For a lot of my career, I have worked at large (1,100-people-in-one-office large) to medium/large advertising agencies (50-400 people). In most, I had an assistant who I shared with a few others. Or, as I worked my way up the ladder, I was rewarded with an assistant of my own.
There were several over the years — almost every one a gem — and she (yes, they were all female) did my timesheets. My travel. My expense reports. My calendar. She walked into meetings to pull me out if I was late or pushed my next obligation back. She made my copies, brought me lunch. She made sure my husband knew what city I was in and when I’d be back in town. She was a lifesaver. And she was just one benefit of being — as I have described to others who have made the bounce from giant monolith to small independent — a “Big Agency Brat.”
As far as “Big Agency Brats” go, I was pretty easy. Made my own travel plans through the agency travel desk when they changed on the road, called my own cabs, got my own coffee and lunch. I pretty much kept my own calendar and tended to be on time (or close to it) for meetings. More often than not, I made my own copies, too. Heck, I even added paper to the printer on several occasions and called the IT guy when the toner was low. Some may disagree (hopefully none of the assistants I so loved), but I tried not to be too bratty.
Cut to last April in a small, bustling office in Seattle. A smaller agency had welcomed me into their fold — an agency full of old friends and former co-workers. An agency of hope and talent as well as (surprise!) people who honestly try to help one another out. Really. I remember after sitting in my first all-agency meeting (we did then and still can squeeze into one room) and saying to my colleagues: “Everyone’s really, genuinely nice to each other here. I’ll try to get used to this.”
Now don’t get me wrong. Most of my career has been filled with positive experiences: good friends, wise mentors, you name it. And when things weren’t as, um, positive, I proudly look back on these times as “learning experiences.”
Oh, and speaking of “learning experiences,” let’s get back to my new job and my new life. Sans assistant, of course, I gamely sat down to do my first timesheet in our agency’s timesheet program a week or so into the gig. I stopped looking at the clock after two hours. I think I had half a bottle (or more) of wine that night just trying to forget the horror that was that timesheet. I swear that program was designed by sadistic left-brainers who, at a young age, decided that right-brainers must be punished and punished severely. Then there were the expense reports (oh yeah, I used to sign those…), ands of course, the copier.
The copier. I have a copier at home. I was a freelancer for a year at one point in my life. I can do this.
Actually, no I can’t. I can print, yes. I can even collate and staple. But for the life of me, of the four paper trays on that monster, none of them ever seem to be the “empty” one. I think the paper hops around when the trays are closed to trick me. Of course, kind, patient co-workers swoop in to help. I haven’t even asked where the toner cartridges are. Nor would they tell me if I asked. Wise move on their part.
Oh, and the timesheets? No problem these days. I have learned to click on the least intuitive box in the spreadsheet and my job numbers pop up in seconds. Click. Save. Done.
Take that, left-brain sadists.
Originally published Feb 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM, updated June 28 2019