Sara McKay is an executive assistant in Los Angeles, CA and has worked in PR, fashion, beauty, production, and is now at a music tech startup, Wave.
In this episode, Sara shares tips on remote work, being a new assistant, how to utilize your transferable skills when diving into a new industry, asking clarifying questions, and she talks about that time she worked out of Jared Leto’s house.
If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.
– Dolly Parton
CONNECT WITH SARA
Sara McKay is an executive assistant based in Los Angeles, Ca. Originally from Michigan, Sara has worked in PR, entertainment, fashion, beauty, and film production. Sara currently works at music tech startup, WaveXR, where she supports the co-founder and CEO. Sara is always seeking ways to learn from and encourage her peers.
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Sara McKay 0:00
I’m Sara McKay. Today’s leadership quote comes from Dolly Parton. If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more than you’re an excellent leader.
Podcast Intro 0:14
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident, Game Changing leader assistant.
Jeremy Burrows 0:27
Hey friends, it’s your host, Jeremy Burrows. And I just wanted to let you know a little bit about today’s sponsor. The Leader Assistant Podcast is brought to you by goody with employee burnout at all time highs it’s so important to make your team feel appreciated and recognized. With goody you can connect your HR system and automatically send gifts for employees birthdays and work anniversaries. Talk about automating before your role is automated. It’s a modern hands free way to show your team members how much you appreciate them. Goody is free to start gifting and you can get a $20 credit when you sign up. Be sure to mention The Leader Assistant Podcast in goody will add an extra $10 credit to your account. Go to leaderassistant.com/goody to give Goody a try. Hey friends. Thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host Jeremy Burrows. Welcome to Episode 179 You can check out the show notes for this episode at leaderassistant.com/179 And today I’m excited to be joined by let’s see Sara Mckay that’s right Sara, how’s it going?
Sara McKay 1:40
Hey, Jeremy. I’m well how are you doing?
Jeremy Burrows 1:43
Dude? Okay, just trying to keep everything straight. And remember who I’m talking to, you know, just a normal normal day in the life of an assistant, right? Yes, I
Sara McKay 1:50
know. That’s right. Fair enough.
Jeremy Burrows 1:53
And okay, so you’re executive assistant at a company called wave. Tell us about your role and what your company does.
Sara McKay 2:03
Yeah, so super exciting. I work at a music tech startup called wave. And they do live virtual concerts in the metaverse company started about six years ago by two incredible tech guys that had an idea and it really took off during COVID. We actually just got nominated for an MTV Music Award. We found out Yeah, that’s fun. Two days ago, MTV added a Metaverse category and our Justin Bieber concert that was aired in November of 2021. is nominated. So
Jeremy Burrows 2:46
you guys can go vote
Sara McKay 2:48
if you want. But yeah, it’s an incredible company. It’s mostly remote. We do have a studio in Los Angeles, but the majority of our engineers and whatnot are all over the US. And yeah, I support primarily the CEO and co founder and then but I also as EAS do help wherever I’m needed. So it’s been fun. I’ve been doing all different kinds of things in the last I’ve been there five months.
Jeremy Burrows 3:15
Okay. Awesome. Yeah. And congrats to your team on the on the nomination. That’s awesome. So let’s, let’s talk a little bit about your career journey to get here. How did you end up being an assistant?
Sara McKay 3:31
A lot of assistants, I think I hear on this podcast, say I kind of fell into it. I am from Michigan, a small town, but Metro Detroit is home where I actually am right now. And I went to Wayne State University and studied public relations, I was always kind of interested in journalism and pop culture. And I thought, oh, you know, PR would be great. So I started interning at a PR firm, a music PR firm, my senior year of college, and then was hired on as an assistant publicist. So that was kind of my first taste of being an assistant. I helped a lot with the campaigns, but also, you know, did the assistant stuff, you know, help you in the office and being the right hand to the lead publicist? Unfortunately, my mom got sick during that time. And that’s when I really kind of realized that I was a great right hand, just realizing I could go to school, help her work a job and keep it all together. You know, I really realized, okay, yeah, I’m, I’m great at helping people. That’s where I thrive. And it’s always kind of been that way when I moved to Los Angeles. Five years ago, I started as a production assistant in working in film, and then I did some coordinating jobs and eventually found myself supporting a showrunner as a very entry level, it’s executive assistant role. And then after that, I worked for a fashion designer, which is my first real kind of executive assistant, personal assistant, big, you know, role. And it was a great learning experience, I really kind of got thrown into the fire, and wasn’t the best fit, unfortunately. But that’s okay. Then I worked at a beauty agency. And I started there in the beginning of 2019. And we worked with like Jennifer Lopez’s makeup artist, fiance’s hairstylist, all kinds of different beauty artists in Los Angeles. And it was incredible. And I loved it. And I got to wear so many hats. And I was even doing you know, some like Junior agent work. And then COVID head, of course. So things slowed down there. And I went back to film when the world started open, open up again, the agency I was working with, unfortunately, was not as busy to bring me back on. But I had some friends that were still in production that brought me on to some roles. I’ve worked on a couple of Bravo shows, you might know Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles in Real Housewives of Los Angeles, and which was fine, but the hours are crazy. And it’s just not sustainable. And I’ve been