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Get to Know “Director of Fun” Amy Spellman, 2021 OfficeNinjas All-Star!

Feature image of Hilary Phillips, Director of Sales Operations at MongoDB.

All-Star Snapshot

Name
Amy Spellman

Title, Company, and Location
Executive Office Manager, SelectQuote Insurance Services, Overland Park, KS

Years as an Office Ninja
8 years

Fun Fact
To lift spirits during the early days of COVID, Amy did a virtual lip-synch performance of “I Love Rock and Roll” for her office — while wearing a Joan Jett wig!

Editor’s Note: OfficeNinjas All-Star Awards is part of Admin+ Month (April 5–23, 2021), a fully virtual celebration of deep learning, global recognition, and frenzied fun.

You know that person in your workplace who is always a joy to be around? The one who makes you feel welcome, wanted, and valued every time you see them?

At SelectQuote Insurance Services, that person IS Amy Spellman. A staggering 25 nominations — nearly all of which mention Amy’s positive attitude, caring nature, and sparkling personality — cannot be wrong. And that’s just THIS year. Amy was also nominated in 2019 and 2020 for a grand total of 48 nominations!

It’s not for nothing that Amy lays claim to the nickname “Director of Fun.” It’s her self-driven mission to ensure that every member of the SelectQuote Insurance Services team is engaged, happy, and thriving.

But Amy’s impact is anything but frivolous. In our disconnected times, Amy has a special ability to bring people together and keep them connected. From managing company-wide communications throughout the pandemic to hosting virtual meals, Amy’s dedication, enthusiasm, and problem-solving have earned her the reputation of “fixer.” Any time an issue (or potential issue) arises, she’s a go-to for getting it done.

Perhaps her colleague Donna Mason put it best when asked to share a time Amy had a positive impact on the organization. “When hasn’t there been a time? She’s the heart of the company’s culture.”

Amy puts an unbelievable amount of good out into the world. We’re delighted to send some back to her in the form of a 2021 OfficeNinjas All-Star Award. In this feature interview, we take you up-close-and-personal with the amazing and irrepressible Amy Spellman.

2020 OfficeNinjas All-Star Corina Terrell enjoys learning from UC Berkeley faculty during the OfficeNinjas & UC Berkeley Haas School of Business Leadership & Communication Course.

What’s your Admin+ origin story?

I have been an Office Manager/Executive Assistant for eight years, although my entire professional life has involved some type of work with people.

After graduating early from high school and attending community college, I quickly realized that college and I weren’t ready for each other. Prior to my current position, I worked as a customer service representative with an insurance company, as a self-employed nail technician, and as a medical school administrator. When a friend presented a new opportunity in a sales role with SelectQuote, I thought, “Heck, why not?”

I had always wanted to try sales and this seemed like a perfect way to start. However, as a people person, I was more about building relationships than selling. As it so happened, the Office Manager just had a baby and decided not to come back, so her position was open and here I am — 8 years later!

As a people person, I’m also a people pleaser. I feel like I’ve found my niche. I’m able to work with others and help them with whatever is needed. I feel a sense of pride when their needs are fulfilled. I love that each day is different and never boring! Each piece rolled into my position allows me to engage with the entire company.

Looking back, I credit part of my success to figuring out what I really wanted in a career — and then finding the career that made me happy. A lot of it also comes down to the people I work with, and the fact that I’m inspired to do the best job I can for them. When you feel valued, it makes you want to do better. I believe that is key in all situations and for all people.

“Amy’s role to keep our culture “connected” during this pandemic has been tremendous. 4,000 people working fully remote for over a year. Amy has helped drive communication and culture through weekly “shout outs” sharing positive accomplishments by fellow associates and hosted virtual breakfasts, lunches, and team events. She’s a true spark plug.” — Tim Danker, CEO, SelectQuote Insurance Services

What’s one thing you’ve done that’s been the most impactful in advancing your career?

