- Michelle North

Term : July, 2015
Department : Business and Management
Program : Administrative & Exec Asst

After 30 years as an administrative professional, Michelle North functions as ground control for the executives she supports: managing travel, scheduling meetings, organizing special projects. When the opportunity arose for her to pursue professional training, she leaped at the chance and enrolled in UCSC Extension’s Administrative and Executive Assistant certificate program.

What attracted you to Extension’s program?

At the time that I started classes, I was supporting three departments within finance and I was at a company willing to pay to send me to school. It was a great experience; I hadn’t been to school in many years. Every class was different; the teachers were well informed on their topics, and they were good at keeping us engaged. Everything was very interactive. The fact that quite a few of the classes were taught by fellow admins was unique and relatable. I definitely wanted to complete the program and get my certificate; it was a combination of being proud of myself for having done it, taking it back to my executive who was also proud of me for completing it, and being able to list the certificate on my resume.

What skills did you learn?

The overall experience was terrific. It made me use my brain. I like learning new things; being challenged. The program reinforced what I already knew, provided a refresher of what I’d forgotten, and gave me new ideas. I learned a lot from my teachers and fellow classmates that I could take back to my job and implement into things I do on a daily basis. UCSC Extension offers a really good range of courses. The electives include outside-the-box thinking and skills like Adobe that could come in handy.

What challenges do administrative and executive assistants face today?

It’s our job to get things done. People don’t realize what it can take to accomplish that or how much time is involved. We often operate behind the scenes, and admins typically are not good about promoting themselves. There are quite a few executives who don’t want to know what it takes, as long as we get what they need done. You have your fingers in a lot of pots; when you have a good rapport with your executive and they trust you, you’re in charge of a lot of things. You have to set up meetings and manage what we call “the conference room shuffle.” You have to make decisions about which flights they take and which hotels to use and which type of ground transportation they need. You are responsible for their day and share ownership of their calendar. You are given projects and the responsibility to take the initiative and make the decisions to complete that project. Something I’ve learned over the years is you have to be flexible.

What advice do you have for fellow admins?

Network. Talk to other admins. If you are taking classes, get to know the people in your class. You will find a number of groups for administrative professionals on LinkedIn. Look into groups like International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) that hold open meetings. I came out of this experience with several new friends who I have reached out to for advice in the time since we completed our certificate classes.

Visit our Administrative and Executive Assistant program page to learn more about Extension’s unique offerings. Return to UCSC Extension Student Stories.
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