Editor’s Note: We're searching for the best and brightest admin professionals and workplace operators in the US. Know an outstanding Ninja? Nominations for the 2020 All-Star Awards are now open!
Today’s OfficeNinjas All-Star Award is presented by NatureBox!
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Name: Anita Conrad
Title & Company: Executive Assistant, Savers
Location: Bellevue, WA
# Years as an Office Ninja: 14
Fun Fact: Also answers to “Nurse Nita” and “Counselor Conrad”
Modesty is Her Middle Name
Anita Conrad almost didn’t enter the OfficeNinjas All-Star competition. Not one for self-promotion, she had enough to keep busy as the Executive Assistant to the CEO, COO, and CFO of Savers—but then a little birdy told her no one from the Seattle area had ever won. Gotcha! With that, her competitive side took over. Anita emailed colleagues and before she knew it, she’d racked up over 100 nominations!
It’s clear that beyond being good at her job, Anita finds true joy and satisfaction in her work. She likens navigating complicated scheduling issues to “a game of Tetris” and handles competing priorities with grace. This certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed! Here’s what one colleague had to say:
“Everyone seems to know Anita does an awesome job, but I don’t think anyone realizes how much she does. I happen to sit right next to her office. I see her leaving the CEO with a list of items to do, only to see the COO ask something 30 seconds later—and then it’s the same from the CFO. They aren’t aware of the others’ requests. Yet, Anita consistently stays positive and appears to address every single one.” – William, Accounting Manager
Beyond her day-to-day EA responsibilities, Anita takes a proactive approach to creating a compassionate and connected company culture through meaningful volunteer opportunities.
“Before Anita spearheaded so much social change at Savers, it was easy for me to forget why I came to work each day. Since she’s created these volunteer opportunities, social events, and connections, I’m constantly reminded that I work with great people—and that we’re doing great things. There’s a tangible difference in corporate culture and engagement here. Anita is a pillar of our office culture that I cannot imagine work without!” – Stacy, Financial Analyst
Overall, she’s a team player who makes Savers a more efficient and fun place to work.
“I’ve worked with Anita for the last couple of years, and she is INVALUABLE. I could list the projects she’s worked on and her accomplishments, but what makes her stand out is who she is. She works hard, values relationships, delivers high-quality work, takes accountability, and adapts to the rhythm of business.” – Tricia, Senior Manager of Communications and Marketing
We’re willing to bet this All-Star has some words of wisdom for our community. Enjoy our Q&A with Anita!
OfficeNinjas: While you “officially” work with three executives, it looks like you are involved in many areas of the organization and have a fantastic rapport with everyone. How do you keep track of all these relationships? What do you attribute to your ability to connect with so many people?
Anita Conrad: I currently support the Chairman/CEO, COO and CFO. But I do have a great group of team members who apparently think I support them too! :) It helps to love people and I want to make sure I know as many people I work with as possible. The more people you know, the better you can understand how the company ticks and who the best resource is for any given project. Now, I don’t know all 33,000 employees, but maybe one day I’ll get close.
ON: Tell us about the craziest day you’ve ever experienced as an Office Ninja.
AC: I had a large annual event for our sales teams of about 250 people. After returning from our first night’s event of the week, I came back to the hotel conference space to finish up the last few breakout rooms for the next day. We had been prepping all day, setting out name badges, content and getting all the rooms set, except for a few that weren’t ready for us yet. When I came up the stairs, everything was gone. Our badges, content, printed presentations, breakout material—gone. I quickly called my admin team and figure out the situation. Long story short, we think the event that was wrapping up before our group had tossed their items as well as ours! We quickly started to get things back together and worked most of the night on getting things back to normal.
Well, the next morning was even crazier. As our team members were coming in for breakfast, we witnessed a horrific event. It went from a calm and excited morning to one of tears, panic, and chaos. My team and I needed to act fast. We called in counselors for those that needed to grieve, and started calling other venues, hotels and catering companies to see how we could move our event last minute (due to the nature of the events, we couldn’t continue at the hotel we were staying). Long story short, we had buses to pick us up within the hour, a new facility ready for us, and catering prepped and delivered by lunchtime.
ON: We hear it’s very common for you to work on weekends and evenings. Given that you have a family, how do you make everything work since your job goes beyond the typical 9-to-5?
AC: When I started as a Ninja, I was working all the time. I had nothing holding me back and gave it everything I had. I learned so much in those first few years of my career and have been able to set standards for myself on what really needs to get done outside the work week.
I will come in and leave at the same time every day and will work hard while I’m here. Once I’m home and have some family time, I make sure to answer any emails or get caught up to make my next day successful. I’m truly blessed that when I do have to work late that I have an amazing husband and family that are there to support me.
