EA to Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Minshew and Co-Founder & President Alexandra Cavoulacos of The Muse
Jess, arguably you are working in what is one of the most highly sought after EA roles in New York City at present. Tell us a little bit about the beginning of your career leading up to this point?
It was definitely a winding road. After completing High School in rural NSW, I went to the Billy Blue College of Design in Sydney, Australia, where I lived and worked for a number of years. I made the decision to move to New York in 2015, with no job. I was able to connect with a friend who was working in a fashion start-up and one thing led to the next – I became the EA to the CEO there. It was a great opportunity to cut my teeth and tackle some new and exciting challenges. It really helped me figure out a lot about my professional strengths and weaknesses, as well as what I liked and didn’t like in the companies I worked for. I took all of these learnings and set out to find my next role that would allow me to use my strengths at a company that I identified and connected with. I actually found The Muse while searching for jobs on their site, and was lucky enough to join the team here shortly after. I’ve been so fortunate to work alongside so many smart, hard-working people for the last year and a half!
When making the decision to move to New York City – was this purely a strategic career move or were there after factors drawing you to the Big Apple?
It was definitely partially career driven. I have always resonated with the age old saying of “if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere”. However, what was also a large contributing factor was my desire to travel and experience the world outside of where I had grown up. I really wanted to gain new perspective and experience outside of what I’d known, and what better place to do that than New York!
Your first EA role coincided to also be your first job in Manhattan. Interestingly it was working for another start up business. Are there reasons behind why you have identified more with infant businesses over established market brands?
The energy and passion people bring to their job every day is really important to me. I thrive off working around people who are dedicated towards achieving something really important to them; and that is what I really enjoy about start-ups. People can, and like to, get scrappy to tackle any challenge they come across whether or not it typically falls under their allocated responsibilities, or title. All hands are always on deck, and you get diversity in your role. You quickly gain the opportunity to learn almost every facet of a business, and see each department grow from scratch. Your personal impact is felt, and your contribution to culture and team building never goes unnoticed.
When interviewing at The Muse – what was it that stood out to you about the role, and ultimately lead to you accepting the offer?
I always look at a company’s core values and mission statement. I think what a business outwardly states about both of these is really key, as it holds them accountable. I really identified with the core values of The Muse. I felt that my personal values were in line with theirs, and above all else that contributed to the feeling I had when leaving the interview being that – I really felt like The Muse was a place and environment that I would thrive in.
What have been the three biggest takeaways you have had so far in your career with The Muse?
- Prioritisation is a key skill for any role, but especially when working in start-ups. When you are trying to juggle one thousand things at once, and only have one hundred slots to fit those things in, you will drive yourself insane unless you can learn to critically identify what is important and prioritise that task appropriately.
- Kindness and courtesy cost you nothing; and make a huge difference. Sometimes when things get hectic it can be easy to be brusque or abrupt. I find it is always important to take a step back, be thankful and considerate to other people. You catch more flies with honey 🙂
- That it is really hard to run a company. I have so must respect for our amazing cofounders, Kathryn Minshew and Alexandra Cavoulacos. They work incredibly hard, and live and breathe what they do. They deserve every ounce of success they have had, as they certainly worked for it.
If you could lend advice to other EA’s looking for a career defining opportunity – what would it be?
Spend time to understand the company as much as the role. Searching and interviewing for a new job is not only about convincing the company that you should work there, it is about making the most of that opportunity for yourself, to assess if it is a place you can grow.
I also believe that communication is key. When you are working as an EA as someone’s ‘right hand’, you need to have a system in place to communicate effectively. That feedback loop is absolutely critical, and the more direct the better. Assessing your potential new boss’ style when it comes to this should be paramount.
What do the next steps look like for you in your career?
The great thing about being an EA is that you’re forced to be flexible and wear a lot of hats. The skills that I have gained in my career to date are diverse and I am so grateful for that. As to what is next? I see plenty of different ways I could continue to grow and develop. Something that takes advantage of my communication and coordination skills would be good, any opportunity to take on large scale projects would also be a great fit. I don’t think you should be close minded to any opportunity these days – if I had been, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today!
Interviewed by Sarah Bolitho, Director – Assistant Sydney