Cathy Rong is the Lead Executive Assistant in the Office of the CEO at Complex Network. Prior to Complex, Cathy held executive assistant positions within the advertising and creative industries.
In this episode, Cathy and I discuss implementing OKRs at your company, leading a team of assistants, onboarding team members, and more.
Here are a few resources Cathy referred to during our conversation:
- Ally.io (OKR software)
- Leading with Emotional Intelligence
- Developing your Emotional Intelligence
- Measure What Matters
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What you do has far greater impact than what you say.
– Stephen Covey
CONNECT WITH CATHY
Cathy Rong is the Lead Executive Assistant, Office of the CEO at Complex Network. Prior to Complex, Cathy held executive assistant positions within the advertising and creative industries.
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Cathy Rong 0:00
Hi, this is Cathy Rong, and today’s leadership quote is from Stephen Covey. What you do has far greater impact than what you say.
Podcast Intro 0:12
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistance.
Jeremy Burrows 0:21
Thank you for listening to The Leader Assistant Podcast assistance our workplace heroes and as such transitioning safely and securely from remote work to an in office environment is top of mind. And we all know that every superhero needs a sidekick. Enter today’s sponsor swiped on. swiped on is the fastest growing visitor and employee management software with tools like contactless sign in visitor screening and evacuation management swiped on can help provide the peace of mind every assistant and their team deserves. So the next time you hear what’s your plan for the office as we return to work, or how will the hybrid workplace look for us. You can respond confidently knowing swiped on has you covered. To learn more or sign up for a free 14 day trial. Visit swipedon.com/leaderassistant, that’s swipedon.com/leaderassistant. And when you’re ready to move forward, be sure to use my exclusive discount code for 20% off their annual plan. The discount code is leader20. That’s leader20 for 20% off their annual plan. So reopen your business safely today with swiped on. Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host, Jeremy Burrows. And today I’m excited to be speaking with Cathy Rong. Cathy is lead executive assistant in the Office of the CEO at complex network. Cathy, how’s it going?
Cathy Rong 2:10
It’s going great, Jeremy, thank you for having me.
Jeremy Burrows 2:13
Yeah, what part of the world are you in?
Cathy Rong 2:17
I have been in Manhattan and never left during the pandemic. So it’s been interesting. Seeing the city during these phases for sure.
Jeremy Burrows 2:26
Wow. So is your company based in Manhattan and primarily in Manhattan? Or are they spread out?
Cathy Rong 2:35
We have our home office in Manhattan, as well as some in Atlanta and LA, but the main office is near Times Square.
Jeremy Burrows 2:45
Okay, and what industry? Are you all in?
Cathy Rong 2:49
So we’re in the I would say entertainment media business. Our company is CO owned by Verizon and Hearst. And we have a lot of entertainment brands under our main brand.
Jeremy Burrows 3:03
Okay, what would be maybe an entertainment brand that we’ve we would have heard of potentially?
Cathy Rong 3:09
Yeah, I think the most prominent of complex networks brands would be first species, our food vertical. We are responsible for a lot of a good portion of the food shows on YouTube primarily hot ones where the celebrities eat chicken wings of hot sauce and do an interview format while eating them.
Jeremy Burrows 3:29
Very nice. Sounds fun. Have you been on that? Have you gotten to partake in any of the hot foods?
Cathy Rong 3:36
I have not personally been on set, but I have tried the hot sauces and they’re really hot. No joke.
Jeremy Burrows 3:43
Awesome. Well, tell us a little bit about your career and how you ended up as an assistant.
Cathy Rong 3:52
Yeah, it’s really interesting. I don’t think it’s kind of the traditional story that some EAS talk about. But when I was in high school, I always wanted to pursue concert photography. So in my spare time, I would shoot family photos and senior portraits kind of as a high school job. And when I came to New York for college, I started a wedding photography business with my co founder. And through that process, I found that I had a natural inclination towards admin space stuff, the client management, the contracts the following up and scheduling and I thought I would look into that as a potential career option. So I started my first EA role at VaynerMedia in the advertising world, specifically on their experiential marketing side, and I learned a lot there. And that was reporting to executives, and I decided I want to lean To more heavily into entertainment, specifically I entertainment company that was on the younger side. And that’s where I am now at complex networks. I started out as the executive assistant to the head of operations, and was promoted fairly quickly to my current role. Senior executive assistant for offices do.
