Woman Wednesday Issue #35

The Assist Newsletter
August 30, 2022
Woman Wednesday

Name that Woman Trailblazer: This woman was an American-born French dancer, singer and actress. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted France. She was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics, directed by Mario Nalpas and Henri Étiévant.

👉 Click here to reveal this woman.


Meet Donna Flanagan 👋


Donna Flanagan

Hi Everyone! I’m Donna and I have been an administrative professional for over 30 years. I am a Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) with a specialization in Organizational Management (OM) through IAAP. I have also held titles such as HR Generalist and Corporate Secretary and Department Manager throughout my career. Even with all these varied roles, the administrative role has always been a part of my work and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am an advocate for the administrative profession. I excel in looking outside the box and creating solutions that advance the administrative profession within an organization. I spent a large part of my career in small business and was able to learn and grow wearing many different hats. This has been very beneficial to my career, and I have been able to expand my current administrative role due to my previous work experience. Showing up every day with a smile on my face and a positive attitude has served me well.

I am a Cleveland, Ohio native who relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee in the fall of 2017. There is nothing like living near the Great Smokey Mountains and I am blessed to be able to live and work in such an amazing part of the U.S.A.

🔗 Want to connect with Donna? Say “hi” on LinkedIn.


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Donna’s Secrets


Q: How did you get into your current role/industry?
I was lucky to be able to join the University of Tennessee through their temporary help pool.

When I first relocated to Knoxville, TN, I had enough money to cover 3 months of bills and a I had a part time gig with the Social Security Administration recording disability hearings.

I targeted UT as my desired place of employment and was able to join the temporary help pool within a month.

Q: What’s something you do to help boost your productivity?
I am the queen of to-do lists.

I use Trello to organize my to-dos in a kanban style list (To Do, Doing, Done). I also use this board to list items that have been incubated for later, information about the people I work with as well as general information I want to keep handy.

I cannot live without my Trello board.

Q: How do you find work-life balance?
I have been so blessed in my career to have wonderful bosses who understand burnout and encourage work-life balance so this has not been terribly hard for me, with one exception.

There was a time when I went from Assistant to the President to Assistant to the President AND Property Department Manager for a small property management company. I worked 60+ hours most weeks and eventually burned out.

I learned a lot from that experience and one of them is to be firm with your boundaries and don’t be afraid to say no!

Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received so far?
A: Be brave, be unafraid. Share your ideas and see what happens.

It is scary, but I have found it to be worthwhile.

Q: What’s your favorite software or app that helps with your workflow?
A: Trello is my go-to for my to-do workflow. 

Q: What’s a book or podcast you’d recommend to a colleague?
A: Oh, so many!

Right now I am reading The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is ready to level up and become a leader, no matter their title. Jeremy Burrows has a good read titled The Leader Assistant and I love Joan Burge founder of Office Dynamics!

I just finished her book Give Yourself Permission To Live A Big Life, which was more of a memoir but a good read nonetheless.

My stack of books is growing, my next read will be Become An Inner Circle Assistant. I hope to start a book club at work with this book after I read it myself.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time outside of work?
A: I enjoy traveling, reading, writing, spending time with friends and family and I hope to write a book someday!

📝 Read about the Kanban method.

🔥 Find some strategies to heal burnout.


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Just Do It!


In 2020 I took a class provided by the IAAP that gave me the Organizational Management (OM) specialty designation.

The final project was to write a strategic plan for something you wanted to change or improve within your organization. I did not take this lightly as I had some ideas of how my current employer could better serve their admin population, so I wrote a plan that included 3 elements: mentoring, training, and camaraderie.

I showed the plan to my supervisor, and he was so taken with it that he offered to move it up the line. We eventually requested some funding to go along with the plan and both the plan and the funding were approved!

I have done similar things in small organizations, but this was the first time I have tried to make a difference in a very large organization.

While I decided to take this class for the OM Specialty designation, it was the perfect opportunity to put my ideas on paper and write a formal plan to address the inequities I noticed. I have since moved up to work for the CIO of the University and, of course, I brought my plan with me with the hopes of making this a systemwide initiative!

My big take away from this whole experience is to be brave and share your ideas with others in your organization. The biggest roadblock I ran into was battling my own fears — fear of failure, fear of being laughed at or told my ideas are not important.

In my case, the need was there and the powers that be were aware of the need. They were happy to have someone come forward with a solid plan and the willingness to see it through. It was a win/win for everyone.

The best tip I have for anyone wanting to make change in a large organization is to lead from where you are right now.

Do not wait for the right job title or the right circumstances, if you see something that needs to be changed or have ideas to make your organization a better place, as Nike would say — Just do it!


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