looking for something, you know, to harness my skills in the EA world. And it was like serendipity, the recruiter at wave found me as my contract was any ending on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. And I hadn’t heard of wave. And I’ll always have a conversation. So anyone that reaches out to me, and I always think it’s good to have a conversation. And even if you just it’s always good to have a conversation, practice, whatever. And as I talked to the recruiter and did some research on wave, I was like, Oh, my gosh, this is incredible. And I say this to everyone. I’ve never gone through an interview process where I not only had report, but I felt like I could hang out with every single person I talked to, everyone was awesome. And I was like, this is definitely the company I want to be. These are the kind of people I want to work with. And I started in early 2022. And I don’t think I’ll ever look back. It’s been a journey. It’s an incredible journey. It was a little tough at first, because it was my first completely remote role. Like I’ve had roles, you know, with COVID, things went remote, but I’ve never started at a job where it starts off remote. But we’ve done a great job at working together. And you know, it’s true. Like it’s such an incredible team. And my president says it perfectly. He says we’re a case study, and creating remote culture. And we really pride ourselves on that, because we do a lot like I’m one of the leads, we have social pods that we call them throughout the US. And I’m the lead on the SoCal social pod. So, you know, I’m putting together an event for the SoCal group. And then we have like the Northeast group. And you know, it’s really cool that we’re finding ways to stay in touch. And we have all these different Slack channels when we do virtual, you know, team building events and things like that, while these incredible engineers are developing magic, and then, you know, I’m so honored to support the CEO, who is just incredible. I have a little bit of impostor syndrome sometimes, but it’s yeah, it’s been an incredible experience. So there’s my long winded answer.
Jeremy Burrows 8:46
Oh, that’s great. Thanks for sharing. So tell us about the remote work thing. So what does that mean? What did you call it? The chapter that would you said the, the regional director or whatever of your social remote thing?
Sara McKay 8:59
Yes. So we have, we call them social pods. There is. Yeah, social policy of Northern California, Southern California, the northeast, south east, which kind of merges with northeast because there aren’t too many people there. And so, when I started, I knew one of the big things they needed help on was a company retreat. They’d been wanting to bring the entire team together. So that was one of my first big projects. I started in February, early February, the end of April, I had put together this company retreat in Santa Monica, where everyone flew in. And so it was wild, and it was awesome. And then, you know, that kind of got our gears turning and you know, the President I you sat down with the President and we just actually just hired our HR director. She met us for the first time at the company retreat and And we all kind of got together and said, you know, we need to keep this going and keep this camaraderie going. You know, many of these people had never seen anyone else face to face. So we developed the social pods. We have the micro and macro pods, macro, obviously coming together at our company retreat, which we plan to do once a year. But then we have like I said, the SoCal pod is doing something next month where we’re getting together and the Northeast pod, but then some of the pods like SE is smaller. So they’re going to join the Northeast. And if anyone from Texas is available to come join SoCal pod, you know, we’ll invite them with us. And and then we also do virtual trivia, we’re looking into doing virtual cooking classes and all kinds of gaming nights, all kinds of cool things.
Jeremy Burrows 10:54
Wow. So lots of intentional activities for coming together. So that you don’t lose that social relational connection, right?
Sara McKay 11:09
Jeremy Burrows 11:12
So okay, so let’s stay on the topic of remote work for just a minute. What is one of the ways that you’ve seen your team? Or that you’ve done yourself to stay kind of alert or in in the know or even read your executives mind when you’re not in the same room as them? What are some practical things you’ve done to really get past? That disconnect? Other than the obviously the social in person? Thanks.
Sara McKay 11:46
Sure. I did. So it is an interesting question. It was tough at first, when I started, I demanded a lot of one on ones with my executive, you know, we do a lot of zoom calls. And originally, I feel like I’m pretty intuitive and empathetic, and thank goodness, my exec and I, we really just kind of got each other pretty well, but I bug him probably more than he would like, I asked him a lot of questions, you know, because I feel like it’s you don’t know until you know, so I’d rather bug him and get it the correct answer, then guests. And he is also like, we’ve learned our ways to communicate. And he’s pretty good at being like, letting me know, things that are high priority. And we do have our one on ones every Friday. So we go over the schedule, and we talk about, you know, what we need to do for the next week, who we are still trying to get in touch with et cetera. And he likes me now you know, the levels of priority. And now, as I mentioned, I’m still a little newer. So now I’m gonna start sitting in on some of the calls and, you know, taking notes and being more of a fly on the wall so that I can absorb things more. I’m also I do one on ones with the President as well, which is awesome, because he’s great. When my exec doesn’t have my CEO doesn’t have time, I can always pick his brain. And honestly, everyone has been so available to me, it’s been great, you know, and no one’s ever made me feel like a question is dumb. They’re always you know, have ask any question and that has been so helpful. And it’s just a really great team. Yeah,
Jeremy Burrows 13:35
it helps when you work with great people right?
