Jesse Egeonu is a member of the World Administrators Alliance council and the former Branch Director International – Virtual for IAAP
Can we start with a little background information? Where are you from and what is your current role?
I am from Nigeria, born in Lagos, on the first of July, and my current role is the Executive Assistant to the Executive Vice-Chair of Globacom, Nigeria. My mum served as a Diplomat in the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and as such, I pretty much grew up on multiple continents. Having spent several years in South Korea, Egypt and India, I returned to Nigeria where I studied at a Christian Mission University where I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. Since then, I have worked in the Executive Support industry for about seven years in the Higher Education and Telecommunications industries.
What is your background? How and why did you become an administrative professional?
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, majoring in Development, and was certified to train young undergraduates as well as fresh graduates in Microsoft Office Suite. After 2 years of Administrative experience as the Personal Assistant to the Director of Finance in Covenant University, and subsequently 2 more years as the Personal Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor of Covenant University, Professor A.A.A. Atayero, I was motivated to get internationally certified with the IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals, USA).
My certification exam results came out on the 23rd of October 2017, and I was absolutely overwhelmed and flabbergasted with excitement. All those years of experience and exposure had finally paid off, and I could now officially refer to myself as an Administrative Professional.
My reason for certifying (and primarily with the IAAP) was with the intent to give the profession and myself some strong credibility in the Higher Education environment where I worked. It was often opined at the University that Admin work was not a professional career path, and my international certification being the first in the University and only one in the industry at the time changed all that.
More importantly, I became a professional to ensure that I operate with a global excellence perspective in mind. It’s one thing for my boss to say I’m a great administrative professional, but it’s even greater when fellow industry professionals examine and validate my professional competence at a global standard via professional certification.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your role?
Not to sound evil or anything, but COVID really changed the game in a way that I absolutely appreciate. Prior to my current role which I have been on for about a year now, one major hallmark of all my engagements in the different departments I worked at in the University was digitizing operations to reduce operational costs and significantly improve of productivity in both Admin-related and general operations.
My current appointment created a very enabling environment, where the Executive Vice-Chair permitted e-filing of documents, as well as online processing of a few. However, the advent of COVID ensured that all documents being processed must be treated online, and the new process was absolutely delightful. Large volumes of documents could be processed in very little time, circulated at almost no cost, and feedback was timelier than ever. The best benefit for me, asides from the ones listed above, was the work-from-home bit, for me that was the cherry on the top.
As far as the negative aspects of the COVID pandemic, I would say the loss of life and livelihoods of fellow admin professionals and colleagues was the hardest part. A number of firms simply could not adapt to the new normal and had to shut down operations, pushing a lot of people into unemployment, coupled with the harsh effect of the COVID lockdown this was the worst aspect as far as I’m concerned.
Tell us about your role at IAAP as Branch Director International – Virtual. What does that mean and how did it come about?
I attended the IAAP Summit in Austin, Texas, in July 2018, I met a lot of lovely people at the event and was there to connect, learn, and grow. While at the event, I met Lucy at the Executive Secretary stand for the very first time and absolutely loved her vibe and took the opportunity to connect with her. I subsequently met the CEO IAAP, Dr Veronica Cochran, and we had a nice little chat about the profession, and she noted that she appreciated my excitement and passion for the profession and also stated that if I was interested in the Branch Director International – Virtual role, I should indicate interest as soon as a call was made, and I did.
The role involves progression of the profession globally via the various programs run on the IAAP platform, as well as emphasizing and promoting professional certification among seasoned and young admins towards effectively validating the profession globally. Additionally, the role necessitated building the association around the world, the first step of which included effective publicizing of the IAAP and its objectives, as well as membership benefits and leadership development programs. The role was for the duration of a year, August 2018- July 2019.
You also serve as a council member for the World Administrators Alliance. Tell us about that.
This came out of the blue and I must confess I’m loving it so much.
The World Administrators Alliance has been around for well over a decade, and is a coalition of admin associations, networks, individuals, and influencers, with the goal of taking the profession to the next level, while ensuring generally acceptable standards for the profession worldwide.
I have been tasked with the role of Technology Officer on the Council, and I’m privileged to collaborate with some of the finest administrative professionals out there, towards the WAA’s objectives for the next year.
How do you manage your time between you day job and your volunteer roles?
If I’m being honest, this is harder than it seems, simply because those aren’t the only variables I consider on a daily basis (which include personal development, professional growth, relationship commitments, domestic responsibilities, etc). The complicated dance I perform daily to attempt balancing all these variables often yields very unexpected and interesting results (meaning I don’t often succeed as planned). However, it isn’t always dark clouds, as prioritizing pending tasks as expectations enables recovery of possible lost time, and even success in many of my tasks.
The WAA role and operating as an IAAP association influencer doesn’t demand daily attention, though some tasks require a couple of days to effectively complete. Therefore, managing my time and expectations simply requires adequate planning and engagement, but where unexpected factors come into play to destabilize a perfectly defined schedule then adequate adjustments must be made, and timely apologies rendered as appropriate.
What inspires and motivates you?
Characteristics? I would say, Loyalty, Resilience, Empathy.
What advice would you give someone just starting out as an Assistant?
Anything is really hard when you try to do it alone. Be a part of an association, network, or professional body; such an environment (be it physical or virtual) will serve to inspire you to be the very best you can be, and will serve to constantly remind you to maintain a lifestyle of personal and professional development to stay relevant in the industry.
Identify career mentors as early on as possible, be open to them about your experiences and let them guide you with their skills, wisdom, and heart.
Admin Influencers are an amazing source of crucial up-to-date information in the industry, and are a vital source of charisma, as well as pride in your chosen path. Follow them on social media, and look out for seminars, webinars, and materials (magazines, books, blogs, etc) from them. The tips, tricks, and recommendations they give out (freely or at a price) will definitely put you on a different pedestal than your peers.
Be sure of yourself, all the time. Ensure you truly and utterly understand the defined aspects of your new role and give it your best shot. Grow on your Executive/Department, and don’t hesitate to make invaluable contributions whenever you see the opportunity to do so.
Be open to evolving your role, but as a true advocate of the profession, keep the faith and the nomenclature even if your tasks differ over time (or if you take on new responsibilities).You’ll be fine.
So, what’s next for Jesse Egeonu? Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
In five years’ time? Barring any unforeseen COVID-type complications globally, I see myself speaking at admin events around the world, partaking in international or online training and development seminars/conferences.
I see myself as a globally renowned admin influencer, pushing the profession in my own little way, and collaborating with some of the very best globally. I have planned quite a bit for a platform to reach out to admin professionals and starters, with training and development, recreation, and experience-sharing aspects. I look forward to working closely with a number of particularly amazing leaders in the profession, while possibly functioning in the consultant capacity, preferably officially.
Professionally, I desire the ACEA designation which I am progressing towards at the moment, as well as one or two other certificate courses along the way. With growing skills in the Google Suite department, I intend to adapt an Admin environment for SME operations with Google Workplace within the next three years and carry out online or physical training sessions where necessary.