Jeremy Burrows 5:25
Nice. So do you work with a team of assistants?
Cathy Rong 5:29
Yes, I do. So at the company, there are maybe like five to eight, during any given quarter.
Jeremy Burrows 5:39
Okay, so do you kind of lead that team? Or is there a dotted line structure? How does that work?
Cathy Rong 5:45
I would say more of a dotted line structure where I make myself available as a resource for all things admin related, but they still report into their direct manager of their department.
Jeremy Burrows 5:59
Okay, so essentially, they would work with their direct executive manager for performance reviews and such. And then you would kind of help support as needed.
Cathy Rong 6:16
That’s correct. And to help with any kind of conflicts or questions, I also was proactive and kind of volunteering myself as a resource in terms of any training on the admin side for expenses, or any kind of foreign softwares that our company uses in particular.
Jeremy Burrows 6:35
Okay. Nice. So what’s one of your favorite parts about being an assistant,
Cathy Rong 6:46
I think one of my favorite parts is just being able to help people be as productive as they can be in that making the best use of their time, and just helping them be more productive. And that comes with partly support and relationship management and any other things that they might feel like they can’t dedicate enough time to,
Jeremy Burrows 7:12
you are passionate about OKRs. And I know, you know, objectives and key results and goal setting in, you know, key performance indicators. Or KPIs are kind of a big deal in some industries. And some organizations and often assistants, either are tasked with kind of leading the charge on that for their team, and keeping their executives up, up to task. But also there are assistants who, you know, maybe they take on a new role, or they move to a different division, and they’re not, they’re not used to, they don’t really understand how that all works. And they’re kind of new to that whole world of OKRs. Could you kind of talk through your experience with, you know, implementing OKRs, and how you track them, or how you align your goals with your executives, goals, and all that fun stuff?
Cathy Rong 8:16
Yeah, I’d love to. So when I came on, as executive assistant to, you know, most of C suite, I had to take some time to, you know, get settled, make sure everything was going the right direction. And then I could advocate for myself to take on more special projects or any any other responsibilities that my executives would be comfortable giving to me. And I’m fortunate enough to have bosses who really believe in me and see my potential. So I was kind of named point person to rule out the implementation of OKRs company wide, which was a huge responsibility. And I’m so glad I had the opportunity because I really learned a lot. In particular, the OKR system we were using before, was a kind of like Google spreadsheet format. And that was not sustainable in the long term, especially when people were moving on to new roles, or there are new hires coming in. And there is no kind of onboarding structure for if you’re a manager, you should be also updating the spreadsheet, and where’s the link, and all that. So, how I began looking into this whole process was really to source a software that we could use to manage and track the OKRs first of all, because there’s the organization and updating of OKRs, and then there’s the actual formulation and checking in and updating of upkeep of OKRs after the software rolls out, so I looked into a bunch of different software’s and And I did a lot of reading and research because this opportunity fell into my lap. But I really went 110% on it. I’ve ordered a bunch of Okere books from Amazon and listened to a bunch of podcasts as well, and started gathering this background information. Once I sourced this software, I partnered with the Chief Chief Technology Officer in the IT project manager to kind of think about what the company needs in terms of technology tools on the back end, and checking in with people there. But I found the most challenging part and rolling it out was the relationship management aspect of it is building all these relationships with key department heads. And that comes into play when you’re gathering these goals for each department. And you don’t want to come out and say, Hey, what are your company goals? And we’re going to be tracking you against them and your annual reviews from now on the kind of politics aspect of that. But it was a learning process, because I had never done something like this before. And I think the plethora of resources that I found, or were available to me help the most.
Jeremy Burrows 11:27
So Google Spreadsheets is what they were using. Yes, did you What are some of the tools you researched? to kind of take that over?
Cathy Rong 11:39
I research kind of some rough template kind of management tools such as Trello, or Asana that weren’t OKR specific, and then realize the size of the company and the organization of the departments who really needed a software tool that was specifically tailored to Okay, our management. And so that’s when I reached out to Okay, our specific software’s and got quotes, negotiated with some of the key players and presented like the final three options to department heads.
