Today’s Day in the life: Selena Booker, Executive Assistant at the Waikato Regional Council in New Zealand. To start she gave us a little background on where she lives and works… Enjoy!

Waikato is the fourth largest region in New Zealand, covering 25,000 square kilometres. It stretches from the Bombay Hills and Port Waikato in the north down to the Kaimai Ranges and Mt Ruapehu in the south, and from Mokau on the west coast across to the Coromandel Peninsula in the east.

We have one city (Hamilton) and 10 districts, three of which lie across the regional boundary.

Our region contains:

  • The longest river in New Zealand (the Waikato River)
  • The largest lake (Lake Taupō)
  • Internationally significant wetlands
  • The country’s most important geothermal systems
  • Extensive native and exotic forests, and
  • Tongariro National Park.

What are the main aspects of your role?

I am Executive Assistant to the Director of Resource Use.  We have just under 100 staff and look after: maritime services (harbourmasters, navigation safety); investigations and incident response (environmental complaints and prosecutions); farming (consenting, monitoring, Healthy Rivers implementation); industry and infrastructure (consenting, monitoring of industries and territorial authorities – city and district councils, coasts and inland waters, land development and water allocation).  Our activities are governed by various legislation.

What is your morning routine before you get into the office?

I wake up at 5.45am and start getting ready for when my kids (ages 8 and 5 year old twin girls) wake up.  Breakfast and lunches made, dog/cats fed – fit in a hot coffee, maybe a load of washing and clean up after everyone, get ready and then I am off to work.  It takes me 10-15 minutes to get to work in my car.  During that time, I switch into my work mode thinking about the day ahead.

What time do you get into the office and what time do you leave?

I am in the office by 8am and finish at 4pm.  I like to be at home early to help the kids with their homework before dinner.

What does an average day look like?

No two days are the same.  I get into work, check diaries (both mine and my Director’s) and check emails and especially responses to those emails so that I know what is happening.  I meet with my Director for 30 minutes each day, usually around 9am.  We go through any actions, issues and look at the day ahead of us as well as the next couple of days.  Our executive (Directors and CEO) and their respective EAs all sit in an open plan office with each director and EA sitting side by side.

In a day I can be working on: organising meetings and attending; travel and accommodation bookings; preparing/collating information that is needed by my Director for meetings; liaising with local and central government staff; queries relating to meeting rooms; queries relating to our corporate policies; attending a corporate remuneration panel meeting; dealing with a coronial enquiry; official request for information; removal of a derelict vessel in one of our harbours; approving recruitment, travel and budget requests on behalf of my Director; keeping on top of updates to projects and issues relating to our directorate; typing up notes, minutes from meetings and preparing powerpoint presentations; calendar management to ensure that my Director has some ‘breathing space’ between meetings; co-ordinating council committee meeting agenda and reports, and organising a councillor workshop relating to our directorate; liaising with my fellow EAs; ensuring contracts/Bond Deeds are signed; organising upcoming directorate events…and anything else the day may throw at me!

Constant re-prioritising of tasks and making sure that I am available when our managers/staff drop by or email.

What do you do for lunch?

More often than not, I have lunch at my desk.

What is the hardest part of your day?

The re-prioritising of work and the reactive nature of my role.  Keeping on top of the multitude of issues that my Director and directorate are dealing with.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The varied nature of my job – no two days are the same.

What has been your career highlight?

Being fortunate to hear Anji Hunter (ex Political Assistant/Director of Government Relations to Tony Blair) speak at an EA/PA conference in Melbourne.  She spoke for 2 hours and has been one of the most influential people in my career reiterating that it is possible to have a successful career whilst juggling a family (literally).

Having a female manager who encouraged me to extend myself and gain two diplomas while working for her (Diploma in Business and Diploma in Business Administration).

What do you do in the evening with your spare time?

I usually take time out at around 8pm to sit down and relax after kids are in bed.  In between, I am catching up on the washing or anything else that needs to be done.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to other assistants?

Treat people as you would like to be treated – no matter who they are.  I assisted a manager early on in my career by going out of my way when his PA was not available.  When he became CEO, I was given the opportunity to be part of projects that would otherwise have never come my way.

What would you do if you were not an assistant?

Nurse or Radiologist.

What is the one piece of technology, app or website you could not do your job without?

My iPhone.

Can you recommend any events, books, publications, websites, and training programmes for other assistants?

See Jane Lead by Lois P Frankel.  An inspiring book enabling every woman to see how we lead all the time – even when we don’t think ourselves as leaders……And Executive Assistants are in the unique position to be able to influence, inspire and motivate others.

Day in the life: Selena Booker, Executive Assistant at the Waikato Regional Council

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