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Part 3: Adventures of a New EA Role

HomeAway's exterior

HomeAway's exterior; 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 last article in a three-part series, which covers her first month acclimating to an exciting new role.

CH: Welcome back Danielle! Wow, I can’t believe you have three weeks under your belt now. How did last week go with your executive being away in Europe?

ZM: It went great! Since his travel and all meeting arrangements had already been wrapped up, I just had to be available to take action on last minute requests. One of the other EAs shared a great resource when booking meetings for him while he was away called World Time Buddy. I used this a lot last week! Being in such different time zones, I made sure to check my emails first thing in the morning since it was close to the end of the day in Europe. If there was anything I needed to take action on, I had to make sure I got those emails out first thing so they were received by people in the other offices before they left for the day. This tool converts time zones instantly!

World Time Buddy

CH: Are there any other tips or resources you learned last week?

ZM: I did! I learned about a genius way to add conference dial-in information to my executive’s meeting invites for when he’s taking a call from his smartphone. In the body of the invite you enter the conference number, enter commas after (which each act as 2-second pauses), then write the passcode/bridge number. (Ex: 555-111-9999,,,11256#). So when your executive pulls up the calendar details, he/she can just see the number ready to click and it goes through the prompts automatically! (Source: MeetingMogul)

CH: Did you have any other Admin School trainings?

ZM: I actually finished up the rest of them! We covered the following topics: Facilities, IT, travel best practices, calendaring best practices, internal wiki overview, and how to submit expense reports.

I actually knew a chunk of the information that was presented due to all of the on-the-spot training, but it was great to have a review of the materials. I made sure to take notes during the trainings as well. The guides are also organized in Google Drive, so I know exactly where to retrieve them in case I need to reference any information later on.

CH: I remember HomeAway gave you the opportunity to complete an Insights assessment. Did you get your results back?

ZM: Yes, I did. I learned that I lead with blue (cautious, precise, deliberate, questioning), then am tied with both yellow (sociable, enthusiastic, dynamic, demonstrative) and green (caring, encouraging, patient, sharing), and my last color is red (competitive, demanding, strong-willed, purposeful). These are my conscious colors that I use at work. My typical work style was validated! For instance, the profile revealed that I like to know all of the facts before making decisions, which is true. The profile also gives you the flip side, telling you that this style can possibly make you appear as if you’re a non-risk taker or that you take a long time to complete tasks. So, this helps you to be mindful of your “blind spots” when you work.

Outside of work, the energies I lead with are called unconscious colors. They are different because they are used when you are in a more relaxed state, such as when you are hanging out at home. My unconscious colors are blue, then green, then red and finally yellow.

I also received the cubes that represent my different energies to put on my desk. The idea is that when people come talk to me, they can see how I communicate and how best to communicate with me.

Insights cubes

CH: Did you complete your new hire orientations?

ZM: Yes, and I believe I’m all done now! My final orientation covered all of the perks and benefits that employees have while working at HomeAway/Expedia, all of the different departments and HomeAway’s history. The IT department spoke again and provided more information, which built upon what they provided on day one. Orientation was a great time for me to ask questions I’d kept written down about the company and benefits. There’s a lot to remember but I’m lucky there’s a lot of information on our internal wiki and go-to contacts for everything.

CH: Remembering everything at first can be tricky! Speaking of tricky, did you make any mistakes or catch yourself from making any last week?

ZM: Yes, I actually caught a super important detail. When reviewing my executive’s travel calendar, I noticed he was missing a flight booking to get him from Austin to Seattle. As soon as I spotted that I logged onto Egencia and took a screen shot of options. I also added a note about which one I recommended. He gave me the thumbs up on my recommendation and I took care of the booking. There’s a solid level of trust there, so once the booking was set and entered in his calendar, I didn’t need to send another email confirming it was complete. There are always different communication preferences depending on the style of the executive and this works for us.

In general, I try to include options as well as my recommendations on emails with the person I support. Doing so significantly cuts back on all the back and forth, which saves my executive time. Our email exchange to nail down the flight from Austin to Seattle just took a total of two emails.

CH: Do you feel like you are in the swing of things at this point?

ZM: As much as I can be! It feels like I’ve been there longer than three weeks because of all that I have experienced and learned so far.

I feel a tremendous amount of support. The previous EA still helps me out from time to time, however I now feel that I don’t need her to be by my side as much.

I’m at the point where I now feel like I can start being proactive. For example, there is a regular monthly meeting that my executive is in and I noticed that there wasn’t one scheduled yet for next month. I took the lead on reaching out to the team to get that nailed down.

Paper cranes at HomeAway; image courtesy of HomeAway

CH: Do you have any final general thoughts about your first three weeks or things you are looking forward to in your role?

ZM: It’s nice to be part of a team that gives so much support and I feel that with the EAs and other departments at my company. We are all expected to deliver quality results at a fast pace, and I get the sense that everyone is it in together.

I feel that my talents are being utilized and I see this role as being a challenge. I’m excited to see how I can expand my skills and learn new ways to assist my executive.

I know I’ll have more face time with my executive in the future but right now we are still having ad hoc update calls since he’s still traveling a ton. Also, he has mentioned that there will opportunities to travel with him at some point. It will be great to have those experiences and to meet teammates in our other offices.

CH: Do you have any advice for other EAs who are stepping into a new role?

ZM: These are all things I keep in mind daily: Be patient with yourself; becoming a strategic partner will take time. Keep including yourself in the details of the business, especially by sitting in on meetings, and you’ll get there.

Also, don’t overwork yourself. It’s important to try to maintain a healthy balance with your personal life. There’s a lot to take in and completing tasks will take longer at first, but it will make your acclimation a lot more challenging if you don’t have a chance to rejuvenate and distance yourself from work.

Most importantly, do work you love in an environment that supports and respects you. We owe that to ourselves as assistants!

CH: Thank you for your time and all of the wonderful advice Danielle! It’s been great to follow the first few weeks of your exciting new adventure and hear your insights into being a new EA.

ZM: You’re welcome and thank YOU! I hope other assistants found some of the information useful for when they start a new role!

Danielle Zamora

Danielle's contact info:

Interested in working at HomeAway? Checking out the listings here.

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