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My Seat at the Chef's Table

· Posted by Val in Company · 8 Comments

Since college, my job title has gone from Administrative Assistant to Chief Operating Officer. I have seen and learned a great deal, and not just about technology. It's been a wild ride, through expansions and contractions, and I have been up close and personal to some great management, as well as some also-rans. Luckily, growing up in a large family, I got the message early that I can learn what NOT to do from others. 🙂

This blog attempts to share lessons learned, as well as spark discussions around challenges I face today. Running a µISV is a little like being invited to dine at the Chef's Table of a great restaurant. I am able to see "up close and personal" some delicious experiments!

Sitting at the Chef's Table can sometimes be a little too close to the hot kitchen. I can relate to Jason Cohen who admits that sometimes, even he feels like fraud.

So I need help finding this community of Admin turned COO. I know it's there, but I can't find it. I even used the tools suggested by Marshall Kirkpatrick here.

A great admin is sometimes invisible, but you can spot a disinterested admin from a mile away. A star is the backbone that creates and maintains an esprit de corps, allowing teams to focus on what they do best. We are helpers, or Connectors as Malcolm Gladwell calls us in the Tipping Point. We bring a special sauce to the table. 🙂

One of the greatest parts about being in larger company is camaraderie available. At Macromedia, engineering teams called the Executive Admins "The Goddesses." (We even dressed up as superheroes one Halloween.) Those were the days when our jobs could have been summed in one line, "Other duties as needed."

So where are the smart admins who love technology and are indispensible team members? Any of you working in startups already? Is there anyone just like me out there? Let's hear from you! Rather than pining away for the benefit of a team of admins in a larger company, let's grow a community of engaged, techno-curious "Admin-agers" to do what we do best: share, lead and learn.

Val for the Balsamiq Team

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Comments (8)

  1. Val,

    You always have great insight to share. I look forward to learning from your experiences. Thanks for the invite! e

  2. Hi Val~ Fantastic beginnings! Really looking forward to this experience. I am starting a similar project and the timing couldn’t be better for additional exchange of information. Integration of new tool kits with tried and true methods is a wonderful journey! Thanks for the invite.

    Bonnie DeSmet-Bacon
  3. Thanks for the invite Val. Love the opportunity to share and read other people’s thoughts and ideas.

  4. Val,

    Glad to know you’re enjoying the “little” company world. I, too, am very interested in how you coordinate not just geographic but time zone challenges as well. My admin works remotely as well and we get together usually once per month to deal with various piles that seem to appear when things get busy. Our toolkit includes Subversion, Remote Desktop, Skype, VOIP phones, Outlook/Exchange (to make sure all our inboxes on various computers are sync’d) and a fantastic high-speed sheet-fed scanner.

    Time zones have been tricky, as I have worked on some projects in Europe (currently have some customers based in France) and it has been tougher being in California than in Massachusetts – that 11am deadline wasn’t so hard to meet, but the 8am deadline is a tough one. And now we are doing a little “very remote” off-site meeting and are 10 hours ahead of California and the overlap is so short, although it’s always easier to just stay up a little later.

    [Val: Mark, you are right, the time zones are tough! Before I have my first cup of coffee, Peldi, Marco and Luis are thinking about dinner, ending their long days. It’s great for customers, since can provide follow-the-sun responses, but it’s dangerous and can lead to burn-out. I tend to log on after dinner, and if I stay on-line too long, the Europeans start to rev their engines before I can log off. That can make for laaaate nights.

    A favorite poem:

    We burn the candle at both ends, it sheds a lovely light,
    But ah my foes and ah, my friends,
    It cannot last the night.

    Peldi reminds me, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Thanks for sharing.]

  5. Hi Val, Great post and great read. Much luck to you with this my friend.

  6. Great post Val! Have no doubt you’ll quickly round up a super sharp group of mastermind “admin-agers” in no time 🙂

    [Brett, I had a (female) colleague tell me that she thought “admin-agers” sounded diminutive, and not respectful. In your travels, have you heard other terms for what I am describing?]

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  8. Hey Val, thanks for the shout out and welcome the blogging world!

    Looking forward to your thoughts, especially about the problems of coordinating people separated by so much distance.