Deciding to get my bachelor’s degree in Business Management was probably the most impactful thing I’ve done for myself, as it gave me higher-level foundational knowledge. At the time, I was working full-time with a toddler and a husband who taught during the day and coached at night. I attended an accredited 4-year college via their online program, which made it possible for me to finish.

A year after I returned to school, I started caring for my ailing father. I wanted to quit because it was SO MUCH, but something kept telling me to push-on — that “don’t quit” advice my parents had instilled in me. I’m happy to say that I finished. I graduated five months after my father passed away on what would have been his 82nd birthday.

Where does your drive come from? What keeps you motivated?

I have a strong desire to make others happy. A large part of what I do is keeping SelectQuote’s culture fun and exciting. Thinking of outside-the-box ways to bring fun into the workplace keeps me on my toes. In a nutshell, I’d say that while my drive comes from others, My motivation is knowing that what I do — no matter how big or small — can really make a difference for someone else.

The biggest obstacle to that motivation? 2020! Going from in-person to a remote environment was a challenge for all of us! As the person in charge of ordering flowers for sick employees and funerals, I got a lot of requests over the past year. Unfortunately, we even lost a few employees. Combined with having a son in virtual school, a husband teaching middle school PE virtually, and losing our dog all in the same period of time — there was a lot going on that was way beyond my control. Not to mention the everyday news of sickness, politics, and all the other struggles our country was facing! It really got to be too much. I took a step back and had a conversation with myself about my mental and physical well-being. Then I reached out for help.

Taking the step to seek out counseling to talk about all these things made a huge difference. Once I realized I had a problem, I was open and honest about what I was going through with our CEO, Tim, and the HR Director, Deanne, to whom I report. Having candid conversations with them allowed me to be true to myself and also to let them know, “Hey, I’m not okay, but I will be.”

Amy is quick to point out that 2020 wasn’t all bad…the Kansas City Chiefs did win the Super Bowl, after all! Here she is with the KC Wolf, who stopped by the office at request.

What are you most proud of outside of work?

Outside of work, my time is mainly spent with my family and friends. Being a mom is my first full-time job. My son, Sam, is probably the greatest thing in my life. He’s almost 17 and our only child so I cherish the time we spend together. My husband and I stay busy with gardening around the house, getting together with others, or just relaxing at home. I also love to bake and cook for others.

Amy with her pride and joy, her son Sam.

How do your employer and team members help you succeed?

Our leadership team allows me to operate with freedom. I think this comes from years of working together and knowing the boundaries. They know that if I have a question, I will come to them for approval.

For example, every Monday I send out a company-wide communication to all of our employees. That communication usually includes:

  • A brief rundown of how the weekend was for me
  • A quick anecdote
  • Weekly reminders
  • “Fun” stuff, such as a company-wide March Madness bracket or a celebration of National Pet Day
  • A motivational quote ending

Leadership knows that I won’t go too sideways on a subject and will keep the communication engaging but appropriate. Their trust means the world to me. It inspires me that I’m representing both SelectQuote and the leadership team.

I have always sought out professional development opportunities, and leadership has been supportive of these initiatives. I first became involved with OfficeNinjas through its newsletters in 2015. When the 2016 Admin Bash was announced, I presented the opportunity to the leadership team, explaining how much I’d gotten out of OfficeNinjas so far and the benefits I’d get from going to the event. It was approved. Since then, they’ve supported my travel to many OfficeNinjas conferences and events. Allowing me to explore my professional education helps me be a better Office Manager/EA. Leadership recognizes that it’s a win/win for both of us!

How do you help your employer and team members succeed?

While it’s not always easy, I try to stay one step ahead of executives. I check calendars and keep an eye out for other important dates when planning events. This even includes University of Kansas (KU) basketball, since we have some avid KU fans in the executive circle! I’ve also learned that those with smaller children aren’t too keen on having an early meeting if it might conflict with taking kids to school. Because the leadership team schedules change all the time, it’s also a matter of being flexible and ready for action at all times.

