Introducing Jeremy Burrows, EA to CEO at Jane.ai, Founder of online training resource GoBurrows.com and creator of newly launched Leader Assistant podcast. With 13 years of experience as an Assistant under his belt, we chat about his experience with burn out, his advice to men when considering the role of an Assistant and likewise his comments to Execs on how to not focus on gender when going through the hiring process.
The Assistant Room: Your career as an Assistant started in 2006 and since then you have achieved so much! In your own words, give us the low down on who Jeremy Burrows is…
Jeremy: I have been an Assistant for 13 years and I love supporting fast-paced, high-capacity, influential leaders. I’ve previously worked with CEOs, Pastors, Authors, Speakers, and Board Members in both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. My current role is Executive Assistant to the CEO of Jane.ai, as you mentioned. We’re building a secure, AI-native, knowledge sharing platform which is very exciting and a concept I am very passionate about.
As well as my EA role, I’m also the Founder of GoBurrows.com where I help executives and assistants gain more time, energy, and success via my blog, one-on-one coaching, speaking, and hosting The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s a great way to connect with people who are invested in the industry around the world.
When I’m not working, I spend as much time as I can with my beautiful wife, Meghan and my 2 amazing boys – Weston (7), and Silas (5). I’m also a huge fan of the Kansas City Royals baseball team so watching them is definitely a way I find to relax!
The Assistant Room: Great! Well, let’s focus a little bit more on your role as the EA to CEO at US business Jane.ai, an artificial intelligence platform that empowers employees to access their company’s intelligence. It sounds incredible. What are your key responsibilities in and around the office?
Jeremy: It changes every month! For the first 10 months at Jane.ai I was the CEO’s EA, the company’s accountant, HR director, office manager, and janitor. I pretty much did everything and anything which I think many Assistants can relate to. Thankfully, I don’t hold all of those roles anymore, but I’ll go from wearing a capital raise hat for 3 crazy busy months, to wearing a sales hat for another couple of months, to wearing a Personal Assistant hat for a couple weeks. Whatever challenge or responsibility is necessary to help my executive and our company succeed I will fully embrace.
The Assistant Room: AI is a hot topic of conversation in the support industry at the moment. What advice would you give to Assistants who are concerned about the growing presence of computer based personalities and the impact of AI on their roles?
Jeremy: If you want the long answer, I recently wrote an article on this topic at goburrows.com/ai. The short answer? Be more human.
I think we should all have a healthy fear, or reverence towards AI especially as people who provide support to others within a business. My advice would be to not kid yourself into thinking AI won’t have a direct impact on your job in the near future. The truth is, it’s already having an impact on your job, even if you can’t see it, so embrace any developments or changes and get to grips with how AI can help you achieve your role responsibilities successfully.
The Assistant Room: So how do you incorporate AI into your own routine and do you have any examples of AI must haves for Assistants?
Jeremy: AI can mean a lot of things, but I’ll talk about automation of tasks as one example.
I have a tool that audits my executive’s calendar every time a meeting ends. I can track real data on who he is meeting with, what types of meetings he’s having, and how many meetings he has per month. It provides a great amount of insight into how he spends his time which as an Assistant, is extremely useful when being able to plan ahead and understand his current and future commitments. Without AI, manually collecting this information would take much longer and would prevent me from focusing on other equally as important tasks throughout the day.
The Assistant Room: Throughout your career you have supported men and women as part of the Executive Leadership Team. In your capacity as an Assistant, how has your experience of working with men differed to working with women and has your approach changed?
Jeremy: The important thing to remember is that everyone is different. With every person I work with or alongside, I try to learn their unique story, understand where their skills are strongest and adapt accordingly. When it comes to working with men vs working with women, I’m a firm believer that men and women are equal in value, yet different in design.
So to truly value women, we should encourage and empower their God-given uniqueness. And to truly value men, we should empower and encourage their God-given uniqueness. I’ll save specific examples for another day as I think context is such a huge part of your approach. Keep it real, everyone is human and works differently so use it as an opportunity to develop your own skills in managing upwards with individual personalities.
