Elena Navarro built her career supporting C-Suite level executives, and is currently the founder and owner of The Pretty Assistant.
In this episode of The Leader Assistant Podcast, Elena talks about the good and bad of corporate culture, toxic workplaces, and maintaining confidentiality.
You are being presented with a choice, evolve or remain.
CONNECT WITH ELENA
Elena Navarro built her career through supporting C-Suite level executives. Elena always brings a “new age” feel to the executive support role. From her working style, to how she conducts business, all the way down to her heels! She has always shown up as herself and for that she can proudly say her success has been built through complete authenticity. Being the right hand “woman” of executives is not a job for the weak, as most EA’s know. It truly takes a certain person and a hell of a lot of grit to take on the life, both professional & personal, of an executive. Elena has had the pleasure of working with some of the top executives across multiple industries. Some have even gone above and beyond to personally mentor her throughout her time as an Executive Assistant – and now, Executive Business Partner!
This career has been so rewarding, but it has also come with its share of negative attention as well. Elena launched this business to coach current and future EA’s through the “not so pretty” side of this career. Elena was 20 years old when she fell into this business and wished she had a “her” at that time to get the proper support and coaching for all that comes with this position. Elena will be sharing all that she can, in hopes that her personal experiences can help aspiring EA’s. Elena is excited to educate those on everything that encompasses an executive support role, while also coaching up EA’s so they can take their career to the next level!
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Elena Navarro 0:00
Hi, I’m Elena Navarro and this is one of my favorite quotes you are being presented with a choice evolve or remain
Podcast Intro 0:13
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants
Jeremy Burrows 0:28
are you tasked with ordering food for your office? Let me tell you about ezCater with over 100,000 restaurants to choose from nationwide and 24/7 customer support. EzCater helps assistants like you and me succeed at work and makes our lives easier. Visit ezCater.com/leaderassistant to find out more. Hey friends, welcome to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host, Jeremy Burrows. And this is episode 241. You can check out the show notes for this episode at leaderassistant.com/241, leaderassistance.com/241. Today, I’m very excited to have Elena Navarro on the show. Elena is the founder and owner of The Pretty Assistant. And she has lots of experience as a C suite executive assistant executive business partner, and we’re gonna jump right in. And Elena, welcome to the show. And first of all, what part of the world are you in?
Elena Navarro 1:36
Thank you. I am in Texas, currently.
Jeremy Burrows 1:41
Nice. And are you from that area or
Elena Navarro 1:45
not originally, originally from California, but I made the move on to Texas this year.
Jeremy Burrows 1:51
Cool and tell us like why you became an assistant and how that happened.
Elena Navarro 1:58
So I think I just fell into the role, I was actually going to college and I was working as a cart girl at a golf course, and just didn’t really have, you know, a lot of interest in doing that route. So I actually got a opportunity to be an office assistant to a hometown friend who actually owned a business. And I learned the ins and outs of pretty much being an office assistant and business came to, you know, fell into that. And then I had actually made a move from my hometown to the Bay Area and applied for my first set of VP was actually VPS that I had started working for. It didn’t hold you sweet just Yeah, it was my first job, held the two VPs and then realized, wow, I can do this. This was, you know, everything, it was kind of my way to say, oh, my gosh, I proved to myself, this is something that I really want to do. So took it from there and worked my way up to working in C suite at just 20 years old, I actually wasn’t even old enough to drink yet. And I was already attending executive dinners, you know, where they were, you know, smoothing and Bucha. It was really, really exciting. And just all of the things that I was able to do at such an early age, I was able to climb the ladder really, really early, obviously and get exposed to being in an executive support role. So worked my way up from there, I held five c suites at the age of 20. All the way up to working for public and private companies. Yeah, so just just fell into it. It wasn’t something where I turned 18. And I was like, I’m going to become an executive assistant. You know, I feel like I rarely hear that as well that someone’s like, Okay, I know exactly what to do. Because truthfully, when I got into the role, when I met people, they were like, wait, what do you do? What is this? You know, so I don’t feel like it was that well known to to really go you know, you go into trade schools, you go to college, it’s not like people are like, okay, here you go, we come in executive assistant, but I fell into it, fell in love with it and realized, wow, I could really make a career out of this. And I’ve had amazing mentors along the way. And it just completely changed my view, obviously on on what I wanted to originally do in life. So here I am.