Jeremy Burrows 12:20
Do you remember what those three options were?
Cathy Rong 12:24
I don’t recall the top three, but I know the one we went with. It’s called ally.io. Ally IO. And I can’t recommend them enough because not only do they provide guidance in the implementation of software rollout, they also did a really good job of providing training for the training tailored to the company employees, depending on the level.
Jeremy Burrows 12:54
Okay, right. So it’s a ll y.io. Yes. Okay. Awesome. Great. Well, I know, that’s, again, this is a common topic, with assistants on trying to figure this out for themselves and figure out the tools for their team. So appreciate the insight there and definitely recommend checking out a l l y.io. If you’re looking for something for your team. All right. And that’s not a paid ad, by the way.
Cathy Rong 13:29
And the okera book I would recommend in particular is called measure what matters by John Doerr.
Jeremy Burrows 13:38
Yes, yes. I’ll put that link in the show notes for sure. All right, so Okay, so what’s maybe a tip on? You know, there’s the team members or the executives that are resistant to the OKR process? How did you communicate it? Listen, this is for the greater good.
Cathy Rong 14:01
Um, kind of a gentler way of saying, you know, the company is moving towards measuring performance reviews against this metric. So it would actually do you a favor to make sure your KPIs are on point when that time does come. And I think people are usually pretty responsive to that.
Jeremy Burrows 14:25
Okay, so then as an assistant, and even for your, your other assistants in your team. How do you come up with your KPIs and OKRs specifically for your role?
Cathy Rong 14:43
Specifically for our role that has been one of the recent challenges, I would say, because this is only the second quarter we’ve been using this oak Harrison’s system and are struck Sure is from the top of the company tripling down. So we actually have not figured that part out yet. And I will keep you updated if we do figure that okay, or component out, because it’s tricky. Most of the time, I think the metric you can measure an assistant success is by the increase in productivity of their executive. But really, how can you measure that? Right? Yeah.
Jeremy Burrows 15:28
Yeah, I mean, I, I like to say your goals are my goals. And, you know, whenever my executive has aspirations and goals and metrics to measure, you know, if he meets those, and exceeds those, then I’ve done my job. And if he doesn’t, then I have it.
Cathy Rong 15:51
Jeremy Burrows 15:54
Awesome. So tell us a little bit about your team? And do you do any of the onboarding and training of the assistants as they join your company?
Cathy Rong 16:08
Yeah, so what that’s one of the responsibilities I kind of put on myself is to take over the onboarding portion on the admin side. So a lot of the times, I feel that the onboarding process of new hires is general, which is what it’s meant to be. But I think that admins, in particular, need extra support, not only in terms of software trainings, or what have you, but also the relationship aspect, knowing who is the key point, people in various departments would probably help an assistant do their job a lot easier than if it was just going off a company org chart or figuring that out for their own. So that’s one of the things I tried to incorporate in when I help get a new admin hire, setup, the trainings, but also, this is the person you should talk to in finance, if you need this, or this is the other person who is going to be key for all of your expense questions. I think that makes everything a lot easier.
Jeremy Burrows 17:26
Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of a cheat sheet, if you will. So that they can kind of get going a lot quicker. So that’s good. What’s what makes an assistant a leader in your mind.
Cathy Rong 17:43
And in my mind, a leader, an assistant who is a leader is proactive, I think, above all else, because, as assistants, I think we have a unique perspective in our position, in terms of what’s going on in the company, and all of the correspondence or conversations that were privy to, so we’re really in a position to be proactive, more than maybe other people at the company. And I think that’s what differentiates an assistant from a leader assistant.
Jeremy Burrows 18:19
Yeah, so what’s something that you do to be proactive with your executive?
Cathy Rong 18:27
I think when we see our ISP problems, or potentially just gaping holes, and just being proactive in providing a solution. So in terms of, for example, training, a new admin hire, I went to my executives and said, This is something that I’m noticing that new admin hires are not don’t necessarily have access to all the knowledge they need to be good at their job, and then presented them with a curriculum for training that I came up with, and just requiring approval of that curriculum to move forward. So not only seeing a problem, but also already having the solution at hand when bringing it up. I
Jeremy Burrows 19:14
love that. Yeah, I’m all about, you know, it’s, it’s one level to identify problems. And it’s a whole nother level to actually suggest solutions and get creative on solving the problem before you say hey, everybody look at this problem. But so, okay, so if you’re going to go back to your first week, as an assistant in your career, and talk to yourself, what would you say to yourself, to encourage your younger self for the first week of on the job
Cathy Rong 20:00
that every opportunity or experience is a learning opportunity. So even if you have a negative experience, there is something to take away from that.