“She has an uncanny ability to share the right amount of feelings and thoughts in her messages to all the employees, that everyone else can relate to. And she adamantly keeps the management on their toes, to make sure we are consistently sending the kudos out to all the employees that are so deserving.” — Jon Reinemann, Regional Sales Director, SelectQuote

What do you do when you’re stressed or upset at work?

Music has always been a good way for me to relieve stress. I typically leave my office door open, so when it is closed people know it is because I’m either on a call or need some “keep away” time. This allows me to decompress.

Another thing I do if I’m able is just get away from the office for a quick break. A little 30 minutes away from everyone is sometimes just the right thing to clear my head.

What’s your favorite thing about being an Office Ninja? If you could change one thing about being an Office Ninja, what would it be?

My favorite thing about being an Office Ninja is I can honestly say that each day is always different. Each new experience comes with a new lesson, and each new lesson comes with new growth. It’s not always fun, but it’s challenging — and that’s what keeps me engaged. Plus, Office Ninja is such a cool title!

I don’t know if I would change anything…aside from inventing a clone! If anything, I would change the way I do things by learning new skills and keeping up with the latest tech. I view this as part of my professional growth.

What’s the one thing that’s ALWAYS on your desk and why?

I think the better question here is, “What’s NOT on your desk?” My desk is controlled chaos 24/7. It’s one of those desks where I know where everything is, but nobody else does. I also have my OfficeNinjas swag on proud display.

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What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A lot of the advice I have received over the years comes from my parents, as well as from life lessons. One of those life lessons was the decision to leave my last employer. I was raised that you find a job, you like the job, you stay at the job until you retire. Honestly, that is what I had planned to do. It was a job with great benefits and great pay, but after 13 years I wasn’t moving forward the way I thought I should. I was miserable and I wanted something new and challenging.

This photo of Amy’s parents has been in every office she’s ever been in since it was taken in the late 1990s.

When SelectQuote came along, it wasn’t going to be an increase in pay or vertical move, but it was an opportunity to do something different, and I felt motivated to make a change. It was the best move I ever made, and I now always strive to follow the motto, “Do what makes you happy.”

Both of my parents were Marines and the foundation they gave me taught me how to be who I am today. My mother’s advice — which she showed in her actions more than told in her words — was, “Don’t take life so seriously.” She loved playing jokes and making light of things in dark times. I learned from her to see the positive side as much as you can.

A more serious type with a wittier side, my dad taught me about hard work and going for what you want. His support for me throughout my childhood and into my adult years taught me that, “No dream is too big, but you have to work for it and make it happen.”

In my career and in my everyday life, I just try to be me. Over the years, I have learned that we are all people. Even when we’re at our lowest, sometimes just a quick smile or a helping hand is what we need to pick us up. In our professional lives we sometimes miss the people part of the equation. I don’t want to be like that. I just want to be me.

Tell us something unique about your process that’s helped you succeed in your role?

In an Office Ninja role, you have to be free flowing and adaptive to any situation. One way may work for someone, but another way may not be best for another. Supporting multiple executives and working with so many people, I want to give the best experience for them, not an experience based on an outline. Each executive has their own unique way of “how they like things.”

For example, our CEO Tim is very neat, organized, and always does things a certain way, while our COO Bill is a little more freestyle — still organized, but in his own way. I learned quickly that it’s safe to put a document on Tim’s desk for a signature, but it’s better to hand it directly to Bill, watch him sign it, then take it. The more I understand personality types and workstyles, the better I can tailor my approach toward the most successful outcome.

“If Amy asked me for help on something, I would drop whatever I was doing to assist. I don’t say that to portray myself as a thoughtful and helpful individual. It’s really a reflection on the type of person Amy is. I know if I called Amy in a time of need, she would make me her number one priority at that exact moment. You want to reciprocate that with those you care about. Amy doesn’t call for my help very often because she’s all give and no take. She strives to make those around her happy and her needs are often secondary.” — Spencer Glenn, Director of Finance, SelectQuote

What’s a common mistake made among smart Admin+ professionals for which you’ve devised an effective solution?