Sara McKay 13:37
Yeah, I really just I yeah, we’ve gotten we hit the jackpot.
Jeremy Burrows 13:44
Love it. So let’s, let’s talk about being a new assistant. So you’re, you know, relatively new to this organization. Maybe being a new assistant at a new company, or eating even just a new role at your current company can be scary, new environment, you’re not comfortable with people yet. You mentioned in your when you filled out the survey for the podcast, I asked you a few questions. And you mentioned talking about being a new assistant and you said you think you immediately think of with great power comes great responsibility. So tell us a little bit about you know maybe tips or your experience of being in a new assistant in a new organization and how can those listening really take take the reins on a new opportunity like that?
Sara McKay 14:43
Yeah, sure. I mean yes with great Yes, we hold the reins assistance as you know, as we all know, we do all of the the behind the scenes work, which is one of the things I do love about being an assistant. I’ve just realized being Then production might have fed to that because, you know, making TV I’ve always been behind the scenes. But I think as I mentioned, there’s never a dumb question, I think you really have to involve yourself as much as you can be that fly on the wall, you know, talk to as many people as you can ask if you can sit down on meetings, my first real assistant job, which I would say was the fashion designer. It was, it was also actually remote. But it wasn’t supposed to be it was just the assistant or the exec wasn’t available. And it was very overwhelming. And I think you have to take things one step at a time. Instead of looking at your entire list of to dues, or the the calendar, which can look crazy. Be like okay, I’m going to focus on today. What does today look like? What do I need to get done for today? What do I need my execs calendar to be like for today? I know when I started this job, I was working with three execs calendars. My first I looked at the calendar, I was like, Oh my gosh, no. But now I look at it. And I’m like, I got this easy peasy. It’s just you take it one step at a time. And I really think asking questions is the biggest thing and you know, trying to connect with other people in the company. You know, I reached out to the engineers, the marketing team, anyone and just say, Hey, I’m new here, like, what do you do? How long have you been here? Any sort of questions, Intel connections you can make that’s gonna help benefit you in the long run. And just, I also wasn’t super privy to the metaverse when I started this job. But I’ve been you know, doing my, on my downtime, doing research on it just absorbing as much as I can and trying to learn, I think that’s the best advice I could give. And just yet don’t get overwhelmed one step at a time. I make a lot of lists to I love my digital lists. And my notebook
Jeremy Burrows 17:13
is what do you use for keeping track of your digital lists?
Sara McKay 17:17
And I’m super basic i this MAC stickies No. But I have like a formatting way. I’ve tried to use OneNote and other programs. But this just works best for me. It’s on my desktop at all times. I have it formatted in the way I need it. And then I also have a notebook that I’ll take with me if I might not necessarily be able to have my computer or phone right next to me, you know?
Jeremy Burrows 17:44
Yeah. Oh, that makes sense. You know, I always talk about it doesn’t matter what tool you use. It just matters, the tactics that you employ with those tools. And those tools work for you, then they work for you.
Sara McKay 17:56
Exactly, yeah. And it’s, I love it. And I, if I’m somewhere where I know I can’t write it down right away, I’ll send myself an email, say I’m at dinner with a friend or something. And my boss is like, I need you to do this. I’ll send myself an email, you know, with what needs to be done so that I’ll see it next time. I can check my email or my computer, whatever. That’s
Jeremy Burrows 18:19
very helpful. Nice. So you mentioned when you started at wave, you didn’t know anything about the metaverse. I had heard from a few assistants even just this week who are looking for a new job opportunity. And they’re they’ve been interviewing, and they’ve gotten far and people seem to really connect and like them, but then they they don’t have that subject matter expertise for the industry. So how did you overcome that? How did you communicate that? Listen, I can learn about your industry. I don’t have to know your industry in order for my skills to be transferable.
