Title, Company, and Location
Director, Office of the President & CEO, Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA)
Years as an Office Ninja
Culley once rode in a 150-mile bike ride fundraiser — not even a year into taking up cycling!
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.
As Admin+ professionals, we’re called on to tackle a staggering breadth and depth of responsibilities every single day. For Culley Stine, whatever she’s given is never enough. It’s this characteristic that supported her meteoric rise from waitress to director, and it’s the same one that makes her the embodiment of an OfficeNinjas All-Star.
Culley brings two key questions to every role she takes on: “What else can I do?” and “What can I do better?” She also refuses to accept limits, and is always looking for outside-the-box ways to assume new responsibilities and push out the boundaries of her job. In doing so, she elevates not only her own profile in the workplace, but the overall perception of the Admin+ role.
Perhaps Culley’s former Association for Accessible Medicines colleague SVP Allen Goldberg summed it up best in his nomination. He wrote, “Culley was focused on me succeeding and on the organization succeeding. That’s incredibly refreshing and she was the model for others across the association. That is where she had the most impact — heightening the expectations (and performance) of others we worked with. She made me strive to do my job as well as she did hers. How often does that happen from someone you supervise?”
It’s no wonder that after working with Culley, her former boss recruited her for two subsequent jobs. We honestly can’t imagine who wouldn’t want a go-getter like Culley behind and beside them in the workplace.
We can’t wait for you to meet Culley Stine, and to learn more about her pioneering outlook on the Admin+ profession.
What’s your Admin+ origin story?
I have been an Admin+ professional since 2000. While my background was in the restaurant business as a catering manager and assistant manager, I also took on some events management and administrative duties. Little did I know that I had just dipped my toe in the Admin+ pool!
During that time, a friend mentioned to me that a former colleague of his was looking for an administrative assistant; he thought I’d be a good fit. When I told him I didn’t have experience with the role, he informed me that I was already doing those things and just didn’t realize it. I interviewed shortly after and got the job.
My boss was fantastic — and extremely patient — at showing me the ropes. I loved my new job. Not only did I support my boss, his direct reports, a second boss, and that person’s direct reports, but my reach expanded to other departments, too! I had officially been bitten by the Admin+ bug! I eventually moved on to work as an Admin+ in commercial real estate before joining the healthcare field. One of the many joys of being in this type of role is that you can work in different fields and gain so much experience from each.
Where does your drive come from?
I like helping people, and I love being able to support my boss. I continue to pick up tasks and take things off his plate so he can make big decisions — decisions that affect the entire healthcare industry. I feel like I’m on the side of good.
“Culley is a highly detailed person who was exceptional in planning all of the specifics for a visit of global pharmaceutical CEOs to Washington, DC. Culley made sure every need was anticipated and every challenge prepared for. The CEOs were so impressed with the entire visit, that they pledged to more active engagement with our association going forward.” — Jonathan Kimball, Vice President, Association for Accessible Medicines
I’m also motivated by the people around me in and out of the office, especially by my fellow Office Ninjas. I’m committed to learning new things and the more I learn, the more well-rounded and stronger I become. I’ve learned so much by attending Admin-focused group events. (OfficeNinjas was the most informative and fun!)
What are you most proud of outside of work?
A few years ago I joined a charity event through work, the JH Ride to Conquer Cancer. I’d only started biking early that year (and on a hybrid bike, not on a road bike) so committing to a two-day, 150-mile bike ride was a big step. Still, after a team meeting I was compelled to join the fundraiser. I purchased a road bike, trained for a few months, raised money for the charity, and successfully completed the ride. Never in my life did I think I could do that! I realized that by opening my mind to trying, I could be more successful than I ever imagined. It was one of my favorite two days ever!
On a lighter note, I love photography. My go-to is photographing flowers. I could spend an entire day taking pictures, editing, and sharing them or framing them as gifts. It’s very relaxing and calming. I feel happier, lighter, and my problems feel much smaller. Who knew a flower could accomplish all that?
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?
Once people get to know me and see my silly side, they often find it hard to understand me when I’m in serious “work mode.” This happened more in my younger days when I went from being a waitress to a catering manager. I ended up becoming a supervisor to my friends. That was a huge learning experience. I had to learn to be more humble, and to understand that the transition was just as awkward and uncomfortable for my friends as it was for me.
How do your employer and team members help you succeed?
While I’ve only been at my new job for a few months, it’s my third time working for my current boss. He’s had faith in me since Day 1 when I first joined his team as a temp. The fact that he’s hired me three times has boosted my confidence 1,000 percent! Not to mention that at those first two jobs, I didn’t realize that every single experience was a stepping stone leading me to the position I have today. My boss continues to trust me with bigger and more challenging work. I also work closely with members of the leadership team and they have encouraged me to share my thoughts and input as we’ve worked together to update current processes.
How do you help your team members succeed?
I’m proactive in that I continually offer to take on new tasks or lead projects — whatever I can do to take things off my boss’s plate. I also credit my “psychic” abilities. By this I mean that I’m always looking ahead to predict what might happen and how I can either assist, manage, or mitigate a situation before it arises.
Like everyone else, I had to adjust to working from home during COVID. One small thing I’ve done is to put all meeting documents for each of my boss’ meetings on his calendar so he doesn’t have to search through endless emails to find the correct folder on the shared drive. He’s found this very helpful, so I will likely continue it when life returns to normal.
“Since starting at HDA, Culley has had a huge impact on HDA’s efficiency and branding. She has spear-headed an initiative to ensure consistency across all of HDA’s external communications, including our Executive Committee, Board of Directors and other Board-level committees. She has shown others across the organization how to set up templates for all of our documents so that it is quicker and easier for all of us to complete required materials.” — Ann Bittman, Executive VP and COO, Healthcare Distribution Alliance
What do you do when you’re stressed or upset at work?
