It was only eight years ago when GURNER™ first launched Oxley in Collingwood. At the time, Collingwood was perceived as a dangerous, run down location. Today, the inner suburb paints a very different picture, especially in the Foy and Gibson heritage area where we have developed eight buildings with another six in the pipeline. You see a thriving retail, arts and cultural hub, surrounded by some of Melbourne’s most popular restaurants and bars. Urban regeneration goes beyond converting former industrial zones into desirable residential precincts. It is the catalyst to cultural, environmental and community transformation, creating new opportunities, jobs and places people can enjoy. (gurner.com.au).
After completing university and then her Agent’s Representative Diploma back in 2008, Rachel Bergstrom parlayed her passion for property into a coveted role as an Executive Assistant at property development firm, Gurner TM. We interviewed her back in 2015 to see what a typical day in her life as an EA for a top property developer was like. Read more here.
Today her role has evolved and expanded across all areas within the business. We sat down with Rachel to hear what she has learnt over the years in her time as an EA in one of Melbourne biggest most highly sought after property developers.
You started with Property Development powerhouse Gurner TM in 2012. What was your first day like?
My first day was exciting and intense. I spent most of the day getting to know the team and getting a deeper understanding of the role as there was no prior EA to train me. I needed to come up to speed with the all our current projects that were in the pipeline quickly and at the same time was tasked by our Director to come up with clever out of the box way to survey Gurner TM purchaser satisfaction. Purchaser satisfaction underpins the Gurner TM difference. We collaborate only with the finest calibre of architects, designers and consultants from across the globe to set new benchmarks for luxury living in Australia and have a commitment to innovation and attention to detail across all aspects, from design to construction.
Looking back over the last 5 years in your role as Executive Assistant to Tim Gurner, what are the 3 things you would say to someone starting out in your position?
#1 Industry knowledge
Having an understanding and experience in the real estate industry was fundamental to my success at Gurner TM. Having prior knowledge allowed me to be able to learn quickly on the job, and absorb the lingo and concepts used every day in the property development sphere. The more industry-specific knowledge you have, the more valuable you become. By learning as much about the industry you work in, you become a great resource for your company and a valuable asset.
#2 Time management
You won’t survive the fast pace deluge if you can’t manage your time in an effective manner. An EA needs to not only handle their own time well but also that of the Director you work for. That means coordinating their needs and often multiple people, in order to create a workable schedule that is in a constant state of flow and as urgent matters arise and priorities shift and maximize efficiency.
#Proactivity & Reliability
Showing initiative, proactivity and reliability are all vital to remain on top of your game as an Executive Assistant. Being proactive within the business is crucial as you have the opportunity to implement ways to make processes and procedures providing administrative stability and relentless attention to detail. Also to have the confidence to make decisions and adopt new ways of working that will support your Executive and the companies’ objectives and ultimately become the minute-by-minute problem-solver for them.
How has your role evolved over the last 5 years? Have there been opportunities for you to shape your position?
As the business has developed sound confidence in my ability to manage my priorities effectively it has meant that I can now work on different areas of the business. Some of these more varied aspects including; Interior design, display suite fit-outs, furnishing and decorating of completed apartments, marketing collateral & PR support and the running of company events, to name a few. Being able to continuously learn and grow my knowledge has kept me challenged and engaged.
I also act as a mentor to new staff – ensuring new members thoroughly understand the brand, our goals and the team dynamics.
In 2015, when we first interviewed you, you said that ‘diary management’ was one of the hardest parts of your role as EA. Has that changed?
Last year was one of our busiest years which saw lots more interstate travel and being on the go non-stop, so it hasn’t changed in that aspect. I often joke that we need to clone Tim! In saying that we have become a lot better at managing what things are absolutely crucial and have implemented procedures to allow for some work-life balance.
Lastly, how have you seen the expectations shift over the last 5 years of an Executive Assistant. What are the core skills you see as being necessary today?
Resilience is definitely something that is required in today’s ever-changing fast pace environment. As an Executive Assistant you are constantly faced with changing and at times challenging situations this can be quite overwhelming. We have to rely on our self-confidence to bounce back quickly and tackle the next challenge.
Additionally, strategic Executive Assistants pay attention to clues in the Executive’s behaviour and shifts in temperament, because timing and judgment are the foundation of a smooth working relationship. Priorities and concerns change, and we have to be on top of these shifts all the time. We have to have the emotional maturity to manage distracted behaviours, the endurance capacity to sustain ourselves in environments where we may encounter an ever-changing rapid pace; conflicting instructions; behaviour that deters productivity; and, the demand for high levels of intelligence and superb response skills.
As an Executive Assistant you will often look at packed to-do lists and the management of your Directors as well and we have to have the ability to make a decision which tasks to tackle first when all of our work may be a priority with imminent deadlines. Due to the nature of our job we have to remain adaptable whilst handling multiple priorities so flexibility & adaptability are imperative to have.