Title, Company, and Location
Executive Assistant, Capital Group, Los Angeles, CA
Years as an Office Ninja
Nicole’s unofficial, self-appointed title on her team is “Unicorn.” She’s even got the costume to show for it!
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.
Nicole Godinez does nothing halfway. Need proof? Look no further than the 36 pages of notes from our All-Star Q&A interview. She consistently shows up with her full, authentic, and committed self, and it shines through in everything she does.
But while Nicole may seem superhuman at times, she is quick to point out that her real superpower may be the ability to be vulnerable and to accept her own limitations — especially in the face of everyone else’s sky-high expectations. As someone who does an unbelievable amount for the people around her every single day, Nicole is also a huge advocate for the importance of recognizing our capabilities, setting and honoring boundaries, and taking time out to recharge when it’s necessary.
Nicole followed in her mother’s footsteps in becoming an executive assistant, and she has big plans to build on this legacy by helping to drive change regarding perceptions about the Admin+ profession. We can think of no better acknowledgment of her past accomplishments, present achievements, and future potential than a 2021 OfficeNinjas All-Star Award!
Read Nicole Godinez’s story to get to know this champion for all things Admin+.
What’s your Admin+ journey?
The Admin+ life is in my DNA. My mother was an executive assistant for many years and a lot of my experience comes from witnessing her in action. I would occasionally go to work with her and help out when I could during the summer or when she needed extra hands on a project. I come from a working family so I always knew I wanted to work in an office environment.
In 2006 my mother helped me get a job at the title company where she worked. In the midst of the real estate/stock market crash a few months later, an assistant to the VP of sales position opened up. Knowing that the title clerk role would slow down and I would potentially be laid off, I leaped at the chance to be considered. I was tech-savvy, creative, detail-oriented, and could wordsmith an email like a boss. I fit right in immediately. Plus, I’d learned a lot about work ethic and business acumen from my mom. We worked together at that company for seven years.
In May 2014, I was laid off. After working since I was 16 years old, this was a humbling time, but I chose to see it as an opportunity to create a new path. Eventually, I found a home supporting the head of Marketing at Forever 21. That is where I grew most of my Ninja abilities. It was a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat, creative, flexible, and FUN space to grow. This was also the first time I truly understood the value of my work and of the relationships I was building.
Where does your drive come from? What keeps you motivated?
I have a very strong work ethic and I never want to let down myself or others. I honor my commitments, I show up when people need me, and I do my best to never miss a deadline. However, I also give myself space and grace when I can’t always show up or deliver on time.
I am motivated by recognition and usefulness. I love finding solutions to problems and fixing issues. Acts of service may or may not be my second love language.
I am also highly motivated by my family — mainly my husband, Carlos, and my 4-year-old son, Benjamin. While it’s sometimes tough being away from my son on workdays, I want him to learn the value of hard work just as I learned it.
My husband, Carlos, motivates me to be the best version of myself while also helping to keep me grounded. He’s been supportive of every endeavor in my life — from work-related things like caring for our infant while I stay late to finish a special project to personal things like supporting my solo trip to Australia last year.
What energizes you outside of work, and what are you most proud of?
My newfound love for yoga, and health and wellness in general, is an invigorating part of my life. Just ask my coworkers — they know how much I love it!
I started taking virtual classes at the beginning of the pandemic and I got hooked! I do some form of virtual, in-person, or outdoor yoga at least four to five times a week. I drive 20 miles to get there in person, which I justify because I’m not commuting at the moment. It is worth every mile and every minute.
I have also made new friends through yoga who I know in my heart will be lifelong friends. They also opened my heart to plants, which I NEVER thought I would be interested in. Now I have a few plant babies of my own to care for, and they are thriving!
What I’m MOST proud of in my life is becoming a mother to Benjamin, along with my four-year breastfeeding journey with him. The experience also made me a huge advocate for extended breastfeeding. I’m very open about it in the hopes of empowering other mothers to pursue extended breastfeeding if they want to. I’m so passionate about it that I got my first tattoo to commemorate our journey.