Jeremy Burrows 4:25
Love it. So you said you fell in love with the role what’s maybe your favorite part or maybe top two favorite things about the assistant work?
Elena Navarro 4:37
I think having so first of all the relationship with your CEO, I think it’s just it’s unlike any other you’ve really get to. I always say you get the best seat in business, you get to work right under them. It’s probably one of the most you’re privy to a lot of information. I know that you and I had just talked about that. So you’re definitely seen a side of the business that no one else sees so your eyes and your ears and you are seeing firsthand what’s going to happen before it even gets out to anyone else. And I think that’s super vital, really important to have that connection with, you know, your your boss or C suite in general, whoever it is, whether it’s your CFO, your CEO, your CRO. So I think that’s the main thing that sticks out to me. And the second thing is, you’re helping someone in their day to day, you know, you’re being their right hand person, you’re almost leading them in a way, right. So, you know, at the end of the day, in an executive support role, the more that you’re putting yourself, kind of in front of your boss and getting in front of the information or getting in ahead of the calendar, or making you’re making their life easier. So I think those two things are basically what an executive support role position does.
Jeremy Burrows 5:55
That’s great. So what, what about your least favorite parts, what’s been over the years, your things that you’re like, oh, maybe I don’t like this part about the job.
Elena Navarro 6:07
So I would say nothing connected to my bosses at all. Working with C suite, I think the biggest thing that I’ve dealt with is probably office politics has been really because I was so young getting into the role. There was a lot of hate thrown my way. And then especially, I think I was kind of targeted for my looks, or just how my physical appearance you know, was I take care of myself physically, obviously. And I was young getting into the role. So when I stepped into it, I was not prepared for obviously, the amount of hate because you obviously are in being young is one thing, but also being a woman right in the role to a man to a male. So there’s a lot of, you know, office gossip and stuff like that. So you really have to have a really strong head on your shoulders and just understand that you’re there to do a job and you know, don’t fall into the gossip or the watercooler talk or anything like that. You’re You’re there to do a job. And that’s it. That was my least favorite. Yeah, yeah. Navigating through that. No one teaches you that there’s no rulebook that you’re given, you know, on how to deal with all of that information. So I was very blessed in my roles that I’ve had with my C suite, that they were mentors to me. So when any thing ever happened, I was able to go to them and speak to them about it, and get feedback and get that mentorship of how to deal with it and how to move forward. So it really helped me even enjoy my role even more.
Jeremy Burrows 7:44
Right. So let’s, let’s dig a little deeper on that. If you don’t mind, what, what could you share maybe a specific story or a specific example of something that happened to you in the workplace that that caused that tension and caused you to have to work through it and get some get some advice and figure it out. And then maybe, if you don’t mind sharing, how you overcame that and how you navigated that because I know there are people listening and assistants listening, that are have dealt with that similar situations, or maybe are currently in the middle of something like that.