Jeremy Burrows 20:13
That’s awesome. So what’s a learning experience? That you’ve had maybe a challenge in your career that and what did you learn from it?
Cathy Rong 20:25
I think, two particular scenarios, one is just coming into a new corporate environment, especially as maybe like an entry level assistant, is really figuring out how to handle difficult personalities, not even necessarily in your executive, but maybe the people that your executive work with, or people you personally have to work closely with. And just managing those relationships is a very big learning experience, that even if you don’t jive with someone, in real life, you can find a way to work with them on a professional level.
Jeremy Burrows 21:11
With something that you’ve done to help you through that, and work and work and be professional with someone.
Cathy Rong 21:21
I think people would traditionally say, oh, learning more about communication skills, but for me, it has really been working on my emotional intelligence, and seeking out resources that kind of educate me on that, because that’s not emotional intelligence is not traditionally a skill that you learn necessarily in like high school, or college, I think it’s really something that you practice that you are naturally born with, or something you work on.
Jeremy Burrows 21:55
What’s maybe one of your favorite resources when it comes to emotional intelligence.
Cathy Rong 22:02
I read several emotional intelligence. I would say self help book. But beyond that, there are actually some resources I take advantage of on LinkedIn learning. They have some resources, particular to emotional intelligence in the corporate workplace that I found very valuable.
Jeremy Burrows 22:24
Nice, nice. Do you have any links or anything that we could post in the show notes for people to look some look up some resources?
Cathy Rong 22:34
Yeah, I think there was a particular course path as well. I can send it to you later to include in the notes for?
Jeremy Burrows 22:41
Yeah, that’d be great. Awesome. Yeah. I love I’m passionate about emotional intelligence. I think that’s part of how we as assistants can future proof our careers is really cultivate our emotional intelligence. So we’d love to share that resource as well. All right, Kathy, well, is there anything else that you wanted to encourage assistants listening with? Before we go,
Cathy Rong 23:09
I think I want to particular emphasize the importance of advocating for yourself, no matter what point of your career you’re at, I think advocating with yourself for yourself comes with also confidence and knowing your self worth. And I don’t, I’m not sure how to advise to ultimately reach that point. But I think it’s an important thing to continue to instill to EAS.
Jeremy Burrows 23:45
Yeah, I mean, maybe a follow up would be how, where do you think you get your confidence from? Where do you think you get your you’ve gotten your ability to advocate for yourself from?
Cathy Rong 23:59
I think I found my competence and advocating for myself specifically, because of the admin communities I’ve been in, whether it’s Facebook groups, like speaking with other admins, you know, networking, and kind of figuring out my personal strengths and weaknesses on that front and realizing that, like, I know, my self worth, and I can advocate for that, whether it’s advocating for your salary or increased responsibility or a title change, having all these resources available, and, you know, kind of getting to know the industry landscape, as much as possible really provides you with that confidence.
Jeremy Burrows 24:46
Yeah, that’s great advice. Awesome, Cathy. Well, I appreciate you taking time to share a little bit of your story and insight. Is there somewhere that those listening could connect with you or reach out and say All right.
Cathy Rong 25:01
Yeah, I would encourage everyone to reach out via LinkedIn. I’m always up for a chat and on the note of advocating for yourself, definitely if look for a mentor or anything on that front if you feel like you need more guidance in terms of career pathing
Jeremy Burrows 25:22
Yeah, great. Awesome. We’ll all share your LinkedIn and Instagram links in the show notes as well so people can get a hold of you. And yeah, thanks so much. Best of luck to you and your career and keep leading well and we’ll talk soon. Yeah,
Cathy Rong 25:38
thank you so much, Jeremy.
Jeremy Burrows 25:39
Thanks again for listening. Check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/117.
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