The power of assistants
It comes every year about this time: Administrative Assistants Week or as the single day observance was once called, Secretary's Day.
Since 1952, the International Association of Administrative Professionals has honored office workers by sponsoring Administrative Professionals Week. It is now one of the largest workplace observances outside of employees' birthdays and major holidays.
In Carbon County the Sun Advocate has chosen four individuals for 2012 that exemplify excellence in the ever growing field that encompasses administrative assistants. This year we picked individuals from the energy, engineering and labor industries, along with one from government employment.
We asked them about their jobs, their relationships in the workplace and what some of the most difficult things they deal with are.
At Electrical Contractors Incorporated Kris Wilson handles account receivables, half of payroll (as she calls it the "bottom half"), matches time cards with billings, handles purchasing and almost like everyone in business does customer service. The company has 35 employees and does commercial, mine and some residential work.
"You know we have a good support system here from management and the employees," she said. "This is a great place to work."
Of course all work places have their challenges and she says hers is personalities.
"Just trying to get along with everyone," she said. That ranges from others on the work site to customers. "I am at my most happy when things run smoothly...when things come and go as they should."
She says the hardest thing about her job is dealing with time issues.
"Sometimes its difficult to juggle the time here with time at home with the family," she says. "But you know the company makes it easy because they are very willing to work with us on that."
The "us" includes, among others, another administrative assistant in the office in the person of Kasey DeCaro.
Kasey handles accounts payable, the "upside" of payroll, and customer service. She finds the work at ECC enjoyable and challenging at times.
"I think the biggest challenge I face is trying to work our problems we encounter," she says. "Chasing down the answer to those problems can be challenging."
She says she enjoys the people she works with a lot and is most happy when "everyone else is having a good day."
She also said that the juggling of work and home can be one of the hardest things she has to do.
They say they both handle paperwork from other employees and when it doesn't show up "it's like they have to answer to mom."
Kasey says problems with customers usually just boils down to communication problems.
"Sometimes the estimates they were given differs from the bills and so misunderstandings result," she said.
Derald Riche is their supervisor and he says the pair make his job a lot easier.
"They must make everything run smoothly between the two of them," he said.
A short ways north of ECI on Highway 10 stands Jones and Demille Engineering. Chelsy Conk is at the reception desk at the front of the business and acts as administrative assistant to all the engineers in the office. She likes the people she works with a lot, but sometimes difficult situations arise with customers.
"That's my biggest challenge," she said. "Dealing with people who are not nice is difficult. People hate what they don't understand. It's my job to explain what is going on to people. Often it also involves a great deal of money."
That of course always complicates the situation.
She also added that when the equipment you are using fights with you, life isn't easy either.
She says the thing that makes work so good is that it is a productive place and that makes it a happy place.
"The people I work with are great," she says. "They make it worth coming to work."
She says that deadlines in the engineering business can be tough. That can create stress and tension, and that is sometimes that hardest things to deal with.
Collin Fawcett, one of her supervisors, says Conk's job relieves a lot of pressures from the others that work in the office.
"She is very important to us," he said. "She completes a lot of tasks that would take away from engineering time. She is also great on the phones."
Near downtown Price Labor Finders is a staffing service. Administrative assistant Diana Olson handles most of the business in that establishment.
Her challenges don't come from disappointing customers that are purchasing services so much, but from having to tell prospective employees that there is no work for them on any given day.
"It's been slow and very hard for a lot of people," she said. "For employers we always seem to have someone to fill in where they need it, but having to turn people away that are looking to work is difficult."
Diana said she is largely happy working at the business because her supervisor, Kara Hillman, is so great to work for.
"Kara makes it easy for me to be happy here," she said. "She realizes what it is like to have a family and be able to go to things that your kids are involved in. And she does it without making you feel guilty."
Diana has only worked for the company since October and she had to learn some new things when she got the job.
"The hardest thing I have to do and had to learn is the taxes that are involved in this business," she said.
While the winter has been slow finding employment for those looking for a job, Diana feels positive now that Spring is here.
"A lot of this seems to depend on the season," she said. "I think with Spring now here that will bring more jobs to people."
Diana's supervisor Karra Hillman says that Diana is very valuable to the business.
"She is truly a professional," said Hillman. "She understands our business and is not afraid to learn new things."
When Liz Marquez-Holt began a part time work study job at East Carbon City, the high school junior had no idea that she had stumbled into a life-long career as well as the venue where she would meet and marry her husband Phillip.
Holt's involvement with East Carbon began at the municipality's old digs on Park Place, a building which has now become the local fitness center.
"When I started I was working as a receptionist," said Holt. "Just a couple of hours a day through work study but I loved the job from day one."
According to Holt, her position became full time in 1996 and aside from the hours not much changed as she began to get more familiar with the nuances of dealing with the public.
"She is so great with customers," said Cheryl McFarland, East Carbon City's Officer Manager and current city council member. "Everyone around here loves her because she greets everyone with a smile."
When longtime city recorder Jaylene Marakis retired in the year 2000, Holt was the obvious choice and quickly began picking up her duties.
"Recorder was a completely different job and I had a lot to learn," explained Holt. "It was also intimidating to work hand in hand with the mayor but once you get used to someone's personality that part gets easier."
Since 2000, Holt has work for three sitting mayors including current city chief Orlando LaFontaine.
"I really do love this job," continued Holt. "It has many challenges and some days I want to pull my hair out but it is also very rewarding because it is so interesting."
According to McFarland, Holt's interest has helped the city to conduct their business in a more efficient manner concerning records, resolutions and the organization of town meetings.
"The bottom line is that she is my right hand as well as the mayor's," concluded McFarland. "She is my IT person, she is great with the public and she is dependable. It's very stressful having a new boss every few years but she handles it very well. Liz can really adapt to anything and as office manager she makes my job a lot easier."