Interview with Cathie Cattunar

Interview with Cathie Cattunar

We recently caught up with Cathie and asked her some questions about her session at the Akolade, 5th EA/PA Public Sector Summit in Perth this September. Cathie Cattunar is theExecutive Assistant to Deputy Secretary – Civil Justice, Department of Justice and Regulation and is talking about the value of mentorship in achieving your goals.

We’d love to hear more about your role. Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and what does your role involve?

I started full-time work at the age of 15 when my mum fell ill and I had to go out to work. My first job was as an accounts clerk in a company within the British Ministry of Defence (I lived in London). From there I worked as an EA at a travel agency (yes I got to travel all over Europe for free) and then I returned to Australia and had numerous EA roles (Colonial Mutual, Shannons Classic Cars, Law firms, ASIC – all which eventually lead into the Victorian Public Service.

I currently work as an EA to a Deputy Secretary and we work in the Civil Justice space – think legislation and changing the world, one legal step at a time!  Every day is different, from calendar management, to email management, to briefs being provided to the Office of the Attorney General and then handling every single thing that needs to be handled when it needs to be handled in a way that only an EA can understand – the old chestnut “An EA is that person who does everything that needs to be done without you even knowing it needed doing in the first place!!!”.

What is it that lead you to your role in the public sector?

Initally I fell into a role with the Department of Transport, however, that then morphed into other roles due to my reputation, which then morphed into my current role within the Justice space – I am now quite passionate about what we do and why we do it – the reality is that legislation is what changes the world!

Tell us a bit about your session? What are some of the key points that you will be covering?

I have been mentoring for ten years now and have my own professional mentor as well. This has been invaluable in assisting me in my career and career decisions too.

My session is about working with someone outside of your day to day business life to achieve the goals you want

  • to be mentored and mentor
  • to help you deal with those difficult people and situations that arise regularly and how mentoring and
  • being mentored can help with that

When you talk about having a strategic mindset what do you mean?

When we have those difficult people that we work with then mentoring can really help us get through and find the right ways to deal with these situations. I am not talking about book learning but on the job situations.

By using our own strategic mindset to overcome these situations and to use what we already know but haven’t tapped into it yet – to assess, view, define and create our own future – having someone to bounce that off that understands where we are coming from can help us get our own heads around where we are going and what we are doing.

How does it fit within the EA role?

The EA role must have a strategic mindset to be able to function at a successful level. We spend our days working with so many different personalities and we juggle the personal and emotional side of the business as well as the mental and physical practicalities. We have to read between the lines and understand what is happening around us at all times . It’s important to have our fingers on the pulse so strategic management of ourselves is the key to functioning successfully.

Do you think that having a strategic mindset and being strategic is something every EA have? If not now, in the future?

I think I have answered this above – in short, yes!

What is the first step that someone should take to develop their managerial mindset and become more efficient?

Some people can manage and some people can’t. The first thing is to understand what it is you want and where you want to go. Not all EAs are clear on this. Some EAs have fallen into their roles and some EAs think they need to do something “else” or something “better” or move UP the corporate ladder. This is not true.bThe first step is understanding what it is YOU actually want!  To become more efficient takes practice and time management and understanding the role that you hold, the person you work with and the business you support.

What skills would you recommend and EA must have to become more strategic?

You must have lateral thinking and be able to understand what is going on around you in the round i.e. be aware of all things at all times. You don’t have to be an expert, but you have to “get it” and to comprehend and to understand what is required of you. These will step you in the right direction for strategic management of yourself.

 What courses (if any) would you recommend to others to participate in for learning to become more strategic?

I would recommend any course that covers subjects you are interested in. There are so many diplomas out there now that can assist an EA. Everything from actual EA diplomas, to business diplomas to HR diplomas. I personally have completed both a Business and HR Diploma (although both have one subject oustanding). Did I do those diplomas to become more strategic, no!  I did them as I felt having a “piece of paper” to say I was clever was important. What I realised along the way was that I didn’t need that piece of paper. I needed my skillset and my experience and my reputation, which has got me where I am today and has ultimately helped me develop my strategic mindset.

What is one tip you have for someone wanting to learn about having a strategic mindset?

Don’t let other people’s strategy sideline you. They have a different goal to you and their strategy will be different. Understand what it is you want and then develop your own skill set and strategy to get it!

Finally, what is your best advice/ tip on being a successful EA?

Be true to you!

See Cathie Speak at the Akolade 5th Annual EA/PA Private Sector Summit in Perth!

Executive and Personal Assistants are at the core of the public service. In such a highly dynamic sector, EA/PAs are facing the demands of increased pressure and the need to consistently enhance their skill set, so it’s fundamental to explore new strategies for their own personal success as well as that of their executive. As the role progresses so rapidly, how can assistants strengthen their core capabilities as well as enhance their capacity for leadership and drive positive influence?

The 5th Public Sector EA/PA Summit explores winning strategies for progressing within your role as a public sector assistant. The summit will focus on the evolving expectations of those in assistant positions, as well as providing critical skill development and career progression strategies to take back to the office. By harnessing the key takeaways from inspiring presentations and thought-leadership panels, EAs and PAs can build on their existing skillsets and learn how to create widespread value organisation-wide.

When was the last time you attended training to handle your increased workload?

Could you benefit from hearing new best practices for improving your skillsets and ensuring your professional well-being?

Join Akolade in September at the Novotel Perth Langley to be a part of this fantastic event, and take your career to new heights!

Attend this summit and learn how to:

  • Strengthening the working relationship between you and your executive – Making the leap from assistant to business partner
  • Being a key influencer in your team and the driving force behind positive organisational culture
  • How to establish and grow your personal brand to redefine your value as a high-profile assistant through meaningful networking
  • Taking charge of your own personal development and steering your career to new heights
  • Going beyond expectations – Adopting the skillsets of tomorrow’s EA
The event programme has just been released, please click here to find out more!
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