ON: A grand total of 43 of your nominators mentioned that you’re always smiling. :) How do you maintain such positive attitude and so much patience and professionalism when work situations get stressful?
AC: I truly love to smile! It makes me so much happier and I swear it gives me the energy to get through the day. There are always going to be waves of crazy, and you just have to be positive about it. Sure, I’ve had my moments, but when you stay positive about something out of your control it just makes things easier.
“Anita’s name describes her the best—Accomplished, Nice, Intelligent, Trustworthy, and, AMAZING! She is the “office mom” to over 300 people, supports three extremely busy C-level executives who would be lost without her, is ALWAYS cheerful and helpful, and most of all, is the unsung hero of the office. She is our guiding light and someone that is always there to comfort, listen and encourage. I can’t imagine our office without Anita and am grateful everyday that we are blessed with her presence. She arrived when we needed her most and I hope she never leaves! She is so much more than a rockstar. She is the entire ROCKBAND!” – LeAnne, HR Generalist
ON: Office Ninjas often have tips and tricks of the trade. Any you care to share?
AC: Make sure you have a network, meet with other Office Ninjas, and find out their tricks and best practices. When you work hard, stay positive, and have a good attitude, you make the environment around you all the more fun! Be trustworthy, because the more trust your executives have in you, the more they will lean on you, confide in you, and ultimately be your partner.
ON: What is your greatest professional achievement at Savers?
AC: If you asked my co-workers, it’s the small things that make people happy, like bringing in food trucks because we have no quick, local places to eat. I also started our Savers Social Network Committee, partnering with team members around the organization to start making a difference in the company culture.
ON: How do your team members help you succeed?
AC: My team is amazing! Everyone is always willing to lend a helping hand. It’s not unusual for a co-worker to grab me lunch because they see I’m running around like a crazy lady. Team members take the time to teach me something new. And sometimes colleagues come in to help me set up for a meeting without even asking. And I seriously had the most amazing birthday ever. My office was full of flowers, cake, cards, more flowers, and some vino, of course!
ON: What’s your favorite part of being an Office Ninja?
AC: I love the people. My Executive Team is truly the best, as are the team members I get to converse with and learn about each day! They treat me like one of their own. I also love the diversity of the job—how every day is different. The unexpected crazy keeps me on my toes.
Being able to help people is so rewarding. Trying to figure out a solution to a problem, helping someone find the best resource, or just opening my office for a chat. From “Counselor Conrad” to “Nurse Nita,” there’s always a nickname for me depending on the situation. I’ll always take the time for others no matter what they’re asking.
ON: How do you see the admin profession evolving? What do you do to stay ahead of the curve?
AC: Executives are relying more on their EAs to become part of the Executive Team, which is so crucial for us to be successful! I think it’s important to be informed on new technology and what other companies are doing to stay successful—which is why I love to network with other Office Ninjas.
ON: What would you say are the top three traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star?
AC: It’s all about the small things you do for people. A little goes a long way to make others feel appreciated. Small acknowledgments will go far and will make your job so much easier. Never say no—at least not right away. Sometimes that may be the end result, but there should be a positive response initially. Our first answer should always be, “Great idea! Let me think about that!” or, “We have limited resources, but let me figure out how we can make this work.” There are so many times people say no right out the gate when, in fact, there is a much better answer. And don’t forget to smile! A smile makes you feel more energetic, positive, and truly happy!
ON: So many of your nominators mentioned your empathy. Where does that empathy come from, and why is it important to your Office Ninja role?
AC: I care so much for people and always want to be there when they need a listening ear. Each of us has a day, moment, week that is just plain long and stressful. Sometimes we all just need someone to hear us out.
I make it a point to stop what I’m doing and truly listen to someone’s needs, and it’s amazing how that alone can make someone feel empowered. Sometimes it’s just a hug, a fresh mug of coffee, or grabbing lunch for them while you’re out. But whatever it is, there’s always time to make someone feel better about their day. The thing is, we all need it. When we’re there for our friends, co-workers, and even strangers for that matter, people are there in return.
Hear, hear! We’re totally on board with making the workplace (and the world!) a kinder, more compassionate place. Thanks for leading the charge, Anita!
As part of her prize package, Anita will receive a $1,000 worth of snacks from NatureBox.
To view the complete photo album from our photo shoot at Savers with Anita, click here.
All on-site photography of our featured Ninja and her workplace is courtesy of Oh Snap! Visuals. Oh Snap! is OfficeNinjas’ go-to photographer for headshots and events. They travel nationally, produce stunning photographs, and are a dream to work with!