Executive Leadership Support Forum: Boston: Speaker Interview

Susan Kelley
Executive Assistant to CEO & COO
Spartan Race, Inc.

Susan Kelley is currently the Executive Assistant to the CEO and Founder of Spartan Race. Susan is highly motivated and is consistently recognized for self-initiative and the ability to take on new professional challenges. She has almost 20 years experience supporting executives. Susan credits her success to building strong relationships throughout the organization and leveraging the executives time so they can focus on top priorities. She has worked in operations, sales, marketing as well as education and training in various industries. Susan has always been compelled to give back to the community and help others. She has done extensive fundraising for the Children’s Trust Fund of Boston where she received the Children’s Trust Fund Partner in Prevention Volunteer Award. She organized and lead a team to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research

Susan will be one of the distinguished presenters at the Executive Leadership Support Forum: Boston.

Why is the Executive Leadership Support Forum important for executive assistants?
The ELSF is extremely important for executive assistants because it takes us away from the day to day experience with the executive we support and allows us to hear fresh ideas from our peers. Everything may be going smoothly in our world on a day to day basis but when you hear new strategies around executive support, it allows you to rethink your methods and really think about providing the best support possible and really make a difference in the executive’s experience.

Independently, what have you done to work towards professional development in the past?
I organized a brown bag lunch for a woman in the construction industry where we met weekly to discuss how we can be better in our support roles as well as how to get ahead in a primarily male company. I consistently seek ways to become a partner not only to the executive I support but to his/her direct report.

What is one thing you hope to learn or discuss with your peers at the ELS Forum?
I really look forward to speaking with others on how to mentor and help other women succeed. I have always had the desire to work with women and help them to really see the value they bring to a business, particularly women re-entering the workforce. I am also interested in understanding how to negotiate and feel confident while I am in that situation.

Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud.
I supported an executive who was asked to lead a profit center that was the worst profit center in the company as well as having the worst overall morale in the company. After one month in this new role, I was so discouraged by the actions of the people in this department, I told the executive I would give myself a year in this role to be fair to him and the department, but ultimately I wanted to leave. I have never experienced such rude and childlike behavior in an organization. As time went on I decided to challenge myself and try to change the morale in this group. Personally, for me, it was extremely difficult and humiliating at times; however, after one year we were not only making the most money for the company, but the morale was the best in the company. Everyone, including myself, grew so much both personally and professionally.

In your mind, what is one tool you can’t live without or find especially helpful in your position?
Great people skills. As an executive assistant I have to build great relationships with every department in order to provide the best support to the executive. Therefore, I have to have great people skills which include, good communication, transparency, compassion, flexibility etc.

Looking back, what advice would you give yourself when you were first starting your career?
Don’t beat yourself up on things. If you make a mistake, own it, resolve it and take rear view mirrors off and move forward.

How do you define success within your role as an executive assistant?
Success as an executive assistant is the ability to provide great support/partnership in order for the executive to accomplish his/her daily goals. You have to constantly think of ways to make their day as productive as possible. Be proactive, keep your ears and eyes open. If you can consistently do this, they will ultimately reach their overall goals and you will both be successful.