A quick walk around the block or trip up to the rooftop terrace offers fresh air and a new perspective. Or, sometimes I step away into a vacant office, plug in my earbuds, and play a song from my “Boost” playlist. Music can change things so quickly. If all else fails, I call a friend for a private vent session. While this often helps put things in perspective, it sometimes feels better to just get it all out… then I can move on. If nothing else works, I’ll treat myself to a foamy Chai from Starbucks!
Tell us about a specific time you found success in failure.
I once worked for a person where we didn’t mesh well at all. I was moved to a different position within the company, which made me feel crushed, embarrassed, deflated — like I just wasn’t good enough for the job. While I definitely had to swallow my pride, I sucked it up and rolled with it. I’m so glad I did.
It ended up being a blessing because I learned so much more about the company and industry in my new role. I also worked with two fabulous property managers and with a more experienced colleague by my side. Their kindness and patience got me through that transition. Plus, the position allowed me to connect with our tenants and show off my customer service skills… so much so that I won our company’s customer service award. Redemption!
What’s the one thing that’s ALWAYS on your desk and why?
I have a bobblehead businesswoman with a magnet for a head that holds multi-colored paper clips. When I was a catering/events manager, the staff went to Atlantic City for a day trip, and they brought me back this souvenir. They said that was my “serious” face I put on before events. This made me laugh and warmed my heart. She is the ONLY thing that’s with me at every job — always front and center. She reminds me how far I’ve come and to stay focused.
What does the “Admin+” unifier represent to you?
“Admin+” represents all facets of being an administrative professional. There are so many jobs and labels that share the common thread of supporting and assisting others, lightening their load, and making them look good. Bottom line: Admin+ means we do whatever is needed to keep our organizations running smoothly and seamlessly — often from behind the scenes.
How have you challenged the status quo to pave the way for yourself or others?
With each Admin+ job I’ve had, I have taken the job description and grown it in every direction I can navigate.
For example, during my first admin job, I noticed a problem with onboarding. I filled it by creating a welcome package containing staff contact lists, an org chart, and links to programs. I also started cleaning out every new hire’s cubicle so they’d arrive to fresh spaces stocked with everything they’d need for a great first day. My boss was grateful, and this became part of our department’s new onboarding process.
I’ve taken this same initiative with every position I’ve held. When I leave a job, I’m leaving a newly expanded position that I personally cultivated through my efforts.
“Culley always brings a customer-service mindset to her work, and as such anytime there is a new Board member she goes above and beyond to ensure that new leader has all the necessary information, materials and logistics — well before she or he even thinks to ask — so that they can focus on the pressing strategic issues at hand. As the CEO of the last two organizations we have worked at together, I can not tell you how many times Board members have shared with me how much they appreciate her support and assistance as they onboard into the Association.” — Chester “Chip” Davis, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Healthcare Distribution Alliance
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
This is a recurring theme, but my friend J.B. changed my career trajectory and my life when he pointed out that my customer service, client retention, and computer and budgeting skills would be a fit for an Admin+ role. All I had to do was TRY!
That’s my advice, just try. You may think you’re underqualified, undereducated, or under experienced… but don’t listen to your inner saboteur. It was clear that I didn’t see my own worth. I needed a friend to point it out to me and give me that little push.
Ready to advance your career?
Then you belong in OfficeNinjas Collective, a modern career accelerator for Admin+ professionals who want to grow their business acumen and make higher-value contributions.
Join OfficeNinjas Collective
There’s more relevant learning, inspiring peers, and actionable takeaways happening inside.
One of your nominators mentioned your role in proactively establishing a new legal filing database for the legal department. Tell us about that.
Working for general counsel was a new and welcome experience. He happened to be one of the best bosses and mentors I’ve ever had, and I was eager to do whatever I could to assist him. Before he joined the team, our electronic files were scattered. I made it my mission to create a system with everything in one place. I am a big fan of using Excel and OneNote with multiple tabs for cataloging files and documents.
I’ve learned that my bosses aren’t fond of chatting about administrative things, so I generally endeavor to keep things as simple and streamlined as possible. It’s important to acknowledge that everyones’ minds work and organize things differently. For the legal filing database, I sat back and listened to learn more about how my boss’s mind worked. That helped me figure out how best to store the information he’d be accessing.
Can you tell us a bit about the weekly Admin team meeting you created, and what they accomplished?
There were only three admin professionals and we weren’t always on the same page. I thought it would be helpful to have an “Admin team” meeting to share what the following week would look like for us. This was also a chance to seek additional help, discuss concerns, offer advice, share tips and tricks, and generally offer support to each other.
These meetings were brief, relaxing, and something we all ended up looking forward to. Initially, there may have been some questions as to why we needed to meet, but we all became invested in them when we saw our connections and levels of support continue to grow. These meetings facilitated a better support system for all of us, while also offering valuable insight into our day-to-day work and what other departments were working on. We all gained a broader perspective of the organization and our own roles.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
Landing my current job — 100 percent! My goal was to support a CEO and now I am doing just that. And for the best boss ever! It’s my dream job.
Getting here was a long road but so worth it. It was the right time in my life and career. I’m now taking my job more seriously than ever before, and I’m so happy to see what each new day brings me. Whatever it brings, I’m going to swing and hit it out of the park!
Culley Stine takes every opportunity and runs with it — often to new and unexpected places. How can you do the same in your own Admin+ role?
Onyx generously gifted each All-Star winner with a luxury gift package.
We want to hear from you!
Take a few minutes to congratulate 2021 All-Star, Culley Stine, and share what her story means to you. And if you have a question for Culley, please include it with your comment.