I’ve been on a few chat groups or virtual talks where I don’t think Admin+ professionals realize that they should think of themselves as their leaders’ ally. We are there to support our leaders and our teams, and the first step is having open lines of communication and trust.

One of my first priorities when I started as an Office Manager/EA at SelectQuote was building relationships with executives. This process starts slowly while you get to know them and their schedules, but you eventually become comfortable sharing more of yourselves. Developing this type of connection allows you to do your job better because it creates more openness. Plus, you can foresee a scheduling conflict or even sense when it’s a good day or a bad day for that person you support. It also works in reverse by allowing you to set boundaries, which was not something I was initially good at.

Amy spreads cheer around the office via costumes, sweet treats, and family drawings.

Your positivity, enthusiasm, and heart were recurring themes in your nominators’ responses. How do you keep this energy up, even when you might not be “feeling it”?

Somebody once told me, “Fake it til you make it.” I think of that when I’m not feeling it. There are days I don’t feel it, but I know that if I don’t make an effort, someone else might be affected. So, in the end, I just do it! Most of the time, faking it pulls me out of that funk and propels me forward. It all comes back to my passion for being a “people pleaser.”

You played a significant role in helping to grow company culture amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic and the switch to remote work. How did you endeavor to do this?

At first I was a little perplexed on how to do this, but I figured out that keeping everyone else upbeat and positive meant thinking “outside the box.” People love food, so in addition to Virtual Lunches, I started sending snack boxes to random people weekly.

I also sent out an email to everyone at the supervisor level and above in which I shared ideas regarding how we could stay connected. While nothing replaces being together in person, the more you do to stay connected with employees and others, the more valued they feel. Leadership knows this. To say they have supported my ideas and initiatives is an understatement.

“I’ve never met someone with the capability to juggle both professional career tasks and personal relationships with EVERY employee. She sends flowers for birthdays, holidays, and special events to employees at home — even when it’s not work-related. She makes sure to single people out and gives them recognition. It’s not just about doing her job, she technically doesn’t even have to speak to us, but she goes out of her way physically, to make us happy and help out even outside of work. She is a real hero!” — Lanie Ford, Office Manager

What’s the Shout-Out program?

When our company went remote, we needed a way to stay connected with everyone. Tim came up with the Shout-Out program. He asked me to put together a schedule and have managers/directors from different divisions send me “Shout-Outs” for their team members once or twice a week. We’ve kept it going and it’s made a huge impact.

People like to be recognized — not only for being a top level agent, but also for going above and beyond the call of duty. We also recognize employees who’ve overcome obstacles. Those particular Shout-Outs are very special.

A hand-lettered digital graphic created exclusively for the 2020 OfficeNinjas All-Star Awards, featuring the quote, “Dare to color outside the lines.”

We also do Virtual Lunches with leadership, which have also kept us connected. These happen about four times a month and include leadership from managers on up to our highest executives. Using the calendar, I reach out to directors, managers, and supervisors to schedule dates they would be willing to attend lunches. After consulting schedules, I then invite one or two executives to attend, as well. Finally, the directors, managers, and supervisors send me a list about a week in advance of employees from their group who they’d like to attend. Typically we cap the number of attendees at 25 or so, and we limit the lunch to an hour.

On Virtual Lunch day, I send all of the attendees a voucher from Uber Eats so they can order their lunch. I act as the moderator on the call, and I always start by introducing myself — because I don’t even know everyone! Then, each person introduces themselves, says what they do at SelectQuote, how long they have been with the company, and shares a fun fact about themselves, such as what they like to do for fun. Sometimes I pull a question out of a bag like, “What is your go-to karaoke song?” I love getting to know everyone and hearing their stories in a light and casual setting.

What advice do you have for other Ninjas who are looking to make (and be recognized for) higher-value contributions in their workplaces?