Elena Navarro 8:23
Yeah, so I will go ahead and put out there my very first and the reason I started my consulting business, and you know the name the pretty assistant, I always knew that once I started my own firm that I was going to name it the pretty assistant and the reason being my very, very first role back when I was 20 supporting C suite. My CEO had asked me to attend a meeting. It was a marketing meeting. I walked into the meeting and it was my first day I walked into the meeting. There’s seven gentlemen at the table one older woman I walk in and she says in front of everyone what is she doing here? It’s not like she knows anything the guys just want her here because she’s pretty hadn’t even said hello, I didn’t you know, I didn’t get met with a hello or Welcome to the meeting anything obviously everyone in the room who was have male partner may is visibly uncomfortable at this point. Her and I are just kind of in this standoff. And, you know, I kind of had five seconds to say to myself, Okay, you can either make a fuss about it right? Or prove why you’re meant to be in this meeting. So I think someone would have probably sat at the end of the table to try to get away from the conflict but I didn’t I walked right in into my seat right in front of her and made sure going into that meeting that I’m going to show you why meant to be here and why he asked me to be in this meeting. It was actually a an event meeting for a clientele a rooftop, you know kind of party that we were gonna throw and I had shot out all these ideas during the meeting and he actually ended up putting me as a lead on the meeting, he was like you’re going to get a lot of times in the assistant role, you get to do fun things like that you get to manage offsite events, you get to work with the clientele, you get to work with the sales team, or the marketing team. And a lot of the times my CEOs have put me in charge of running those events for running those projects, I like to think of my role as a project management role as well, with certain things. So shot off my ideas in the meeting and right in front of her, and he actually put me as lead on the whole event, it went off without a hitch, it was fantastic. Our clients how was so satisfied, it was just a great event brought in revenue, you know, so I, to myself, it was that I was able to prove that, hey, this is why I was here. Obviously, she wasn’t happy about it. Because she didn’t understand that I had real business skill, you know, I have learned this, I am not just here because I’m a pretty face. And that’s crazy to say that to someone you know. So it was an opportunity to take it and shine and run with it and understand that there’s definitely more to me than just what she was looking at. So and it’s not that I got better with her. After that I think actually made it worse. I think she was rooting for my downfall. But with the support of my boss, and you know, I have a really good family support system as well. So when I would meet up with my family and tell them things that were going on, you know, they obviously he mentored me through those items as well. So that was my very first day on the job. Yeah. And from there, I mean, it just kind of put into my mind. Okay, this is what I’m going to be dealing with. And I think everyone in the corporate world understands what I’m talking about, I think if you are, you know, in a certain role, because the executive support role when you’re working directly under the CEO, I mean, that’s already hard and tough in itself. And people are wondering, how did you get there? How did you get that job, you know, and then when you add, you know, maybe looks or something else on top of it, or an achievement of some sort, it’s just everyone tries to come down on you. So that’s why I say it’s really important, I think in this role for me, and I’ve been very blessed to have CEOs that have supported and mentored me through those items. So I would say that was the first incident. And then the second item that rings in my head always is. So one of my bosses that I worked for, and try not to say the names. But we had just redone this beautiful office, we had moved they had been in these one of these offices for 20 plus years, and we had just moved to these beautiful new revamped offices. He put so much time and money and energy and detail into really making this a great office space he wanted like this new, you know, tech feel. We spent a lot of my entire time together, decorating this office making it beautiful. Well, one of his biggest things was, you know, making sure that the kitchen area where the coffee machines are, I mean, we we did it up, it was fantastic. Just make sure that that area is always cleaned. So at the end of the night, before I left, I always made sure that that was playing because that was his biggest pet peeve. The next morning, if you walked in and walked by the coffee bar, and it was all messed up. I mean, you were gonna hear it from him for sure. So every night I would make sure while I came in the next morning, we had board meetings that next morning, and obviously I helped out with the board meetings. So I had to be there very early, prior to 6am. And I would get there. And I had no the night before that it was cleaned because I had personally cleaned it myself. While it’s the next day in the morning if there were sugar packets kind of all sprinkled everywhere, and some coffee cups thrown all around. And then I had to think to myself, wait a second. Didn’t you just clean this or I was the last one here last night. How did someone I knew I was the last one here and I’m the first one to come in how what is going on? So I kind of let it go. I cleaned it up. And the next day the same thing happens. I’m like, okay, something’s not right. So I go to my boss