The Assistant Room: The PA role is stereotyped as a career option for women only however we know that there is a growing number of men in the role in every industry. What advice would you give to Execs to consider a male Assistant during the hiring process?
Jeremy: My advice? It might be harder than it sounds to some Execs but don’t look at gender. You need to find someone who you can rely on professionally in their capacity to do a great job and someone who aligns with your values – not someone who has the same personality type or likes what you like, that is not what makes an Assistant or your partnership with your Assistant successful.
As a perfect example, my boss and I both value low ego, hard work, persistence, and high achievement. Even though we are very different types of people, we work very well together because our values are the same and we respect each other.
The Assistant Room: Great! And what advice would you give to men who have never even considered the role of an Assistant as a career option…
Jeremy: I believe that spending a few years as an Executive Assistant is a better business education than a 4-year MBA at an Ivy League School, and a heck of a lot cheaper!
If you’re entrepreneurial and want to run a business someday, support someone who is currently running a business and you’ll learn the tricks of the trade. But, do not fall into the trap of treating the job as a stepping stone while you’re in it otherwise, your initial purpose and intention of supporting your executive to get what you want from a purely selfish perspective, which will not enable you to support them well.
If you don’t want to run a business someday, that’s fine too. Just know that a career as an Executive Assistant is a respectable and exciting one!
The Assistant Room: What is your advice for promoting a strong and positive image of yourself in the workplace to people who think you are ‘just an Assistant’?
Jeremy: Always remember that you’re a valuable human being no matter how you perform or what people say. Don’t worry about “making people see you as more than an Assistant.” Instead, focus on being a problem solver, not just a problem identifier. Take initiative and the rest will take care of itself.
The Assistant Room: So alongside your day job you are also the Founder of GoBurrows, a training and resources platform that you previously mentioned, and Founder of the recently launch ‘The Leader Assistant Podcast’ featuring well known industry figures. Where did the inspiration come from for both of these businesses?
Jeremy: I wouldn’t call them “businesses” just yet but watch this space!
The inspiration for both projects came from my previous experiences as an Assistant. I burnt out at my last job which was not fun at all. You can ask my wife about that season of our lives, but you’ll have to buy her a drink first!
Part of the reason I burnt out was that I didn’t have good boundaries in place between work and my personal life. I didn’t have a hobby, so I would end up working on my days off and I was also spending a lot of time by myself. In other words, I was working on an island and in hindsight, it made me realise and understand the importance of networking with other assistants.
After I crashed and burned, I decided I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes again, and I was going to help other assistants and executives avoid burnout as well. That’s what birthed this crazy idea and it’s what keeps me going!
The Assistant Room: Thinking about your previous struggles with boundaries, how do you manage to balance your day job with GoBurrows and the recording of your podcast?
Jeremy: Honestly, I stopped focusing on the non important things like mindlessly browsing Facebook or watching Netflix and instead spend the time editing and recording podcast episodes. It’s amazing how much I can get done when I choose not to watch TV and re-focus my energy and attention on something I am truly passionate about. It’s something I would recommend to everyone!
The Assistant Room: As someone who balances a career with a family and a passion project, what advice would you give to Assistants who have an idea they would like to pursue however feel that they don’t have the time or energy after a full day in the office?
Jeremy: Make sure that you’re productive while at the office, so when you get home, you feel accomplished and energized after a productive day. You should try and avoid being bogged down by work responsibilities ‘after hours’ as much as possible.
Also, if the idea you’d like to pursue is something you’re passionate about, good at, and ultimately is something that energizes you, then you’re going to find the time and energy to work on it! If I didn’t enjoy producing and hosting a podcast, I wouldn’t do it. Sure, there are parts of the process I don’t enjoy, but overall it’s a fun project to work on and I am loving it so far. Speaking of, don’t forget to subscribe at podcast.leaderassistant.com!