Growing up, Pam Kober swore she’d never be a “secretary.” Today, she finds herself not only with 22 years as an administrative assistant at Alstom Power, but also the president of the Chattanooga chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals.
Not that she would consider herself a “secretary” as she and her colleagues celebrate the 56th Administrative Professionals Day today, formerly known as Professional Secretaries Day until 2000.
“I would rather be known as an ‘administrative professional,’ ” Ms. Kober said, noting she received a card today with a fancily folded $100 bill inside from the more than 30 employees she helps manage. “You are multi-tasking. When you’re just a ‘secretary,’ people thought you’re just answering phones and being dictated to. You’re involved in the department.”
Ms. Kobers’ co-worker, Barbara Carter, agrees her profession has come a long way in her 41 years on the job — from many secretaries fitting the stereotype of filing their nails and typing on carbon copy paper to sophisticated problem solvers expected to constantly bolster their skills in computer technology.
“I’ll do anything requested of me, as long as it’s not illegal or immoral,” said Ms. Carter, administrative assistant to the general manager and a representative on the international chapter of IAAP.
Staff photo by Lori Yount -- Pam Kober, administrative professional at Alstom Power, makes travel arrangements for employees today, which is Administrative Professionals Day. She said the profession has changed dramatically in her 22 years experience.
She said she survived drastic downsizing of the Alstom Power administrative office in Chattanooga to one-tenth of its original size over the decades by continuing her education, such as becoming a Certified Administrative Professional. For recognition today, she said her boss agreed to pay for some upcoming out-of-town training.
Ms. Carter said she and the nine other administrative professionals at the company that retrofits boilers for power plants do “a lot of behind-the-scenes” work. And it’s apparent when one is gone, such as when she was on sick leave Tuesday, so she didn’t send out an e-mail reminding employees of a Wednesday morning staff meeting.
“I wasn’t here, so the memo didn’t go out,” Ms. Carter said. “Today, everyone was asking me what’s going on. We make the day-to-day operations run smoothly.”
As executives figure out technology to keep their own schedules and correspondence electronically, Ms. Carter said she expects positions for administrative professionals will shrink but “there’s still going to have to be someone around to take care of all the details,” such as catering meetings and travel arrangements.
Ms. Kober said the Chattanooga IAAP, with about 50 members, has helped her keep on the cutting-edge of administrative professional training and networking for her future career.
“I’ve grown a lot professionally through it,” she said. “I’m not a timid little mouse anymore.”
For more information about the Chattanooga chapter of the IAAP, visit http://www.iaap-chatt.org/index.htm.