and I tell him I’m like, Okay, I know I’ve cleaned this. I don’t understand how this is the second time in a day that this is happening. There’s no way he goes, put some cameras in and obviously it was in a public setting. So you know, he said put some cameras in. So I got with our IT team we put in some cameras after hours. Well, we ended up finding and the next day we came in same thing sugar packets everywhere. So I go into my office while our IT team comes in with my boss, you know, like we have to show you something. And I’m like why? The video had caught two women. They were the ones over they were you saw them right when I left. They came in they go had the sugar packets would open them poured the sugar all over grabbed the coffee cups kind of threw them around. And they were laughing and giggling like, you know, right? For me, so, you know, it was soon as he showed me that we kind of looked at each other. They both ended up getting fired the next day that within 24 hours, you lost your job. I mean, that, was that worth it? You know, in my head, I’m thinking I don’t think that’s worth it truthfully, to lose your job. And one of them was a tenured employee. So I would have never, you know, I mean, it from me, I my phones, you know, you play stupid games, win stupid prizes, right? So it’s just so interesting to me. So, you know, instances like that. Obviously, that was a little more physical right there physically doing something. And, you know, it’s childish, it’s immature, but you know, the one who the people who lost in the end in that game with them because they lost their jobs. So it’s an attack on me for being in the role that I’m in and, you know, maybe not being as you know, I always say, and one of my bosses told me this, he pulled me in one day, and he was like, What do you want to be Lena? And he said, I want to be an executive assistant, I want to I love this role, I want to do this, he goes, Okay, well, it’s going to be a lonely road for you. He goes, you’re not going to have a lot of friends on site, you know, you’re not going to be the one that’s going out and maybe doing the part, you know, going to the cocktail hours or you know, just after hours stuff, because it’s very hard. He has said to me, you have to make sure that I’m your first priority, that extreme confidentiality, those things that we that you hear in meetings that no one else out there, here’s very hard to keep those friendships and keep you know, that rapport with them when you have to be very careful, because how do you know that they’re not just talking to you to kind of get something out of you, that is, you know, only privy to executive assistants or people in an executive support role. So yeah, that was a, those were two incidences that really, for me, has been vital and played a really strong role. For me. Yeah. But,
Jeremy Burrows 17:17
so Okay, so if that was to happen to me, I know, I’d be pretty upset about it. That was to happen to other people listening, they may think, oh, man, I would have, I would have, like, really taken that hard or taking that as a personal dig or felt like, you know, so how did you obviously, you had the support of the team, and they got to the bottom of it, and they let, you know, spoke with their actions as well as their words and not just like, oh, sorry, that happened to you, but they actually fired the people and like, this is ridiculous. But how do you personally and then over your, over the over your career, how do you personally keep that distance or separation even? Of the personal taking things personal? You know what I mean? Like, because you could have taken those really, personally, and that could have really ruined you for a while. And I’m just curious how you cuz I would say like, you know, you gotta take things seriously, but don’t take things personally.
Elena Navarro 18:29
Yeah, I mean, it’s hard, right? It’s not like they walked out and keyed my car or did something personally to, you know, physically harm me. I don’t know. Maybe that has happened to other assistants. I’m not sure I’m grateful that it’s just kind of that’s I think that’s the most physical that it’s gotten. I’ve never seen two grown women on camera, literally opening sugar packets and pouring it everywhere and not being
Jeremy Burrows 18:52
Elena Navarro 18:54
Yeah, so um, you know, I think two things that really stuck with me is that I could deal with things emotionally, or I could deal with things professionally. I have a great again, I really think it’s once you have a support system in your CEO or your boss, you kind of feel like okay, I’m supported I know that if anything’s happening it’s because of more so that the people that are upset rather than me or or my boss or something right, it has to do with them that’s something that they were unhappy with themselves. So I try not to look at it as if Okay, they’re just hating me I understand that it’s not me Alina, you know, that they hate it’s my role. The extreme you know, I I’m in a higher position in the company, I’m privy to a lot of stuff they’ve seen that maybe I get to be a part of, you know, meetings that are higher level than theirs. But you know, that’s what I’ve worked towards. So I not to say that it doesn’t feel great. I mean, no one wants to kind of be laughed at while they’re watching me clean it up, right? So it was kind of a funny moment. You know, we’re, we’re, let’s say, the the woman who said that I’m only there because I’m pretty, you know, and then I go and end up throwing in a fantastic event. And it’s that killing with kindness, I think, you know, because I could choose to stoop to their level, or I could sit here and say, No, I’m gonna rise above it. And I’m gonna keep showing you and proving to you exactly why I’m meant to be here, no matter my age, no