In this PA Diaries interview we chat with Chloe Isaacs, EA to CEO & CSO at data and machine learning company Mudano. We find out how she balances the demands of two C-Suite Execs, her transition across industries and how she uses AI to make her job easier.
The Assistant Room: Your role at Mudano is intense! Looking after the CEO & CSO must be a demanding job, talk us through an average day and how you manage to balance two C-Suite Execs successfully…
Chloe: My day starts with a quick check for any new and urgent messages as soon as I wake up and then I’ll aim for an 8:30 start in the office, unless I’m working from home. Top of the list is always a double check of both diaries, ensuring the day’s events are clear, and then I’ll prioritise my own work load. It is my job to make sure every meeting runs smoothly, which often means working with our teams beforehand to be clear on any preparation required from either side that needs to be completed before, so they get as much value as possible from their time with the CEO/CSO. Most likely there will be travel for me to arrange, I’ll catch up with someone from another area of the business and I’ll also allocate time to work on internal projects I’m supporting. Right now I’m also project managing our annual company event.
Balancing two C-Suite Execs, who also work in very different ways, is intense at times, you’re right! I am given instructions in multiple forms of communication, very quickly which doesn’t only come from the both of them but the teams they are working with too. I have learnt over time, how not to feel overwhelmed, breathe, prioritise and make a start on the requests that come my way. I have got into the habit of organising the time I want to spend on each of them in my diary, which focuses my attention really well. I am very careful to check I understand every instruction before I begin to avoid errors and I am also lucky enough to have the use of our very own Mudano artificial intelligence project management tool. This tool enables me to organise whole projects, record and organise daily tasks quickly, and I can even delegate a task to someone else if I need input from them.
For ultimate success, I must try and think ahead, although when you are immersed in a busy day it is hard to step away and do that at times. Looking ahead avoids some of those last-minute stresses – which is when the balancing act becomes a lot harder!
The Assistant Room: Your first EA role was supporting the Chairman and CEO of Shy Aviation before joining Mudano. How did you manage the change of industry and do you have any advice for Assistants who are looking to make a similar transition?
Chloe: It was a huge change for me. My best advice would be to remember you’ve been hired because of your experience, be confident. You will bring a fresh perspective to processes. Of course there are times where I don’t understand a technical term or how a particular client project works, so I’ll make it my responsibility to find out. This means I am constantly learning and developing and in turn am able to support my Execs more. As an EA you adapt quickly to a new environment because you are exposed to so much.
If there is an area of the business I need to learn more about, in the past I have simply spoken to the team in charge of that area and asked to attend meetings with them. I find that the more knowledge I have of what’s going on around the company, the more excited I feel about what we are achieving as an entire team. It really helps me to enjoy the challenge of a new industry rather than fear it.
The Assistant Room: You describe the leaders you have worked with as people who empowered you to take an active role in understanding how to grow the business and involve you in projects that improve and maintain it. What advice would you give to Execs to maximise the relationship they have with their Assistant?
Chloe: As our job is to improve the overall efficiency of an Exec, Assistants don’t like to add any extra admin to their lives if we can help it, but this means we don’t get much time to actually catch up on things outside of the work that needs to be done. Taking an hour to review how you work together every couple months, can really increase efficiency and allow your EA to ‘bother’ you without worry. My CEO and I use our time together to align on where his focus needs to be spent according to the business goals, we evaluate how we are working together and talk about anything else that may be keeping us up at night! I’d advise an Exec to open up to their EA, the more they know about you, the more they can support you.
The Assistant Room: And likewise, what advice would you give to other Assistants who have not contemplated the idea of being involved in the business at a deeper level?
Chloe: Make it known that you are interested in learning more about the business strategy. Execs will really appreciate you taking the time to speak with them, or someone else in management team to make sure you are clear on what is happening at the time. If anyone asks why you want to know, explain how it helps you act as your Exec’s voice when they are not around, and understand the level of importance on tasks. At Mudano we have a really transparent relationship with everyone in the business and I’m certain it improves efficiency in all our roles. If you are looking to move into a new role, I’d really recommend working in a smaller company or a start up, you’ll be exposed to much more and, from my own experience, be able to take on a wider variety and more senior responsibilities – in my last role I wore so many hats, which actually enabled me to move into this position successfully.
The Assistant Room: If there was one thing you could change about the support industry, what would it be, why, and how do you think we could eliminate the issue…
Chloe: I’d change the stigma that still exists in some companies, where the role of an EA is seen inferior to other job titles. I’m very happy to say that that’s not the case at Mudano. However, although our work supports the leaders of a business, as most of it goes on behind the scenes, it is easy for others to forget the pressures you’re under. The role of an EA should be seen as a crucial investment and given equal respect within the company structure. EA’s would feel more valued and progress quicker if this was always the case. We are already eliminating this issue, thanks to platforms like The Assistant Room by bringing together like-minded EA’s to share stories, support each other and educate companies on the role itself. If I had known how much I could learn from this career, I’d have wanted to be an EA from a much younger age. I hope we can express this to younger generations to support achieving a more positive attitude towards the support industry.