What was your first experience in an administrative support role, and why did you choose to take that opportunity?
I prepared to be a high-level assistant by attending college for their certificated Legal Secretarial Specialist program. It was a tough program. To graduate, you had to complete assessments for typing 60+ wpm and shorthand at 100+ wpm, along with legal, computers, accounting, English, writing, and speaking & presentation courses. I was young, married, and two little babies and determined to attain the Dean’s and Honor’s list every quarter. I wanted to do great work for great leaders. What better than legal?
Through a serendipitous meeting with the office manager of the city attorney’s office, I was invited to interview for the position as the assistant to the partner of the law firm, assistant city attorney, and premier eminent domain attorney in Minnesota (all one person). It was the one attorney in the law firm that none of the assistants wanted to work under. I was up for the challenge.
When did you first decide you wanted more out of your administrative career, and what did you decide to do about it? How did this lead you to where you are today?
Events in my life have taken me to move all over the country: Minnesota, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Georgia, and Ohio that being an assistant has allowed me the ability to take my skills wherever I go and in demand. I started the change in the trajectory of my career when I accepted positions other than legal. Legal assistants would tell me that was risky, but I don’t like to be put in a box. I chose to expand my skill set and horizons. This provided me opportunities to work in legal, engineering, real estate, telecommunications, technology, government, medical, and education. I blew the box UP!
So here is where I have seen the two biggest obstacles in an assistant’s position. One is in supporting leadership also means that when they make a change, you are an extension of that leadership and the company has to figure out what to do with you. The second is company transitions: buyouts, mergers, acquisitions, and just plain going out of business. All of these constitute downsizing and assistants can be viewed as a luxury during a restructure.
I grew and grew up in the work that I love, I also embraced learning all the different aspects and industries an assistant serves. I was the first in my family (of my parents and the youngest of five children) to graduate from high school, attend college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Business Administration, and my mother was a small business owner (a gas and service station) when most agencies and businesses wouldn’t work with a woman-owned business.
Ultimately, I wanted to be independent – an entrepreneur. As I met and overcame my challenges, I wanted to be able to encourage and inspire other women to achieve their greatness and dreams.
My path, challenges, dreams, aspirations, people I have met in my journey, and God have brought me to where I am today. I am grateful for the people, challenges, and lessons learned along the way. It all has made me a strong and resilient woman.
In pursuing this new endeavor, what was your greatest setback, face-palm or challenge, and how did you overcome it?
I was married for ten years. It was great having a partner to make decisions with. He had his talents and I had mine. It was a nice mesh. But, after the divorce, I felt that I had to do everything on my own.
My biggest challenge would be that feeling all women have, that we are expected to do it all and we are supposed to be great at everything, which isn’t possible. Nevertheless, the face-palm is that you realize that you have access to a wide group of talented people through networking, social media, and just getting out and meeting people – developing relationships.
Because I feel this way, you will find others do too… if they can help, they will. There are a lot of people who root for the underdog.
Another face-palm is realizing, “You got this.” But this happens all the time when we face our fears.
What mentors did you have and how did they help you to get where you are?
I believe we have mentors throughout our careers and lives. Many informal, some more formal. My mother and my older sister (10 years older) were some of my early mentors. Others later in life have been teachers, instructors, direct reports or bosses.
Men are trained, guided, and nurtured to develop leadership and advancement skills to their underlings. What has been impressed upon women to advance is to “hold their cards close to their vest,” so to speak, for fear of another usurping their position. Which creates a hostile environment for women to encourage one another.
When we come from a position of lack (such as there is not enough room for more women in leadership positions), we stunt the evolution of women taking their rightful positions at the leadership table. When we share knowledge and nurture one another, we grow and expand our influence.
I mentor every chance I get. As the Millennials take over where we leave off, it’s important to provide the knowledge of our experience so they can take our collective fight to the next level. The fight that we are ALL “created equal.” Our refrain does a disservice to our daughters, sisters, and mothers.
What’s the funniest story you experience on your path to success?
While working for the City Attorney’s office, during the OJ Simpson trial, it was one of the rare moments when all staff and attorneys would collect in the conference room to watch. The fascination of a high profile case on tv with legal minds – it was entertaining! Another instance when the law firm put together an event and paid for everyone to see “The Firm” with Tom Cruise. When working for the engineering firm, whenever someone bought a house, everyone was invited to the housewarming. This probably happened once a year. Other than the the traditional Company Christmas (or holiday) party, it’s a great opportunity for everyone to mingle and interesting conversation.
What advice would you give to other admins considering following this path for career advancement?
As administrative professionals, our job is unique in that we work with a great deal of technology and various levels of professionals. It is important to conduct yourself in the highest degree of professionalism – in conduct and appearance. SOFT SKILLS – work diligently on soft skills (soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, interpersonal skills, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people.). HARD SKILLS – It’s so easy today to be continually learning and expanding skills with access to Lynda, Udemy, etc, and reading. Technology changes fast with constant developments and upgrades. NETWORKING – Put yourself out there and develop relationships through local networking events (Meetup), as well as online (LinkedIn). Get engaged with conversations and participate. A big part of networking is giving and sharing. These three things will take you far.
ABOUT LAYNE TINSLEY
Layne Tinsley is an entrepreneur helping businesses with processes & procedures, increasing productivity, while focusing on alleviating and solving administrative struggles, and challenges. Layne’s career has comprised of administration, human resources, and office management with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management & Administration and has worked in legal, real estate, higher education, technology, coaching, and government. Layne’s mission is to inspire, teach, coach, and empower women to grow, lead, and embrace their unique talents. She lives in Georgia with her daughter and their two dogs, Honey and Lucy.
Email Layne: http://Layne.Tinsley@mykta.com/
Sparkle Website: http://www.mykta.com/
Layne on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laynetinsley
Admin Trailblazers is a series about serious administrative professionals who have excelled in their role and gone on to the top of the profession, management roles or entrepreneurial endeavors.
Admin Trailblazers is published on the fourth Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.