matter the physical attributes that, you know, I have, I think it’s really important to just stick to that. And I always have, I’ve never stooped down to the level, I’ve just kind of let things happen where they, you know, fall where they may, and dealt with it. But it is hard, it’s hard, but you know, you can get through it. So I mean, those are only two examples. I mean, I worked through publicly traded companies. So there were anonymous tip lines, people had, like, those aren’t the first two people that I would say have gotten fired for items like that, you know, it’s that on site bullying, and there’s been like other investigations as well, that I have been through, and they’re false allegations. And obviously, that’s illegal to do. So those people have gotten fired as well. So it’s, you know, at the end of the day, all of the things that have happened that have come my way, they’ve only made me a greater EA, you know, they’ve only made me really understand that, okay, this role is important, if people are willing to go this far, this is an important role, and you just have to keep your head high and understand that I still am a direct reflection of my boss. So if I can keep the professionalism there, and still keep the support, and I can go all the way with it.
Jeremy Burrows 21:55
That’s great. So toxic workplaces, toxic environments, toxic people. And then you got you got that on one side. And then you’ve got corporate culture there and like, Hey, we’re gonna have a good company culture, we’re gonna have a good environment, environment and, you know, be for for our team members, you know, and for our colleagues, what are some tips on you know, you, you’ve definitely, as you shared those stories in those examples, you definitely shared some some good practical tips on like, listen, like, just don’t respond emotionally. But be professional. But what some something on the flip side, not just men are managing or handling toxic situations. And being above that, but also cultivating positive company culture in corporate environments. What’s maybe a couple tips that you’ve seen done well, as far as promoting positive company culture.
Elena Navarro 23:08
So yeah, I mean, I don’t want to say that it was all bad, right? It, there’s been definitely some amazing people that I’ve met along the way. And I’ve had admin teams and other executive assistants, obviously, who have supported the other members of C suite. For every, I’d say, for every one or two bad eggs, there’s been probably 20 Really, really good eggs that, you know, are supportive, and they understand that you have the ear of the executive. So, you know, and I don’t want to say that they’re being fake, but you know, they are willing to help and really lend that hand. So as much as I, I guess, in my role, I always just never wanted to give more attention to something than it needed. Right. So when those items were done, and they were dealt with, and it was over, it was like, Okay, let’s get back to work, right, let’s get back to work, let’s, you know, proceed forward with this event, let’s, and I was always the type of person to in the corporate world, that if let’s say we were having a celebration in the office, or you know, there was a big event, or we were throwing a big event for the sales team or something like that. I know that there were people I put together committees as well. So that way, people felt like they were a part of what was going on. Right. So even giving people a little bit making them feel, you know, as like, they’re part of C suite as well. And, and in the conversation, whether it was a company event, or whether that was on site or off site, or just letting them into, you know, small meetings, maybe I think that’s really how you kept the culture going. So it was nice, because, you know, let’s say that I had a bunch of food coming in for a meeting one day or there was a cleanup crew, really cultivating those relationships with people that I could see that were here to help my boss and genuinely help out the company. I kind of made sure that those people were, you know, there was a little more gratitude around it. Maybe there I was, you know, inviting them to a meeting or giving out a gift card or inviting them to be a part of one of the committees, I think, focusing on the people in the office, in general, who wanted to be a helping hand, rather than being the, oh my gosh, here we go, you know, more of the drama. So it’s hard to get takes, I always say, culture starts with the top, I really think it does. If there’s managers that are not, you know, acting correctly or professional, their teams are going to see that and they’re going to act that way as well. So you know, if it’s an instance, I’ve had it, where managers aren’t even supportive of me and my role, and I could see that they allow their team to act the same way. So it was just an entire team that was against me, and if you’re against me or against my boss, so it doesn’t help anyone, right. So there’s many times and many conversations that had to be had held between my boss and maybe, maybe his own leadership team. So that way, he could say, hey, you know, you need to change your behavior on these items, because your team is looking at you. And if you act, that way, your team is going to make it make it seem like they could do that, too. So as far as you know, keeping the culture of the company and helping it, not paying so much attention to the bad, but really embracing the good the people that were really there to be a part of the company help, you know, cultivate this relationship with the CEO, because I would ultimately go back and you know, I do have the ear of them. So I could say, hey, so and so really was a big help on today’s event, you know, so just concentrating on those relationships.
