staff, Railinc Corp. - “I think the greatest change I have noticed is in the role shift from a traditional assistant that schedules meetings and makes copies, to a partner that assesses the needs of their executive, takes a strategic view, plans meetings, does that preparation and  the materials, and really manages their executives daily activities. When I first started, my boss told me what needed to get done in a day. Now I let my boss know what commitments he has internally as well with our external customers. I take the leadership role, really manage his obligations, and make sure he is prepared.”


What advice would you give your younger self-related to your career?

Kathi Henriksen, Amazon Consumer Marketing (Previously EA to President of Concur) - “Stay in school and finish that degree!  There have been many opportunities that I was not considered for because I did not have a college degree.  Some may think that a degree isn't a relevant if you're in the administrative profession but that is not the case.  Unless you have the job history (i.e., industry-related experience of many years), recruiting will not even consider you.  When you support the CEO or President of a multi-national company, you need to be able to converse intelligently about the business, what's happening in the market, and world events. You'll interact with leaders of other companies, and with your executive's direct reports.  A college degree will help prepare you for those conversations.  I'm delighted to say that I've been accepted for summer session 2017 at WSU to finish my degree in Sociology.  It's never too late.”

April Stallworth, Executive Team Assistant/Superintendent Cabinet, Waukegan Public Schools -I would tell my younger self that you are more powerful than you know.  You are not less than because you are an Administrative Support Professional.  Quite the contrary, my Dear.  You, in essence, are the most powerful person in the office.  You are a wealth of information and knowledge that the entire team looks to in times of great pressure, tight deadlines, and unreasonable demands.  You are the one who sets the tone for excellence and you have everything within you to win each and every day.  Don't ever forget your worth!”

Cathelene Thomas, Chief of Staff, Railinc Corp. - “Always be willing to learn and do something new. When you take away self-imposed barriers, your career and the world are limitless.”


What is your most important tip/trick that you’ve learned and continue to use throughout your career?

Kathi Henriksen, Amazon Consumer Marketing (Previously EA to President of Concur)  - “No matter what happens at work, always stay calm and demonstrate grace. People may be running around in a panic, but you are not allowed.  Your job is to calm down the "chicken little's"; the people who think the sky is always falling, and reassure them that all is well. Remember, you reflect your Executive's brand and company at all times and you set the tone that others will follow.”

April Stallworth, Executive Team Assistant/Superintendent Cabinet, Waukegan Public Schools  -The most important tip/trick that I have learned and continue to use over my career is the necessity to work closely with other Administrative Support Professionals in the office.  There is great strength and learning when this group of people come together to communicate, network, train, and develop.  I have found that morale increases and the overall work environment becomes a better place when your Administrative Support Professionals are in sync.  It’s a big win for the company, institution, or organization because when these professionals are working together, company savings can be realized, turnover diminishes and the customer benefits by high levels of customer service excellence.”

Cathelene Thomas, Chief of Staff, Railinc Corp. - “The most valuable thing that has served me is to take personal motive or agenda out of my job. When you are steadfast in that regard, it takes away perceived motive from co-workers, bosses, and subordinates. People associate you with the job you are doing and what you’re trying to get accomplished, not whether or not you have personal feelings or bias. It also helps you to maintain an objective, a professional reputation and keeps you focused on doing the best job you can for the company you work for.”


What is your prediction of the profession over the NEXT 25 years?

Kathi Henriksen, Amazon Consumer Marketing (Previously EA to President of Concur) - “I anticipate that the role will evolve further into a combination of executive assistant, business manager, and chief of staff; an indispensable member of the executive team. I believe they'll have either a SVP or EVP title or their own support staff to enable them to further the mission and vision of the CEO and company.  They'll truly have skin in the game.”

April Stallworth, Executive Team Assistant/Superintendent Cabinet, Waukegan Public Schools -Over the next 25 years, I expect the Administrative Support Profession to continue to grow and thrive.  There will be greater and greater levels of responsibility placed upon us as we are secured as part of the management team.  In addition to our normal responsibilities, we will grow in the areas of project management, leadership, communications, social media, and marketing.  The sky will continue to be the limit in terms of where we want to take our careers.  We will have access to all the tools and knowledge we need to excel no matter what industry we are in.  It will be a great time of growth and opportunity!”

Cathelene Thomas, Chief of Staff, Railinc Corp.  - “I think the admin role will continue to evolve into even more of a partnership and less of a personal assistant. Even now, I notice with my colleagues that our bosses are expecting a more consultative, collaborative approach and less of a wait and react role.”

Join the Conversation

Welcome to the ASAP Circle, a community platform for peer-to-peer conversation on trending topics, professional challenges, and shared experiences. We even have designated spaces for weekly Tuesday Coffee Breaks.

Start Connecting Today!

American Society of Administrative Professionals

Producer of

APC  EA Ignite