I come from a family of musicians, and I also dabble in singing — mostly in the shower, at my desk, and on my Instagram stories. And while I never could have predicted singing my heart out on a WebEx with a hundred people watching, I even recently participated in a talent show!
How does your team help you succeed?
The managers I support allow me space to be my authentic self. On my very first day at Capital Group, the senior manager I support happened to be holding a full team meeting. His message spoke straight to me: show up as you are. It was immediately clear to me that I’d found a home where I could let my light shine. There hasn’t been a day since I started in May of 2017 that I haven’t felt like I couldn’t be my true self at work.
My philosophy — coined by my peer, Isabel — is present across all of my social platforms. “Authenticity should be at the core of every interaction.” I am committed to bringing my authentic self to every situation, and I strive to empower others to do the same.
My management team also empowers me to feel like a partner by giving me free reign to make executive decisions. They have always made me feel like I have a seat at the table. This is so important because the Admin+ role is still up against outdated myths. At times, I still need a reminder that I am a part of the leadership team and my voice is not only welcome, but wanted! Plus, I’ve found that my non-data perspective is appreciated by my team.
How do you help your team members succeed?
Everyone has their own areas of expertise. Mine are organization, engagement, and morale.
In terms of organization, I support four senior managers and their broader teams. I make sure calendars are clean, color-coded, and detailed. That might include blocking time (and honoring it) for lunch, specific deadlines, and personal appointments. It also means taking things like driving time into account, as well as finding opportunities for managers to take mental health days, encouraging them to give that to themselves, and making sure it happens! I also track upcoming deadlines, such as performance review due dates. No one has to ask; it just gets done. I like a tidy and productive calendar, and I know that it’s appreciated.
I also make a point of staying in the know about all things. I’m usually the first point of contact for the teams I support, and I enjoy answering questions and guiding people to where they need to be. Because I also have a vested interest in their future success, I also build in learning opportunities to empower others to succeed without me.
In terms of engagement and morale, in all of my Ninja roles I’ve had the honor of creating space for coordinating and executing team building and unity opportunities, such as local hikes, rock climbing experiences, kickball in the park, and laser tag workouts.
“In addition to being an All-Star executive assistant, Nicole has a passion for self development. While this is not unique, what is unique is that she seeks opportunities to infuse this into the day to day of work. For example, she volunteers to lead team building sessions (not in her job scope at all!) with managers and leaders to help people connect and grow.” — Beth Rodenhuis, Executive Business Partner, Capital Group
The pandemic has challenged me to find unique opportunities to make people feel appreciated, and I find a lot of joy and meaning in surprising people.
I like to think I have a good pulse on how the teams I support are feeling. When I’m unsure, I reach out for a quick chat. This has really been appreciated during the time of the pandemic. I also work hard to cultivate relationships and build trust with my peers and leaders.
What do you do when you’re stressed or upset at work?
I am fortunate to have a few trusted confidants I can go to when I need to let off some steam. Everyone needs at least one personal sounding board.
I work hard to recognize when I’m feeling stressed, and I make sure to deprioritize what I can — even if that means letting some things go. I am not one to shy away from taking the time I need to regroup because it ensures that I’m my most productive and approachable. I have a good grasp on work-life balance, and set boundaries when needed. This could mean taking a mental health day, prioritizing a flex schedule which allows me to go to yoga in the morning, or working in a different space — like my mom’s house, my patio, or my BED! I also believe that you sometimes just have to let go and “feel the feels.” Tears are a natural form of therapy. Releasing is healthy.
My other go-to stress relief techniques include essential oils, office dance parties, and karaoke breaks. I even bought a rose gold karaoke mic as a Christmas present to myself last year.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
Just two years into joining Capital Group, I was unexpectedly promoted from Admin II to Admin III. This was my first promotion EVER! Looking back, I know that I came in, made an impact, and was rewarded for it. This promotion meant the world to me. It can sometimes be a struggle to feel like you’re going anywhere in this role. This kind of recognition is very validating.
