November 17, 2006

The perfect assistant

Nov. 11, 2006

THEY say, “Behind every great man is a great woman.”

Well, I say, “Behind a great boss is one heck of an assistant!”

Any boss or executive who has tons of work to do, meetings to attend, documents to prepare, presentations to make, and even important family affairs to participate in needs an efficient assistant to help him or her run his or her life.

The perfect assistant is at the office before the boss arrives for work, and will stick around until she is told to go home. The perfect assistant will know all the important phone numbers her boss needs and will know how to make her boss’s life less stressful by properly scheduling meetings.

She will know exactly how to secure the resources of materials her boss needs, be they professional or personal requirements. Need a table at that hot new restaurant on short notice? She knows just who to call. She can find people her boss needs no matter what rock they may be hiding under. She can track down that perfect chocolate cake his wife was raving about the other day. (Or, yes, like Miranda Priestly’s long-suffering assistant Andy Sachs, she will probably be able to get the galleys for the next Harry Potter installment even before the book hits the market.)

In other words, she is someone who is able to anticipate her boss’s needs and is Wonder Woman, Super Girl and Xena rolled into one.

In all my years in journalism, I’ve known a number of important government officials and business executives whose lives ran seamlessly because of the efficient assistants they’ve had. And for me, it was paramount to be friendly with these assistants. Being on Wonder Woman’s good side most often spelled the difference between a plain old story based on another press release like everyone else was getting, or a more substantial well-explained report for the readers.

By being friendly with Super Girl, I would able to get an exclusive interview, even if it meant just five to 10 minutes of the VIP’s busy day. And a good quote from Xena’s boss will turn any boring story into a great one.

Assistants are special people. And despite the long hours and sometimes suffering bosses they’ve had, they are still loyal and will go to great lengths to defend “Sir” or “Ma’am.” I think anyone can be a good boss. But I don’t think everyone can be a great assistant.


Bye, bye baby! :(

Speaking of assistants, I just lost my favorite one. My Palm Treo 650, which has organized my life so wonderfully, being there to wake me up or ring me just at the right moment, catering to my every whim or pressing need, is gone.

Along with my wallet with a bunch of credit cards and ID cards, my Treo was stolen from my bag while I was going around the bazaar-for-a-cause at the Glorietta Activity Center last Friday. Who knew that the cause I would be donating to was some petty thief’s who is probably now using my Treo to schedule his next mall robberies?!

(Why there was only one roving security guard at that people-packed bazaar plus a clueless security supervisor with a walkie talkie is anybody’s guess. I’ve heard that more and more petty thefts of this nature are occurring at the Ayala Malls with even one e-mail going around warning of the new modus operandi of these thieves while shoppers ride escalators. Columnist JB Baylon of Malaya also wrote about his recent unfortunate experience at Park Square where the side mirrors of his car were stolen. Again, there was only one security guard in sight.

I don’t know if the Zobels are cutting down on their malls’ huge operating costs but reducing expenses for mall security isn’t the way to go, guys! And to think I had assured organizers of the recent Pacific Regional Investment Conference about the tight security at the Ayala Malls. Well, shoppers may be safe from terrorists, but not from petty thieves!)

I had just gotten my Treo from Singapore, a replacement for my original unit that inexplicably went funky. While it didn’t cost a mint as it was a “reconditioned” unit, it performed flawlessly like a brand-new unit and had no problems adapting to my demanding lifestyle.

My Treo would rest in my bag, chockfull of schedules, important contacts, memos, notes and documents, just patiently waiting for my go-signal to spew all these data at a touch of a button.

Being a journalist, my Treo was more than any perfect assistant could ever be. (For one thing, it didn’t need a salary raise every so often as reward for consistently good work.) I used it to take down notes during meetings. I wrote down my assignments on it while on-the-go (it came bundled with DocumentsToGo, which handled Word and Excel files better than Microsoft’s own pocket office suite). I read and sent e-mail on it. I took photos with it. It reminded me of my appointments, story deadlines and vital facts needed for interviews. It helped me during business presentations (DocsToGo also did PowerPoint wonderfully). And, yes, it helped me organize my shopping or grocery lists as well.

With a silent click, it could give me a contact’s professional (company, title, cell phone and business numbers, e-mail address, assistant’s name) and personal (names of the wife or husband, children, mistress, boyfriend, best friend, plus home address and telephone number) details. And while all these data are backed up in my iBook—thank God!—it gives me no comfort that someone out there might be calling my contacts and pretending to be my friend to shake them down for money or something more hideous.

What is more unfortunate is that my cell-phone provider will no longer be offering the Treo in its lineup of handsets. So even if I’m allowed to avail myself of a new phone under a retention plan (and for some reason I can’t right now because I still have four months to go under my current plan…duh!), there are no Treo 650s to be had. So my only hope is that the Palm customer-care managers will take pity on me and allow me to purchase another reconditioned unit as I am an ever loyal (and extremely desperate!) customer. Purchasing a brand-new unit is, sadly, way out of my budget these days. I am after all, just a poor journalist.

I had such a perfect professional relationship with my Treo. It was my Super Girl, my Wonder Woman, my Xena rolled into one. Without it, the past few days have just been one long discombobulated mess. Sucks.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the BusinessMirror.)

UPDATE: Palm Customer Care just turned down my request for a reconditioned unit. Waaah!


Anonymous said...

this is another reason why i hate doing business in the philippines, customer care in the philippines just dont have the idea how to please their customers.

Anonymous said...

How can you say that anon?? The prostitutes in Philippines know how to please their customers best of all.

Stella Arnaldo said...

Well, anonymous, thank you for sharing your personal experience with Philippine prostitutes. I hope it was as good as any other experience you may have had with these working women in other countries.