Robert Angeli is the executive assistant with the defense systems group at SAIC and a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the Public Company Executive Assistant of the Year category. Here, he shares key achievements, what has made him successful in his current role, overcoming challenging aspects of being an EA and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2018?
When I look back at 2018, I see several accomplishments that helped the Defense Systems Group and the company as a whole. My colleague and fellow finalist, Joyce Downing, was promoted to support the CEO and as a result, I took over support the general manager of DSG, Jim Scanlon. Although the role was a two-person job, I managed to work effectively and efficiently to ensure all balls stayed in the air as a single billet.
Separately, following SAIC’s acquisition of Engility, SAIC’s leadership team wanted to conduct Executive Leadership Roadshows at several sites throughout the country, including locations where our group had the majority of employees.
I volunteered to take a leading role in the effort by working with my colleagues from across the company to organize, plan and execute events at eight sites in six states and led with the team to handle logistics, which in my mind, needed to be perfect. This included securing facilities, audio-visual requirements, refreshments/meals, agenda, lodging and transportation.
At the end of the day, the feedback from the attendees was abundantly positive and the leadership team had the comfort level everything was taken care of so they could focus on the message. These achievements were good and I am proud to have been able to contribute but at the end of the day, it was about the greater good, the leadership allowing me the latitude to do what I do and I am grateful to them for that.
What has made you successful in your current role?
During my time as the executive assistant to the command chief for Air Education and Training Command in the Air Force, my boss, Chief Bill Milligan, had a sign on his desk that read, “if they make you the water boy, serve them Perrier.” If you take that attitude and apply it to what is asked of you on a daily basis, you really can’t go wrong. Sure, it might not be in my lane or skill set, but if they trust you to do it, do your best to get the desired results.
Over time, I’d like to think my reputation has been that I get things done. My approach and methods haven’t always been conventional, and I have definitely ruffled some feathers. I still do that even today. But when it’s all said and done, I think most people look back and know it was done correctly the first time, and in many cases even better than expected.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an EA, and how did/do you work to overcome them?
I see the technology of today to be a challenge, in a good way. Over the years, the EA was the person that “did” everything for everyone. In today’s environment, so many business systems are designed for the individual worker to “do it themselves,” and this can create challenges for the seasoned workforce that are used to having someone do it for them.
I firmly believe in the adage “fish for a man, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” So, the challenge is trying to get others to learn the systems and be comfortable to use it themselves, with the reassurance that I’ll be here to assist if they have trouble. I view the EA as a jack of all trades, master of many but that doesn’t mean the doer of all for all.
What’s your best advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
I think the advice I would offer to others in this field is learn the organization you are a part of, and understand its mission, values, objectives and strategy. It’s easy to sit back and just “do your job,” but if you widen your lens and understand where you can fit in, learn what your team does and who they do it for. Understanding that will add tools to your tool bag, and your leadership team will probably start to give you more to do.
Become a master of the technology needs of others to do their jobs. After all, the EA is often the first line of defense for many on the team. If you are able to solve their problem, it will save them time and allow them to be more productive.
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
For me, my biggest struggle is that I am direct. I am very focused on completing tasks as they are put before me. In doing so, I have to work with many people across different organizations with various personalities. This often can be a challenge, however, I have learned that understanding my colleagues and their workflows is a proven method of success in completing these tasks in a timely manner. As far as overcoming it, let’s just say that is still a work in progress now I take personality into consideration before engaging.