Giovanna de Beij has worked as an executive assistant for 16 years at companies like Mattel, Philips, and HERE Technologies.
In this episode, Giovanna shares insight from her years of experience as an executive assistant, including tips on working across cultures (here’s the Culture Map book she recommends, by the way) and what she would tell new assistants as they begin their career.
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Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.
– From the West Point cadet prayer
CONNECT WITH GIOVANNA
Giovanna de Beij Mazariegos has been an executive assistant since moving to The Netherlands 16 years ago. She’s originally from Guatemala but was raised in the US. Giovanna has had the pleasure of working for companies such as Mattel, Royal Philips, VEON and HERE Technologies. She’s currently the executive assistant to the Executive Committee at Royal BAM.
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Giovanna de Beij 0:00
Hi, my name is Giovanna de Beij and today’s leader quote is from the west points Cadet prayer make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.
Podcast Intro 0:16
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 0:27
howdy friends, thank you so much for listening, you can check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/147. And now a quick note about this episode sponsor with loop and tie giving great gifts is simple. Here’s how it works. You choose a curated collection of stylish artisan made gifts at prices from $10 to $500 per gift. Then your recipients get to choose their own gift from the collection that you send. Go to loopandtie.com and use promo code leader assistant that’s all caps to words leader assistant to get 20% off. And yes, they do ship internationally. So visit loopandtie.com and use the code leader assistant for 20% off. Just know that the discount code expires on December 31 Hey friends thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast your host Jeremy Burrows and today I’m very excited to be speaking with Giovanna de Beij. Giovanna, where are you in the world?
Giovanna de Beij 1:42
I am in the Netherlands in the city of Amstelveen which is just outside of Amsterdam.
Jeremy Burrows 1:48
Very nice. And because I am terrible at English, and terrible at pronouncing names. Why don’t you say your full name so everybody can hear your full name.
Giovanna de Beij 1:59
My full name but um, Giovanna Dube, Mazariegos.
Jeremy Burrows 2:03
Perfect. Love it. Well, how long have you been an assistant?
Giovanna de Beij 2:09
I’ve been an assistant for 16 years.
Jeremy Burrows 2:12
Nice. That’s right re in line with me. I think I’m at 16 and a half or something like that. So why did you become an assistant?
Giovanna de Beij 2:24
Well, I actually before moving to the Netherlands. So originally, I’m from Guatemala, and I was raised in the US. And I came to the Netherlands because my husband is Dutch. So when I moved here, I didn’t speak Dutch. And the first job that was available was the job as an executive assistant. And that’s how kind of it started, right. But I’ve been very, very fortunate to work with some great companies and great leaders. And it just it felt like a right fit always. So that’s how I became an assistant and I am still an assistant.
Jeremy Burrows 2:59
Nice. So what’s your favorite part?
Giovanna de Beij 3:02
Um, I like being close to the fire. You know, it’s, I love to solve problems. I think leadership is about solving problems. So, um, you know, no day is the same. Right? And yeah, I think that’s the part that I like the most split. It’s a puzzle account that continuous puzzle every day.
Jeremy Burrows 3:24
Speaking of puzzles, what are some of the most challenging puzzles you’ve had to solve?
Giovanna de Beij 3:30
Um, well, you know, sometimes it turns out, it’s actually culture related, right? So sometimes you realize in a communication that people are going in completely different directions. So trying to, to sort of stop the conversation and you know, in a polite way, of course, and sort of redirect, you have to be very thoughtful of okay, well, this person is understanding this. And it’s probably because English is not their first language, right? So you tried to sort of put the pieces the pieces together so that the whole message is understood. So sometimes that can be a bit challenging.
Jeremy Burrows 4:10
Can you tell us any crazy stories from your time as an assistant any funny or interesting stories? Um,
Unknown Speaker 4:18
let’s see. Uh, yeah,
Giovanna de Beij 4:21
I mean, you know, it’s very different for for for assistants, I think in the Netherlands, definitely in Europe. You know, I think it might be funny for us assistants to hear that my boss gets me coffee quite often. And he remembers how I like my coffee, you know? So. And I think the first time that that happened, I was a bit shocked. I was like, no, no, I’ll get you coffee. He’s like, no, no, no, I’ll get you coffee. Tell me what do you want, you know, and just that shock? I have when I think about it, I just I just have to giggle a little.
Jeremy Burrows 4:55
So what’s what’s one of the most challenging And yeah, to difficult situations where you really just had a had a big transformation or, or it led to a big transformation in your career.
Giovanna de Beij 5:12
You know, every company has different cultures, right. And I think at one point, I had to sort of stand up for myself. You know, I didn’t necessarily agree with certain tasks. You know, I don’t mind going out of my way to help people, but it is the tasks that I was being asked it there was, there was no thank you after it. You know, it was, wait, this isn’t part of the job description. I’m really trying to help you. So I standing up for myself, I think this was early in the early my career. I was a bit scared to do it. Right. So I thought, Okay, well, I have to do it. And I thought I would get fired. That didn’t happen. And I guess the challenge was overcoming that fear, but also realizing how silly that fear was, right. So it helped me grow and believe in myself a little bit more.
Jeremy Burrows 6:09
Yeah. So what helped you kind of get over that fear?
Giovanna de Beij 6:16
You know, at one point the person was traveling back from from, it was quite a long trip. And I brought, I thought, okay, they’re landing at five in the morning, I let let’s, let’s, let’s make sure there’s at least some groceries in the fridge. Right. So it was sort of a courtesy. And the reaction I got was, you know, I don’t like this. I don’t like that. And I don’t like that. And I it was so you know, I, it just felt so wrong, and so incorrect. And so I just had to do it. I have to say what, listen, okay, great. So send me a list next time, right? And then the person realized, no, I’m sorry, I really appreciate what you’re doing, etc. But that sort of set the border, and then it never happened again. Right. So if I did go out of my way, then there was at least some recognition at the end.
Jeremy Burrows 7:12
Yeah, that’s sounds like a not a very grateful situation there where you help try to help them out. And they’re being picky.
Giovanna de Beij 7:23
Yeah. Yeah, you know, but I guess, you know, we must always be is have empathy, right? For people, everybody has a story, and everybody’s going through something. And sometimes when when leaders grow too fast, or or achieve success too fast, they might forget, you know, the little thank you. So please. So it was just that that moment, so I guess it was a learning experience for both. But again, it goes back to sometimes we second guess ourselves. And we think no, no, you know, maybe I’m overreacting or but it didn’t feel right. And I just had to stand up and say, No, I you know, you have to have the courage and, and set that border. So but that’s really, you know, this happened long ago. And it was just a great lesson, I think.
Jeremy Burrows 8:14
Yeah. So you’re sitting in a room and it’s full of brand new assistants and they ask you to share one insight or one encouragement from your career as an assistant to all these newbies. What What would you what would you tell a roomful of new assistants
Giovanna de Beij 8:39
leaving yourself you know, again, we said we as assistants, sometimes we tend to second guess ourselves. And you know, even if you only have three years of experience, well the person next to you might have 27 years so together you have 30 Right so believing yourself and work as a team. You know, the more we help each other the farther we will get, you know, we can we can go at it alone and be very lonely and be very Yeah, not achieved much. But if we if we got it together and respect each other and help each other, then you can really bring the organization to the next level.
Jeremy Burrows 9:21
Yeah, well said. So I’m looking at your LinkedIn and your your career you worked at Mattel, Europe, you worked in at Philips, like you’ve supported legal executives, HR executives, finance executives, which which department do or have you enjoyed? Maybe more than the others finance, HR legal?
Giovanna de Beij 9:46
Well, definitely finance. You know, I think I’m a finance person at heart and I guess it’s the rhythm, right? Finance is cyclical, so that’s stable, right? Even though the day to day can be completely hectic, you know, you’re at a public company, so you know that you have your quarterly release coming up. So you kind of plan backwards from that, right? So that sort of continuum really sets me at ease. I’m now reporting to supporting the CEO and the CFO at my current company. So that’s a perfect candidate. I think, I that’s something I’m enjoying a lot.
Jeremy Burrows 10:26
Nice. So have you ever had the CFO and the CEO ask you to do something if the exact same time? Every day? Prioritize? Who knows? I mean, obviously, the CEO, you know, CFOs boss, but
Giovanna de Beij 10:46
well, you know, it’s really funny, because I think one time, they both spoke at the same time, and it was just one of those most, you know, like, it was a comical moment, right? So I was just sort of pointing at them, like a k, which was what you know, of, so it, they both had to laugh as well. And it’s simple. It’s, you know, they both have urgent matters, right? And it’s you have to make a split decision, a split second decision, and sometimes the CEO wins. And sometimes the CFO wins, it’s very simple. If the CFO actually needs to speak to a board member, well, then that request from the CEO will be taken care of 30 minutes from now. Right. But right now, I need to get a hold of that board member. So, you know, it’s it’s split second decisions, I think.
Jeremy Burrows 11:34
Okay, so you really like finance world? How have you? Is there anything personal? When it comes to finance? Or like do does it translate into your personal world or your personal finances in the sense of like, are you interested in the stock market or investing? Or, you know, do you help your friends with financial, you know, decision? Yes.
Giovanna de Beij 12:02
I wouldn’t know I would never do that. Responsible. No, I Yeah, it does translate. I do follow the market, of course, and I think for the future, you know, so I just enjoy it. Enjoy the regularity of it. Of course, of course, the markets are always volatile. Right. So, so it’s it’s a bit of a gamble. But um, you know, I will never advise my friends. They should never take advice from me financially.
Jeremy Burrows 12:36
Nice. Well, what type of hobbies do you have? Do you like to do in your spare time? Well, I
Giovanna de Beij 12:41
love reading. I love anything history. So I’ll read any history book. And I, I took a running this year, I used to boast that I only ran after taco trucks, right?
Jeremy Burrows 12:58
I always say I always say only run if somebody’s chasing me. Yeah.
Giovanna de Beij 13:04
But I started running this year, and I really enjoy it. So I try to do that at least three times a week. Well, running, I think, is saying a lot. I like to jog. I see a lot of people who are a little bit older than me running away faster, and they just, you know, switch by. But I’m giving it my best for sure. And that helps me decompress after a stressful day for sure. Nice.
Jeremy Burrows 13:32
What about your family? Anything you want to tell us about your family?
Giovanna de Beij 13:35
Um, yeah, so I’m married to a lovely Dutch gentleman, his name is Mark. I have a son and he’s 25 years old. Of course, he’s moved out. So that helps. You know, when I have to work long days, I don’t have to worry about picking my child up from school, etc. And both my husband and my son are very supportive of my career. So they get excited when my company’s in the news. And yeah, it’s it’s, I’m quite, I’m quite a lucky person.
Jeremy Burrows 14:09
Did you have any challenges when your son was younger? With just competing with with your career?
Giovanna de Beij 14:19
Um, no, um, you know, he. I mean, you know, he was going to school so that it was never really a big, big issue. I can understand however. So for example, in the Netherlands, you are allowed to take some parental leave, of course, and it’s not seen. Yeah, that’s where we also fall into the whole different cultures right here. If you need to leave at 430 to pick up your child you can pick leave and pick up your child right. And you’re not expected to log back in. Of course, it’s greatly appreciated if you log back in afterwards. But nobody’s going to force you to log back in.
Jeremy Burrows 15:03
Nice. So very, very flexible. And that obviously would help for a kid.
Giovanna de Beij 15:12
Correct? Correct. And now of course, we’re moving to hybrid into hybrid Working Solutions, right. So I currently work for a for oil Bomb Group, which is a construction company, and it’s one of the largest construction companies. Well, it’s the largest one in the Netherlands. Right? And they are very well, you could say that they were still quite old fashioned before Corona, right? Everybody was in the office and an on site, obviously. But now the people who are working for you who have corporate jobs, let’s say office jobs, they can work from from home as much as they want. So I think that that helps. Also, when you’re raising children, and you and you’re an assistant that that gives you a lot of flexibility.