Tell us about a time you found success in failure.
During the pandemic, I started coordinating virtual group birthday cards. However, the new year found me busy with a new set of responsibilities and the project fell off my radar.
Rather than ignoring the oversight or beating myself up over forgetting, I showed myself some grace. Then I began strategizing about how to celebrate all of the amazing people who deserve birthday love. I came up with a plan to do a quarterly birthday celebration with a cute slideshow video using Canva.com. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We had a team meeting approaching, so I kicked into gear, gathered photos, and created our very first quarterly birthday slideshow. Even better? This is a FREE alternative to the greeting card model. Now, I have my own calendar reminder to aggregate quarterly birthdays and create the slideshow prior to quarter-end team meetings.
This solution sums up my process. I acknowledged that I couldn’t do it, but I didn’t want to give up completely so I reframed the task into something manageable and sustainable. It was what I like to call a “boom” moment!
What’s the one thing that’s ALWAYS on your desk and why?
- Multiple affirmation resources, including the Women’s Empowering Affirmation Deck by Renegade Mama, I Can Do It Affirmations by Louise L. Hay, and Inward by Yung Pueblo. I have a daily affirmation call with a colleague of mine during which we share affirmations. I also keep these decks handy in case I feel inspired to share a card during a meeting at an appropriate time. It adds warmth and people really seem to enjoy it.
- Water — even though I never drink it.
- Essential oils, including lavender for stress and grapefruit/bergamot for pick-me-ups.
- A tape measure. (Random, I know, but you never know when it might come in handy!)
What does the “Admin+” unifier represent to you?
Admin+ means the utmost administrative professional inclusivity! It also means that we shouldn’t be put into a box because the profession continues to evolve everyday, and represents us as high-value contributors who not only help the people we directly support, but also our employers in achieving planned initiatives.
I’m so inspired to see Admin+ leaders like Kellie Edwards (Chief of Staff), Sarah Dunbar (Director of Operations), and Danielle Hill (Chief Administrative Officer) paving the way for us all and I envision myself in a similar position someday.
How have you challenged the status quo to pave the way for yourself or others?
I feel empowered to recognize and address blindspots on the ground that my managers may not notice or have the visibility to see, such as organizational opportunities, exceptional or unprofessional behavior, and general opportunities for improvement. We all have the power to use our voices, be heard, and make a difference.
What’s one thing you’ve done that’s been the most impactful in advancing your career?
It took me 10 years of working on and off to get my Associates in Science degree in business management. While I’d started working toward this degree after graduating from high school, I kept putting it off. Then one day I just decided that I was going to finish it. Eventually I did! It worked out because my Forever 21 job requested it. While I don’t think the degree got me the job, it definitely helped. I hope to go back to school someday to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
More recently, participating in the first OfficeNinjas & UC Berkeley Haas Executive Education Program in 2019 was an extraordinary opportunity. In particular, the program’s leadership and communication pillar helped me upskill in a way that applies to the Admin+ profession while also empowering me to aim even higher.
The experience was energizing, engaging, thought-provoking, and just what I needed to remind me that I have earned my seat at the table. I retained so much from this deeply engaging two-day workshop while also making amazing connections with fellow Office Ninjas! Not only is a certificate from such a prestigious educational institution potentially career-changing, but it also impacts how I support my team.
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.
What’s a common mistake made among smart Admin+ professionals for which you’ve devised an effective solution?
Not setting boundaries. Boundaries can and should be set in a respectful and professional way. It doesn’t have to be awkward or aggressive. This can be as simple as learning to eloquently say no. Being the go-to person can be a blessing and a curse, and a common challenge we share as Ninjas is not wanting to let people down or turn them away. When someone needs help but I don’t have the capacity to help them at the time, I utilize a few strategies.
- I show them grace. After all, it takes courage to ask for help.
- I approach the situation with genuine kindness and understanding.
