Part 2: Adventures of a New EA Role
HomeAway's walkway; image courtesy of HomeAway
I’m joined today by Danielle Zamora, who recently stepped into a new role as the Executive Assistant to the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at HomeAway. This is the second article in a three-part series, which covers her first month acclimating to an exciting new role.
CH: Thank you for joining us again Danielle! I’m excited to find out about how week two as a new Executive Assistant at HomeAway went. How did it go?
ZM: Overall it went well! A majority of the week was spent prepping for the Chairman of Expedia’s visit on Friday. The EA to the President took the lead on planning but all of the EAs assisted. She put together calls to review timelines, catering orders, facilities logistics, executives’ preferences and other details to make sure we were all prepped in advance. Friday had a seamless execution due to all of the advance planning. One big takeaway from that experience was feeling of camaraderie amongst the EA team.
CH: That is so great that you are part of a solid team of EAs. How did the EA group come together?
ZM: Originally the Executive Assistant to the Founder of HomeAway was the only EA. She started building the group organically as each EA came onboard right from the beginning. She even was able to bring together EAs in other countries; there’s one across the pond in London that is regularly part of our group chats.
CH: Last week you mentioned you were starting Admin School, which I know is a training series the EA group started to familiarize new EAs with best practices and tips. How did that go?
ZM: I had my first round of Admin School last week, but there were will be more. The session I was in reviewed catering best practices. These are tips that will help me to make quick decisions when ordering food for office meetings and events. For instance, for groups of ten and more, order a buffet or large platters. Always include both gluten-free and vegetarian options. For groups less than ten, collect individual orders and use a service like Grubhub. I also received a go-to list of commonly used catering services and restaurants such as ezCater. I also learned where extra tables are stored, typical placement of them as well as other expectations for set up.
CH: Did you participate in any other meetings last week?
ZM: The President of HomeAway gave an internal presentation, which was open to the whole company. He provided everyone with an overview of where he sees the company going and his plan for us getting there together. I see how this helps employees to be aligned with the overall vision and goals. He even took the time to introduce himself to each attendee and shake their hand, even though there were approximately 100 people!
I also participated in other onboarding initiatives. Next week, I have my core new employee orientation as well. It is a challenge juggling all of these meetings along with keeping up with the needs of the people I support and my other responsibilities. But, again, I really see the value in everything and appreciate the time the company takes to make sure we’re set up for success from the beginning.
Our EA team has weekly meetings, so I also participated in that this week. In those meetings, we review our executives’ calendars, go over any travel that we have coming up and any other updates that are pertinent to the group. We have a fun time together but we are also great at getting down to business.
HomeAway's lounge; image courtesy of HomeAway
CH: Have you started having regular check-in meetings with your executive?
ZM: My executive has been traveling a lot, so our check-in meetings have been ad hoc. I expect this to be the case in general, especially since he spends so much time in other time zones. Overall, he trusts me to run with the information he gives me to complete tasks on my own. I don’t want to bombard his inbox so I keep a running list of updates, which we discuss over the phone. During our check-in calls, we also review priorities and new action items.
CH: I know your executive is going to be overseas next week. Were you involved in that planning?
ZM: I confirmed travel for my executive, who is visiting our offices in Madrid and London with a few other leaders. Even though it wasn’t asked of me, I got everyone’s itineraries and included them on car transfer services so they could be shared. I also worked quite a bit with the EA to the CPO to wrap up preparations for all-hands meetings and other meeting agendas while the group is overseas.
All of the prep for the Madrid/London trip did get overwhelming at one point. I was fortunate that the previous EA was able to give me advice, though. She gave me tips on how to balance all of the travel planning and meeting requests for the CTO and SVP (the other executive’s calendar I manage).
After all of the travel was complete, I received a kind email from one of the executives thanking me and the other EA for coordinating everything. It was so nice to have that acknowledgment and appreciation.
CH: That’s awesome you are feeling appreciated so early on! That must feel great as you are getting into the flow of things. Since I’m sure there is a lot to take in and remember, have you made any mistakes?
ZM: Since I am still learning all of the many companies that fall under the Expedia umbrella, I made a mistake on a meeting invite. I was tasked to plan a meeting with offices in Asia, New Zealand and Australia and accidentally didn’t add an extra office that should have been on that invite (I had no idea that office existed until that task). As soon as it was brought to my attention I added those attendees on, but I also updated my notes to include the entire distribution list so I would have that to reference in the future.
Right now I’m balancing between spreading my wings and asking for help. The previous EA and EA team are great at pointing me in the right direction, but I am recording all of the resources they share so I know exactly where to find them in the future.
CH: You are so lucky to have such wonderful support, especially with having the previous EA to share useful resources! Last week did you learn any new tips or come across any websites that other assistants might benefit from?
ZM: There are a few great websites I used last week that other assistants might benefit from:
Blacklane is an easy private car booking service I used for my executive's Europe travel.
Wingz is a great airport pickup service where you can schedule pickups and even save your favorite drivers.
Also, I noticed that our company is smart in their use of Outlook. There is a comprehensive directory that is kept up to date which includes all details about each employee (full name, title, people reporting to them, etc.). It’s great having that in the tool where it’s needed.
CH: Were there any other interesting happenings last week that you’d like to share or anything you are looking forward to?
ZM: Our company gives employees an Insights test. Basically, it’s a personality profile that shows your unique communication style, which is categorized by a certain color. Each employee gets blocks that they can put on their desk to show their color and I have seen the colors shown in email signatures as well. I took mine last week and next week I will have a short one-on-one to get an overview of my results. In May, I will join a broader deep-dive training to learn more about my results.
CH: Do you have any final reflections on your second week that you’d like to share?
ZM: In general, I’m impressed with how everyone has been so helpful, supportive and friendly. I’m still getting my feet on the ground, but all in all it’s been a great week.
Danielle's contact info: