AmyJo Short – or “AJ” – as her colleagues know her, has been an executive assistant in Northern California for over twenty years. She is currently the executive assistant to Carmen Castaldi, president of Rodney Strong Wine Estates.
In this episode of The Leader Assistant Podcast, AJ talks about how she became an assistant, tips for new assistants, and advice on event planning and coordination. AJ is also a member of the Leader Assistant Premium Membership Community. I trust you’ll enjoy our conversation!
Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion.
– Simon Sinek
CONNECT WITH AJ
AmyJo “AJ” Short, executive assistant at Rodney Strong VineyardsAmyJo or “AJ” as her colleagues know her, has been an executive assistant in Northern California for over twenty years. She is currently the executive assistant to Carmen Castaldi, president of Rodney Strong Wine Estates. In addition to supporting her President, AJ provides support to three vice presidents in sales and marketing, as well as her husband’s steel building business. As an empty-nester, she enjoys taking care of chickens and goats on their 2.5 acre farm.
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AmyJo Short 0:00
Hi, my name is AmyJo Short and my leadership quote comes from Simon Sinek. Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called Passion.
Podcast Intro 0:14
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 0:26
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AmyJo Short 1:52
Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Jeremy. This is This is amazing. I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while now. So I feel privileged to be part of it.
Jeremy Burrows 2:01
Awesome. Yeah, you’re episode 163. So for those listening, you can check out the show notes. Links to say hi to AJ and reach out and a bunch of other links at leader assistant.com/ 163. Leader assistant.com/ 163. All right, AJ, well, let’s jump in. How did you end up in the assistant role?
AmyJo Short 2:29
Well, at Jeremy’s and the beginning of my career, I was in customer service, so many years spent just doing a lot of customer care. And the company that I was working for at the time, was not in the wine industry. But it was here in Northern California, and they brought in an executive from the UK. And he didn’t have an assistant, and they wanted him to have somebody to report to him and to help him with, you know, kind of navigating the company navigating everything. And so I jumped in, I jumped in to be his assistant, and I kind of never looked back. So, of course, with that being said customer service, you know, I continue to utilize those customer service skills, right and interacting with him in internally externally, you know, company leadership, even outside clients. So I definitely still use those skills in those early years of my career.
Jeremy Burrows 3:26
Yeah, customer service is definitely a industry or career path that transfer as well to the EA role as we often have to serve lots of customers on behalf of our executives. We even serve other executives and or almost act like customer service for the leadership team sometimes,
AmyJo Short 3:49
no doubt, no doubt.
Jeremy Burrows 3:51
So what’s your favorite part? Throughout your career? And even today, in your current role? What’s your favorite part about being an assistant?
AmyJo Short 4:02
I’d have to say that my favorite part of being an assistant is being able to make a positive difference in someone somebody’s day, like every day, right? There are so many roles within the company that work independently and ultimately, you know, their work affects other people. But as somebody’s assistant, like each and every day, you you directly touch like both their workflow and culture, deliverables. And, you know, like whether you’re prioritizing emails or making travel arrangements or creating an executive summary or a presentation, you know, you represent both your executive and the company. And it just feels like I always make a joke, you know, if somebody walks by and they ask, you know, how are you today and what do you you know, and well, you know, just working hard making a difference is kind of kind of a line that I use, and it’s that that’s basically why I love being an assistant because I feel like I make a difference in their lives.
Jeremy Burrows 5:07
Yeah, so a lot of people have been reaching out to me saying, Hey, I just transitioned to the career. Or maybe I was in, I was an assistant back in the day, and it had some time off and, you know, raise a few kids or whatever. And now I’m back. And I just want to make sure I start off. Well, so do you have any tips for new assistants, or assistants getting back into this profession as they kick off their career?
AmyJo Short 5:38
Absolutely. You know, the internet is such a vast source of knowledge right there any any given day, you can find so many tips for organizing your day organizing your life, I mean, it’s on Tik Tok, it’s on all the different platforms on how to organize. My best tip for new assistants is to try a few different things. But try a few different organizational things that they find either recommendations, or even just researching online. But ultimately, you have to find the one or two, that’s going to work for you. Because ultimately, if you can’t, you can find the most cutting edge technology or organizational skill, but it’s not the way you work organically, then it’s just going to seem like a task, right. So I’ll use an example of email. So there’s so many different ways you can organize your email, and I used to organize my email back in the day I would organize, I’d have a folder for everybody and have a folder for anybody that I interacted with. And it would just kind of file things away so that I wouldn’t forget anything. But it gets really cumbersome. So I developed, you know, my own kind of take on the stack method. And so now, I trust my network, that I’m going to be able to do a search feature and find what I really need. But ultimately, I don’t have to spend that much time because it just goes into a couple of folders instead of a folder for each and every person. So my tip is to find something, you know, try out a few things, but find something that’s going to work for you, like personally in the way that you work.
Jeremy Burrows 7:20
Yeah, well fed. And, you know, when you start this is, I was the same way. Like I used to label everything like crazy. And then I realized that the Gmail, Google search algorithms were so good that I could find whatever I wanted, just by typing in a few keywords in my area, why am I wasting so much time labeling. But yeah, just trial and error, try it out. Don’t be afraid to change your system. And don’t be afraid to adapt as you get in and get more experience. So well said. So you’re in the wine industry. Anyone who knows even a little bit about wine knows that that means parties and events and winery tours and all that fun stuff. How much of your role right now involves event planning and coordination.
AmyJo Short 8:13
You know, Jeremy, I am I have such a super exciting role. I mean, some people, they kind of go through their day, and they don’t get to, you know, do a lot of events. Of course, the wine industry, it’s a little cyclic. So there’s a lot more, a lot more going on during certain months than others. But I am, you know, I get to touch so many different things. I you know, I’m working for the president of the company, I get to do you know, maybe some small organise some small tastings for maybe a family friend is coming in, or I get to organize a larger distributor group coming in, or even a, you know, multi day program that could be include accommodations, or transportation and tastings and vineyard tours and seminars, and ultimately, executive presentation. So there’s so many different moving parts of so many different events, that I get to be part of all of it. Now, do I do all of it? No, I don’t do all of it. A lot of organization, I have a great team, my hospitality team, my events team so and, you know, even our, our groups, you know, we have vendors that we use, primarily, but I work for a wonderful company, we have a great venue, you know, we can see up to we have well we have the lawn for concert. So it’s up to 1200 people. So I also get to help with, you know, organizing concerts as well. So there’s, there are a lot of really fun things that I get to do. But I would have to say that it’s just, you want people walking away from any event you do with a positive image of your company, and that’s what I strive to do with all Have these interactions is just make sure that when they walk away from a concert or a meeting that they have a positive feeling about what they just enjoy, you know, enjoyed.
Jeremy Burrows 10:13
Yeah. So do you have any tips for those listening that do plan a lot of events? or what have you seen are examples of well planned and well executed and engaging events.
AmyJo Short 10:30
Wow. So it’s only a 30 minute podcast. So let me see what I can. Because it’s a down, I would have to say it’s never too early to book a venue and start planning. That’s my number one tip, it’s never too early. Especially now, right, like kind of semi post COVID. But just venues and staffing and supply chain, they all requires such significant lead times right now. So it’s never too early. So even if you think you’re going to do, we’re going to do a sales meeting in 2023. start planning now. 2024 start planning now. Even if it’s simply to get the venue and just kind of start thinking about like the overarching value of what the event is going to bring. And it’s kind of funny, because it could be collaboration, it could be team building, it could be, you know, education, but it or it could be driving like company culture. And once you have like that, overarching you have your venue, you have kind of what you want this meeting to be every aspect of that, you just keep kind of going back to it. Is it going to align with this? Is it going to align with that value? And oh, well, you know, and when possible add wine, if you can
Jeremy Burrows 11:49
call you if they need help with that. Nice, nice, yeah, planning ahead. And it is, I have been noticing that things are getting a little bit more pre pandemic, like in the sense of like, flights seem to be a little bit more expensive, or more or more difficult to book. Maybe, you know, if you don’t book more than a month out, it’s a little bit harder to find the seats you want and event spaces are starting to fill up. So yeah, it’s definitely back to Alright, go ahead and plan ahead.
AmyJo Short 12:23
No doubt. And what we have found in our industry even is that we do a lot of swag bags. And so securing all those items, that’s a top priority. So if you want to secure, you know, wearables or any other type of, you know, tchotchke items, those supply chains, you know, there’s lots and lots of things that are that are stopping them right now. So definitely plan that ahead.
Jeremy Burrows 12:49
Yeah. So you’ve been, AJ, you’ve been a part of the leader, Assistant community, and specifically, our premium membership subscribers, for I think it’s coming up to about a year or so. What? Why did you join the community? And what have you learned from it? Or why do you stay?
AmyJo Short 13:16
Well, I definitely will, you know, when I read your book, and I became, you know, became part of The Leader, Assistant, Podcast family and listen to the podcasts, I listened to them, when I’m walking my dog, I listened to them, you know, I just I learned so much from your guests. And, you know, I truly believe that assistance, we lead company culture, you know, back in the day, you know, we acted as, say, a gatekeeper, right for my executives time, or simply acting on clerical requests or coordination. But now, you know, it’s changed where, you know, we have to be thoughtful partners, right in the execution of the company vision, and we have to be thoughtful partners in executing, you know, anything that our executives need to kind of see all the details right of the day to day, mechanics, if you will, that don’t always reach the executive level. Like there’s a lot of things from day that day to day processes in our companies that we know about as their assistant, but they have that that 10,000 foot view that, you know, we have to kind of understand that we’re helping every day. And so I found being part of this community, just learning the tips and tricks and understanding how other assistants work it in how do they make their executives the priority and it always comes back to communication. And so communicating with other assistants or communicate, I can reach out to another assistant and be like, Oh, we’re on this, you know? Absolutely. I would do anything for another assistant because I know what they go through on a day to day basis. He says, you know, and some of our some of our executives are more, you know, just the facts, right? Just the Facts kind of Oh, Joe Friday of the world now I’ve dated myself, but the Joe Fridays of the world. Yeah, just the facts, ma’am. Right. But there’s some that like more detail. So it all comes back to communication. And I truly believe that, as an assistant, you can be a leader by leading with communication not only to your executives, but communicating to the company, and being kind of that light, right? That, that that beacon that they can read, they can kind of seek out and know that they’re going to get either answers, or they’re going to be heard.
Jeremy Burrows 15:38
Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, kind of good transition to the My last question, what makes an assistant a leader? So I know you mentioned communication, so maybe what’s maybe you can share? What’s one type or tactic when it comes to communication that really separates, you know, average assistants from leader assistants?
AmyJo Short 16:07
I definitely think that being your authentic self, when you’re communicating with your, with your executives, coming to them with truly developing that relationship, right. You know, I’ve always said, you know, there is the golden rule, right, doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you, but I kind of always have morphed that. And it’s been Do unto others the way they like to be done unto, right. So I try to really focus on how they like to communicate. And the way I communicate with one executive does not necessarily mean I’m going to communicate the exact same way with the other, it’s, it’s really just trying to figure that out and make sure that you’re giving them the information in the way that they are going to receive it. And not just the way they’re going to receive it, but the way that they’re going to be able to utilize it for their path. Is it going to be more operational for this particular executive and more, you know, conversational for this executive. So I think that once you develop that really, truly makes you, you know, a leader, Assistant.
Jeremy Burrows 17:19
Yeah, it’s all about contextualizing or changing up your style, and adapting your communication based on the context and your your surroundings. And like you said, people’s styles and preferences and all that. good communicators know how to say the same thing in different ways based on talking to
AmyJo Short 17:48
well, and I happen to be a storyteller communicator, and I have to know my audience, because when I start, I start communicating in my style to somebody who is a just the facts. It’s lost. Yeah. Yeah.
Jeremy Burrows 18:04
Awesome. Well, AJ, thank you so much for being on the show and sharing a little bit of wisdom with our audience. Is there a good place for people to reach out and connect and say,
AmyJo Short 18:14
hi, well, they can always reach me on LinkedIn. You find me under my name. And top executive admin is kind of my handle. But at AJ Roxette is my instagram handle. I don’t post a lot but if you see on my Instagram or anything like that, you’re most likely going to see some goats because that’s what I do. I am a my own little farm of goats and chickens. That is my passion. So which does not seem like a lot of work when it’s you know, when it’s something you love to do, so they can always reach out Yeah, LinkedIn, Instagram, I’m on Facebook, too. That’s all you know, kind of personal stuff, but I don’t mind. Awesome.
Jeremy Burrows 18:53
Well, AJ, thanks again. And we’ll see you soon at one of our members leader assistant member calls. And good luck to you and thanks again for being on the show.
AmyJo Short 19:04
Thanks so much, Jeremy. It was a pleasure. Had a great time.
Podcast Outro 19:20
Please live you on Apple podcasts. Goburrows.com