Diana Brandl is the author of the blog The Socialista Projects, Acting Public Relations Officer for International Management Assistants (IMA) Germany, and Chair of IMA Berlin
Can we start with a little background information? Where are you from and what is your current role?
I was born and raised in Germany. After a few stops in various other cities in Germany, I now live with my husband and our little dog Phoebe in the outskirts of Berlin. I enjoy travelling, watching movies and reading. I have a large network in Germany and abroad, and every time I get to travel, I try to meet a new person from my online network.
I am currently working as a freelance assistant supporting several clients on various projects. I recently stepped out of a full-time Senior Executive Assistant role and I am loving my new adventures.
I continuously support the role of the management assistant by speaking at international events and publishing various articles in Germany and abroad. I write my own blog, The Socialista Projects, and have been influencing the industry with initiatives such as launching the hashtag #WeAreInThisTogether. If you would like to hear more about this empowerment movement for office professionals, please reach out to me.
I constantly use every opportunity to educate myself by attending various conferences, trainings, and seminars mainly through my professional networking association International Management Assistants (IMA).
What is your background?
I attended the Academy of Business Management and Foreign Trade Languages here in Germany and received a diploma in International Administration and Management, specializing in Office Management. I am also a Foreign Language Business Specialist.
Throughout my career of 17 years, I have worked successfully with C-Level executives within global corporations such as Sony. I also have a strong background in communications which led to heading the internal communications department within two of my former employers. I have always enjoyed this role in addition to my busy EA one, as it connected me to so many people in the organization.
I joined IMA in 2006, and act as a Member of the Board serving as Acting-Public Relations Officer for IMA Germany. I am also chairing the regional group in Berlin for IMA.
How did you become an Assistant?
I have always wanted to work in an office environment; working with different people, cultures, and languages. After school, I went to the US as an Au Pair. Even before I left, I already knew I wanted to become an assistant, so I joined the Academy of Business Management and Foreign Trade Languages once back home. I never regretted this decision although at that time, I was not aware how many wonderful opportunities this job will bring me.
Congratulations on becoming PRO for IMA Germany, and for representing Germany at the World Administrators’ Summit – tell us a little about both of those roles?
Thank you! Although I am not yet officially elected, I am already heavily involved in the IMA Germany activities.
I have been an active IMA Member for quite some years now. Starting out in the regional group of Stuttgart, I moved to Berlin in 2009 where I took over the lead of what was, at that time, a small group. I put a lot of energy into forming and growing the Berlin group, which was an enormous success in the end. I held the function of Regional Head for three years before it was time for me to leave the Chair role. A year ago, I took it over again. IMA Berlin gained the most number of members in 2017, so I am very glad to see that all the hard work pays off. IMA is a major part of my professional life, so I am dedicating a lot of my time to this association.
IMA Germany has great events and topics on the 2018 agenda such as our National Training Day in Hamburg in Spring and the Annual General Meeting plus the World Administrators Summit (WAS) in October, in Frankfurt.
I am beyond excited and proud to see WAS 2018 in my home country and above all in my hometown, Frankfurt. As a bold and vocal ambassador and influencer of our profession, it was clear to me that I wanted to take the opportunity to participate in the World Administrators’ Summit as a delegate for Germany. I have always been an activist when it comes to our industry – how else can you make change happen? I have the received full support of the IMA Germany Board, which motivated me even more to represent Germany, along with my fellow IMA friend Angela Parker. The World Administrators’ Summit will be an event full of learning, sharing and caring. And that is what our profession stands for. It is time to shape our future now!
What are the main changes you have seen in the time you have been an Assistant?
I would say that the change of the manager generation still is a major topic to me. For example, in my last full-time job, I was working for a start-up company and my bosses were slightly older than me. On one hand, I truly enjoyed all these benefits of working for a hip and dynamic culture that inspired me every single day. I was able to work from home whenever I wanted and had many other liberties. However, my bosses were micro-managers who – in various situations – could not let go and did not fully want to hand over tasks to me and my office team. It was not a lack of trust; it was part of their DNA of this digital manager generation. They are digital natives – they book their flights themselves if they have a free minute. They check themselves in and even do re-bookings if needed.
This new management style and a constant pressure to keep up with the latest technology – which is demanded and expected by the new manager generation – is a major change which I have been observing for a while. Senior Management Assistants who have been working with different generations of bosses are facing tough times keeping up with the speed, knowledge and personality of the “youngsters”. Junior Management Assistants get bored as bosses do not know how to properly delegate. And therefore, every assistant generation needs to be ready for the millennial mangers plus the digitalization in general. It is not a topic to be afraid of, because it gives us lots of potential. But we need to be aware that we never have to stop learning and developing. So, continue to invest in yourself and make your profile even more attractive.
What inspires and motivates you?
The stories and adventures of all assistants continuously motivates me. This was one reason why I created my blog, The Socialista Projects. I wanted to highlight the work of these talented ambassadors and leaders of our profession. And there are many out there. I always try to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and show their strengths, expertise and wisdom. Meeting all those wonderful people online and offline is a pure joy and keeps inspiring me.
What advice would you give someone just starting out as an Assistant?
I always say this, and I am happy to state this here again. Getting a mentor is my number one piece of advice. I should have done this myself when I was younger, but I was simply not aware of the term mentor or mentorship. Therefore, young assistants should reach out as soon as they can. You can easily find a mentor once you join professional associations like IMA. We at IMA Germany offer a wonderful mentoring program for our members. And guess what – it is complimentary.
So, what’s next for Diana Brandl? Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I am working hard on my own dreams. I love to keep inspiring others with my blog, my workshops and my crazy initiatives! This keeps me positive and motivated. I am more than ready for all those wonderful new projects that are already in the pipeline. I will continue to work on training and coaching other assistants to become better in their roles and to step up and speak for themselves. I have always been a bold and vocal person and fought for my rights at my employers. And every single one of my bosses supported me by allowing me to grow in fantastic projects or supporting my training needs as well as my IMA activities. It is not a one-way street. There is absolutely nothing wrong in asking for a raise, training or anything else that motivates you to achieve more. You need to put yourself as your top priority. Who else will do this if not you? So, go out there and make a change. Now.