Jeremy Burrows 16:00
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I took advantage of the COVID-19 situation and moved back to my hometown of Kansas City, about three and a half hours away from my company and my executive. So I’m now full time remote. And I love it. And I don’t know that I’d ever be able to go back into full time in office.
Giovanna de Beij 16:23
But how do you how do you keep engaged with the team? Because I think that that has been a challenge for for all assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 16:30
This year? Yeah. Well, I mean, like, next week, I’m going back for a few days to be in the office for the board meetings, board dinner, you know, so I go back once a quarter for that kind of, you know, the big, if you will, big in person meetings. And then yeah, I just tried to stay, you know, active and engaged on the video conference calls that we have, and the be very responsive to Slack messages and emails. And if my executive calls me, you know, always answering those kinds of things. So that doesn’t feel like I’m three hours away. Yeah. So, Giovanna, what makes an assistant a leader in your mind?
Giovanna de Beij 17:24
Well, the nature of assisting is solving problems. Right. And I think Colin Powell said that leadership is solving problems. General Colin Powell said that, you know, and the moment that this is what he said, right, the moment that soldier so the moment people stop coming to you to solve the problems, then there has been a failure in leadership. And I don’t think there are many assistants who, who can say that they have failed in leadership, that we’re always solving problems all the time, even if it’s just a quick chat at the Coffee Corner, and somebody throws out the problem. And you already have a solution, you know. So I think that it is innate in us. Leadership is innate in all systems.
Jeremy Burrows 18:14
Yeah. Well said I got to see. General Powell speak. At a conference IRS IRS years ago, it was a leadership conference. It was really good.
Giovanna de Beij 18:27
Wow. Yeah. One of my Yeah, I truly admired him.
Jeremy Burrows 18:34
Yeah. Is that one of the like, one of your books, favorite books you’ve read or something about him or one of
Giovanna de Beij 18:40
his biography was definitely very inspirational. You know, it’s, I grew up in the US, right. So I, as an immigrant from Guatemala, I thought it was it’s so inspirational to read how his parents came to the United States. And then he became, you know, who he became right, such as such a powerhouse. So, yeah, I really, I really was inspired by his story.
Jeremy Burrows 19:09
Speaking of books, what book has had the most direct impact on your assistant career?
Giovanna de Beij 19:19
Over the years, besides the leader, Assistant?
Jeremy Burrows 19:23
Well, yeah, shameless plug for my book.
Giovanna de Beij 19:26
I’m actually Erin Meyers, the Culture Map, I highly recommend that, you know, it really opened my eyes to, you know, cultures that are high context, communication versus low context. And it really, it opens your eyes, but it just helps you develop right and then you can really navigate communication through cultures.
Jeremy Burrows 19:50
Nice. Yeah, I’ll, I’ll definitely put a link to that in the show notes so people can check it out if they’re interested. So Oh, well gee Ivana, thank you so much for chatting. Is there anything else you’d like to share or say to the global assistant community? Wow, no, it
Giovanna de Beij 20:10
will. First of all, thank you for having me. Like I said, let’s help each other. Let’s be there for each other. Right if if assistants don’t take care of each other, who will?
Jeremy Burrows 20:23
Amen, amen. Awesome. Well, how can people reach out to you if they want to say hi, or connect? Oh, they can
Giovanna de Beij 20:31
just reach out through LinkedIn. And yeah, look forward to this.
Jeremy Burrows 20:37
Awesome. Oh, thanks so much, again for being on the show. And best of luck to you and hopefully, I’ll get to make it out to the Netherlands someday and explore the part of the world I haven’t been to.
Giovanna de Beij 20:50
Oh, well, we’ll we’ll have a drink. I promise you that
Jeremy Burrows 20:54
nice. Very nice. All right. Well, have a good one. Thank you. Thanks again Giovanna for a great conversation. Check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/147 And we will talk to you next time.
Unknown Speaker 21:15
Please loom you on Apple podcast. Goburrows.com