Jeremy Burrows 26:45
Love it, love it. Well said, Well, tell us about the pretty assistant. When When did you start it? You’ve talked a little bit about why you why you chose that name and why you started that. But what do you what kind of services do you offer? And yeah, just give us kind of a summary of all about your business.
Elena Navarro 27:06
Yeah, so it’s two parts. So the main part, obviously, I kind of pulled out of corporate and started my own firm for working with CEOs. So I pretty much have currently I hold, you know, venture capitalists and hold this, I’ve had entrepreneurs, I’ve also worked for a few high industry leaders, which is nice, I have a few of them under my belt. So it’s pretty much just working one on one with them giving executive support to their companies, but it’s outside of the company. So it’s nice, because I’m able to work remote, and I’m also able to work in a different setting, right. So the corporate world, although I mean, it taught me many things, and I’m so grateful for it, it’s gotten me to the point where I am now, you know, owning your own business, you’re kind of on your own terms. So you’re able to give that support your way and kind of no one’s in your way. So it’s really just you and your executive, and you’re supporting them and working for them. So that’s one part of the business is just direct consulting with CEOs. And then the second part of the business is coaching. So I work with current EAS, at the moment that are either in the role, I’m coaching them up, I mean, I wish I had someone through all the things that I went through in the past eight years to kind of call up or text them or zoom with them, you know, one on ones weekly to say, Hey, this is what’s going on. How can I, you know, you’ve been through this, Elena told me how how do I navigate this, what’s the best way to go about this to where I could still, you know, 10 years from now be excited about my career rather than taking this this way, or, you know, being emotional about something. So the whole second side of my business is just coaching up either EAS because I ultimately wish that I had a me way back when to bounce ideas off of and say, hey, you’ve been through this, you know, this is what’s going on. And so yeah, when the printing assistant kind of came to be, I knew what I wanted, and I knew that nothing was going to stop me. And you know, I was passionate. I think that’s the biggest thing about it if you’re passionate and authentic. I mean, I tell my coaches, the stories that I’ve been through, and although I only shared a few here, obviously there’s much more. But I’m just very open and honest about it. Because I think that’s what’s important. If I would have had a coach, eight years ago, I would want them to be as open and honest with me about the role and things that are gonna happen and how to overcome those items. So it’s a two part business. Pretty assistant. Super excited, passionate about it. It’s my baby. So looking forward to where it’s gonna go in the future.
Jeremy Burrows 29:45
Awesome. And what’s the best place for people to find out more about it?
Elena Navarro 29:49
Yeah, so theprettyassistant.co It’s just.co. On the website, you can fill out a coaching form there. You can also find I’m only LinkedIn and Instagram under this name handles as well. So yeah, you can email me on there. I also have a management team as well. So both emails are their firstname.lastname@example.org, Yeah,
Jeremy Burrows 30:15
perfect. Well, I’ll put the, the all those links in the show notes and leaderassistant.com/241, leaderassistant.com/241, check out the show notes, connect with Elena and learn more about her business and just reach out and say hi on LinkedIn. All that fun stuff. Elena, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for your passion for the assistant community and really best of luck to you and I hope I hope we get to talk again soon.
Elena Navarro 30:47
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Unknown Speaker 30:59
Please review on Apple podcasts.
Unknown Speaker 31:08