Sara McKay 19:04
Right, right. Well, you just said it, I think especially being an A an EA are skills are transferable. So confidence is definitely one thing. I will say having a music and production background helped me but just expressing an interest. You know, I think that’s huge. You have to be it’s better. You have to be willing and able it’s better to be, you know, willing, or then able if you’re able to do it, but you’re not willing then you know, that’s a problem. So expressing confidence and interest is huge. But yeah, the car is just kind of aligned. You’re we’re a very new company and I did have the mute. It’s funny, I didn’t entirely know what I was getting into until I got into it and my mind constantly blown by what this company does. And it’s so fascinating. But I think, you know, if you can show that you’re able to learn and take on new things, then people are going to be attracted to that, you know, I started, I worked at a beauty agency, I didn’t know much about beauty, but things are transferable. And you just have to be willing and able to step up and show that you’ll take initiative, and do what is needed. And I’m constantly researching on my downtime, you know, I’m constantly trying to learn about even startups and just the mechanics of how everything in the tech world works. And I would definitely do that if there’s a company you’re interested in research as much of it as you can before an interview know as much as you can.
Jeremy Burrows 21:00
Yeah, yeah. Well said. So, okay, you have some fun experience in entertainment, music, all that media industry, beauty industry, any crazy stories that you can share, or funny stories you can share.
Sara McKay 21:19
What are the this is in the entertainment, it’s always sticks out to me when the craziest experiences of my life in LA rather, was living at Jared Leto, his house working on a documentary with him. I was new to LA and I had applied for a researcher position, which is it was a documentary so it’s, you know, looking up facts, in fact, checking things and whatever. And I thought that I had gotten so funny. I thought I had gotten the job. Didn’t hear back from the production manager. The next day, I was like, Ah, I guess they didn’t want me after all. And then this number started calling me the next day. And it was a production manager. And she said, No, we, we do want you to work for us. You know, can you be here at noon, and she texts me an address? I’m like, Sure. And so I’m like getting around. She was by the way, we’re at Jared Leto his house. And like what I find out when I get there that I’m working on a Jared Leto documentary is called the day in the life of America. We shot in all 50 states on the Fourth of July, he calls it an A political portrait of America. We followed all different walks of life on the Fourth of July was actually pretty incredible. And I ended up getting promoted to the story coordinator, because I ended up producing several of the stories, coordinating shoots and things like that. But I mean, I’m not kidding. We lived at Jeremy Burrows house, we had air mattresses in our office. We were working, you know, in all the time zones around the clock, and it was actually is all women on our team. It was it was yeah, it was really incredible. And that right after that is when I got my first ta role. I think that experience really kind of showed me like, wow, I can juggle anything. I can do anything. It was It was intense. It was wild, but we did it.
Jeremy Burrows 23:19
Wow. Yeah. That’s, it’s pretty interesting how the entertainment world in the startup world have similarities in the sense of, you know, you always hear these stories of startups that started in a garage or, like, a bunch of, you know, guys in a dorm, you know, working all night. So that’s, that’s a I’m sure that’s an experience you will never forget. Definitely. And you learn how to how to adapt and be on your feet and figure things out, I’m sure.
Sara McKay 23:54
Yes, exactly. It was yes. You know, we now have people calling me. I mean, I remember walking into work and being asked to do this one specific kind of wild thing, find a jail, we can film in a prison, we can film it. I’m like, what in Georgia, and I’m like, okay, but I did it. You know,
Podcast Intro 24:14
you push yourself to limit and then you realize, like,
Sara McKay 24:17
wow, I really can do that. And it was that was just it was like wow, I can make things happen. So if I start to doubt myself, I have to remind myself of all the things I have done, you know, like I can I got this. I can do that. I got this.
Jeremy Burrows 24:33
Good deal, Sarah. Well, thanks for sharing. Just excited to hear different stories and hear about your career and your insight. So the last question that I asked a lot of my guests is, in your mind, what makes an assistant a leader?
Sara McKay 24:54
I always hear this on your podcast and I always think about this and I think you know, it’s just Not being afraid to ask the questions, you know, we are so behind the scenes, but it’s okay to not always have all the answers. It’s okay to involve other people. Um, just not being afraid to ask questions to not have all the answers sometimes, but finding that confidence in, in yourself and within your team just being open. I think, you know,
Jeremy Burrows 25:35
yeah. Yeah. Well said, Thank you so much. And how can people reach out and say hi to you? Where Where can they find you?
Speaker 1 25:45
I am on Instagram. It’s Sarah C as in cat McKay. MCKAY and that’s no H s a r a c McKay. And same with LinkedIn. I have my LinkedIn is Sarah C McKay, as well.
Jeremy Burrows 26:02
Perfect. Well, I will link to those both in the show notes at leaderassistant.com/179. So you guys can check out Sara’s profile and reach out and say hi, and connect. And but yeah, thanks again, Sara, for being on the show. I really appreciate it. And thanks for being a podcast listener as well.
Speaker 1 26:24
Thank you, Jeremy. This was wonderful. I appreciate you. Thanks for all that you do for us.
Unknown Speaker 26:39
Please live you on Apple podcast. Goburrows.com