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There’s no one who can keep an office running quite like an executive assistant (EA).
Whether it’s for admin support, managing an event, coordinating people, assisting with a project or negotiating plans, constantly making sure the job gets done is what they do best.
They’re also the people seamlessly booking the executive team into workshops, conferences and retreats so they can leave the office, take stock, and further develop their skills. But where are the development opportunities for the EAs themselves?
That was the question Ursula Kohler asked herself.
A veteran of the industry with 28 years’ experience as an EA, Ursula knows all about the trials and tribulations of EA life. Five years ago, she left a full-time public servant role to found Capital EA, a business dedicated to supporting both executives and their EAs.
Working with private businesses, not-for-profit organisations and government departments, Capital EA specialises in finding the right fit through their EA selection and matching recruitment service. They provide secretariat support to a number of boards, virtual EA support, coaching and mentoring, and workshops specifically for EAs, not to mention networking and development events.
Even as managing director of Capital EA, Ursula still dedicates a large proportion of her week as an executive assistant for three high-profile individuals.
“People have said to me, ‘you can now just give [your EA work] to one of your team members to look after’. But I still really love the EA role and want to remain active in it. So, while I’m creating and growing the business, a big part of my day is actually being an active executive assistant myself,” she says.
Having attended countless conferences and workshops over the years, Ursula was inspired to create events specific to EAs, and Capital EA now runs popular monthly workshops in Canberra. And there’s always one consistent message attendees kept asking: ‘when are you going to create a retreat for us?’.
“A lot of our workshop attendees were saying, ‘our managers, bosses and executives go off and attend retreats. When are you going to design one for EAs?’ And I thought ‘I’ll put it out there’,” says Ursula.
Capital EA’s first-ever Executive Assistant Retreat will be held over two days from March 25-27 at the beautiful Bannisters at Mollymook, and Ursula believes it’s the first of its kind in Australia.
Over the two days, attendees will get to learn from expert facilitators and keynote speakers, develop new skills, network with like-minded professionals, whilst making use of dedicated time for strategic thinking and planning. Numbers are capped at 40 participants to keep things personalised and so everyone can get the most out of it.
“A retreat is specifically a time to learn and pull back,” says Ursula.
“It’s a time to kind of take stock of where you’re at, learn the sound of what’s happening in your own self, and tap into the wisdom and support of your peers around you. It really needs to be done at a place that’s away from the desk and away from your normal environment in order to really grasp as much as you can from the couple of days.”
Speakers at the retreat include former triathlete and three-time Australian champion Nici Andronicus who will talk about building personal resilience, Rebecca Rough who was EA to a number of high-profile Australians including former prime minister John Howard and internationally recognised entrepreneur Sarina Russo, Louise Brown who was named ‘Executive PA of the Year’ in 2013, and Donna-Maree Cole who is executive assistant to Terry Snow, Australian businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
“They’re all passionate about delivering a result and for EA participants to be able to learn and take something away with them,” says Ursula.
“We are also taking this opportunity to help support some of the businesses and families affected by the bushfires. We have invited, engaged and promised to fill our eskies with local bushfire affected businesses in and around the area. We even have four businesses participating directly from the South Coast.”
And while EAs can sometimes find it hard to squeeze in time out of the office, Ursula said it’s just as important for EAs to take time out as it is for members of the executive.
“We have found there’s been a high level of retention when EAs actually get some training and development,” says Ursula.
“It is about the executive getting a better EA at the end of the day and being able to fill in the gaps of their executive vision, so they can help deliver that vision and goal for them.”
The retreat is $2,300 + GST per person, which is completely all-inclusive of accommodation, a jam-packed two-day program of workshops, talks and activities. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are all provided, plus a networking dinner on the Thursday night.
The early bird tickets sold out in three days, but there are limited tickets still available, with bookings closing on 29 February.
“As EAs we tend to put ourselves last most of the time and this retreat is about making sure that you do continue on the path of development and training and make sure you check in with yourself to ensure that you are still passionate about what you do,” says Ursula.
What: The Capital EA 2020 Executive Assistant Retreat
When: 25 – 27 March 2020
Where: Bannisters Mollymook
Cost: $2,300 + GST
Bookings: Close February 29. Visit capitalea.com.au/events-for-eas
This editorial was created in partnership with Capital EA. For more information on sponsored partnerships, click here.