It starts with open communication with leadership. I would not be able to do half of what I do without it. Open lines of communication mean you can offer your ideas and explain how they’ll help the workplace. It always helps to know if you have a budget, although some things can be done with little to no budget. For example, this past Thanksgiving I had people submit “Hand-Turkey” drawings — you know, the kind you used to make when you were in kindergarten or younger. Then I made a video of everyone’s drawings along with their name. People really got into it and some got their kids involved. It was awesome. Little things like that can go a long way.

Amy Spellman spreads positivity and brightens her workplace everyday. The bright light she shines makes her the perfect 2021 OfficeNinjas All-Star!

Onyx generously gifted each All-Star winner with a luxury gift package.

Onyx is our #1 preferred corporate gift provider — and a true champion of the Admin+ community!

We want to hear from you!

Take a few minutes to congratulate 2021 All-Star, Amy Spellman, and share what her story means to you. And if you have a question for Amy, please include it with your comment.

Comments

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  1. Happiness. Joy. Light.

    That’s what I got from your All-Star Snapshot. You create an environment filled with happiness and joy, and you bring light to both people and places. A HUGE congratulations to you, Amy. May those you serve reflect back your light and make you smile and laugh, especially should you ever forget to do so.

  2. Congratulations Amy!! Well deserved, and love your Shout Outs!! Great idea :)

  3. Congratulations Amy!! Well deserved, you’ve created something special in your workplace and it shows. Such a wonderful story, thanks for inspiring us all to do more.

  4. Congratulations Amy! I love the Hand Turkey Ideas, its always fun to get people to do a nostalgic activity.

    1. Thank you Catherine! It was amazing to see people get into those little works of art – we did Mardi Gras masks as well and boy did the creativity come out!

  5. Congratulations Amy! You’ve gone above and beyond during these crazy times for your office and team. I love that your Marine parents gave you the ‘don’t take life so seriously.’ advice – it’s something I have to remind myself often. Welcome to the All-Star Club – much deserved!

    1. Thank you so much! Life’s too short to be so serious!

  6. Must be the name … haha Congrats Amy! Loved reading all about how you keep your administrators and employees happy, with Shout Outs and Virtual Lunches. I try to do the same types of things on a much smaller scale with my weekly communications and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m happy to keep trying to reach them all. Being in an educational setting this past COVID year has been incredibly difficult, parents, teachers, students administrators … I’ve been in a vice. It’s good to know others like me are trying to keep the peace in their industries/fields too.

    1. Definitely the name!!! Just keep putting the good vibes out there Amy… Being married to an educator, I feel for you. It’s been a rough year for sure. Thanks for the kudos!

  7. Amy – Congratulations on this accomplishment, and all of your accomplishments past and present! Thanks for sharing your abundance of wisdom with us – when I think “don’t take life so seriously,” I’ll think of you! Positivity and enthusiasm are truly key to a rewarding personal and professional life.

  8. Congrats Amy! I appreciate the callout to not forget the people part of the professional equation. A wonderful reminder to check-in and show others we care about them and try to bring a smile to their face.

  9. Congratulations Amy! So well deserved! We greatly appreciate all that you do!

  10. Congrats Amy! You are a rock star! I love how you always put people first!

  11. It was so lovely to read your story Amy! I’m so inspired by our bright spirit! HUGE congratulations. I hope you celebrate yourself all year long. Well deserved!

    1. your* bright spirit!

  12. Amy, you have SO many unique and creative ideas to inspire a fun work environment! I’d love to pick your brain sometime!! Congratulations on this award! I’m so inspired by your story. 🙌🎉

  13. Congratulations, Amy! What an accomplishment. Your story resonated with me in so many ways. One thing that stood out to me was when you said “In my career and in my everyday life, I just try to be me”. It’s so important to stay true to ourselves while balancing or lives professionally and personally.

  14. Amy – FINALLY!! When I first met you, I just knew you deserved this award and here we are in 2021!! Your personality, enthusiasm, and energy are infectious – it’s literally impossible not to feel engaged and welcomed in your presence. Congrats and welcome to the All-Star family. Can’t wait until we’re able to celebrate this (and YOU) in person!!
    – Your Biggest Fan <3

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