- I utilize templates which provide gentle yet effective ways to set boundaries. (On that note, this ON article featuring nine different email templates for saying “no” always comes in clutch!)
Why is promoting inclusivity and creating “safe spaces” important to you?
One of my core strengths is empathy. I have a genuine interest in how people are feeling and how I can help them feel like their best selves.
I strive to find common ground with people. Nine out of 10 times someone is going through a similar experience. One way I encourage people to share their feelings with me is by sharing mine first. Vulnerability helps people connect on a deeper level and also reminds us that we’re people first.
If I could sum up how to create a safe space it might look something like this:
- Welcome diverse people into your space.
- Comment favorably about individual talents, accomplishments, or contributions.
- Encourage (but don’t push) vulnerability.
- Be relatable.
- Come from a genuine place.
“Nicole provides safe spaces to talk things through in a discreet and thoughtful manner. One recent example was talking through topics for our now monthly call with leadership. I was hesitant about a topic; Nicole reached out and we talked through our leaders’ & their agendas to understand how controversial a topic would be. Her relationships with each leader provided really important context.
The final decision, however, came when Nicole asked a simple, obvious question that the rest of us had not considered: ‘Is there a special milestone the project has passed recently that warrants bringing it up now?’ By asking that question (without judgment), we were all able to finalize an agenda quickly & had an extremely productive meeting.” — Ekta Desai, Marketing VP, Capital Group
Talk a bit about your advocacy for dedicated time blocks as a defense against meeting fatigue.
I help one of my managers manage his time based on his priorities. Because he’s involved in international projects, we’ve found that it’s helpful to block his early hours to accomodate for international time zone meetings. Even if a meeting isn’t on the books, he still uses this time for his international efforts.
I do the same to promote work-life balance. These initiatives can look like lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and longer lunch breaks for walks and workouts. Making sure people have space for themselves isn’t just about their own wellbeing, but also about the wellbeing of their teams and stakeholders.
What compelled you to take ownership of keeping people in touch during the pandemic?
I care so much about the wellbeing of everyone on my team that finding ways to keep their spirits up came naturally to me. I have to admit my own spirit was tested during this time, as well. In order to keep people connected, we shifted our biweekly team meetings to weekly and added a few optional times throughout the week for people to connect, such as morning coffee chats, virtual lunch chats, and happy hours — all of which were optional. The time was there for anyone who needed it.
I also created a WFH_Gladness Slack channel for people to stay connected as much or as little as they want. People shared recipes, planned socially distant weekend adventures, and showed off their new decked out office spaces. This glimpse into each other’s home lives has helped us connect on an even more personal level.
One of your nominators identified your “X Factor” as never complaining. What strategies do you use to work out your frustrations?
What is there to complain about? I LOVE my job and my coworkers. I try to take every random, last-minute, and unexpected request in stride. IF I’m ever frustrated with anything, it’s usually with myself. Because I’m analytical by nature, I’m constantly analyzing how I could have done something better, handled a situation differently, or taken something to the next level.
“Nicole constantly advocates for the administrative/executive assistants across the organization. She promotes their development and recognition. She is currently co-operations chair for the Women in NACG community, advocating for women in all levels of their career. Her impact is felt across not only her team, but across the department and organization. She is truly inspiring!” — Jennifer Ruckman, Business Operations Analyst, Capital Group
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?
Feeling useful and needed is rewarding to me. I take great pride in showing up for my people — both professionally and personally — in big, small, thoughtful, and unexpected ways.
If I could change one thing about being an Office Ninja, it is the perception some people have of this profession. I want people to know how much this role has evolved and not to make assumptions based on how the job used to look. I want managers and executives to understand that their executive assistants are capable of supporting them in bigger ways than they may expect.
Feeling inspired by Nicole’s story? Let us know what you’re taking from it, and how you’ll incorporate it into 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, Nicole Godinez, and share what her story means to you. And if you have a question for Nicole, please include it with your comment.