The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 8, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually Nov. 12.
Next up is Executive Assistant of the Year (Public Company) finalist Jean Buckley, who’s executive assistant at Science Applications International Corp. Here, she talks success, professional risks and career advice.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I believe SAIC has enabled my success, but most importantly, my supervisor Chief of Business Operations Mark Escobar has played a significant role in my success over the last five years. Mark has confidence in my work, my decision-making skills and my ability to be confidential and professional with senior leadership. I strive to make my success his success as well.
Mark has also provided me with opportunities that allow me to reach beyond my comfort zone and giving me confidence to pursue things that are not necessarily within the normal boundaries of an administrative assistant’s role. I also lend my success to my family who stands by my career, my decisions and supports me in every way possible.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am most proud of being part of the SAIC COVID-19 Response Team. This team, led by Mark, consists of senior leadership and management from across the company. It encompass functions such as Legal, Facilities, Human Resources, Communications, Environmental Health & Safety, Finance, and Security. The team was up and running within just a few days of the mandatory work from home order issued for nonessential employees in mid-March.
Mark called and asked if I would take the lead role for the distribution of face coverings to our essential employees. I immediately said yes and took on the largest project I have ever managed. I was tasked with communicating, gathering and coordinating information from across the company to determine the needs of the essential employee population.
I worked with Facilities to establish five “hubs” across our system to act as shipping sites. Overcoming supply chain issues, custom clearances issues, anxious employees and having zero background in this arena, our first shipments to our essential employees began to ship on April 21. Every day was filled with unforeseen challenges due to lack of resources such as a strained national supply chain, but as a team, we worked tireless through them, and to date, I have redeployed over 30,000 face coverings to our employees.
With that distribution model running smoothly, it was decided that every employee should receive a reusable face covering compliments of SAIC. With that directive, we designed, ordered and shipped two cloth face coverings to every CONUS employee’s home address.
Although we were faced with challenges, such as incorrect addresses, undeliverable packages, PO box issues, etc., I dealt with each one of these issues and made sure every employee received a shipment. We now have a well-established process in place. I continue to be the sole responder to our COVID-19 supplies email box, where many requests arrive daily.
The SAIC COVID-19 Response Team has a huge, ongoing task to keep our employees and our facilities safe, and I admire every team member for their ongoing dedication and commitment. While my contribution to this team and our employees is just one piece to the larger puzzle, I am so proud to be a part of this team.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
The biggest professional risk I have ever taken was accepting the EA position with Mark. I was working as a project analyst for one of our business development operations in McLean, Virginia. I was very happy doing analytic work to help strengthen our work in the DOD space and support ongoing captures. Mark assumed the role of a business unit lead in Chantilly, Virginia, following the SAIC acquisition of Scitor Corp., a national-security/space contractor.
At that time, Mark was in need of an executive assistant, so I called him. I told him I was volunteering for the job and that together we would work hard to stand up this new business unit, unite the new employees, establish processes and procedures and make us both successful. Mark took a leap of faith to hire me, but he knew my work ethic and reputation and was confident that together we would make an awesome team.
With that, I left my analyst job, took the role of executive admin and have never looked back. It was a huge professional risk entering a world I knew nothing about, but it was worth every hard-working day and continues to be one of the best career decisions I have ever made.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
The best career advice I would give to anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps is to always be true to yourself, be confident, work hard — harder than you thought you were possible of doing, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
Have faith in yourself, be your biggest supporter and listen to those whose footsteps you are following. You might stumble along the way, but always get back up and be stronger. Always be professional and do an impeccable job representing yourself and your boss. Form a close bond with your team, support them and they will support you.