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For Office Manager Appreciation Week, Managed by Q is featuring the people who keep teams happy and productive. Ashley Stires came to her position as the People and Office Experience Manager at Tictail after working in the music industry and as an executive assistant at several advertising and PR agencies. In the two years she’s been at Tictail, Ashley’s role has expanded to include all of the company’s HR responsibilities. We met up with Ashley at Tictail Market to talk about what attracted her to her current role.
Tictail is a social marketplace that brings together independent brands from over 140 countries and helps shoppers discover the best emerging designers in fashion, art, and home decor. We began in Sweden and have offices in Sweden and New York, as well as a super cute boutique in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Administration has always been a big part of my career. My first job was at a car dealership where I was a part time receptionist. In college I was a Radio DJ and I thought the world of radio was so glamourous. Upon graduation I working in the marketing and promotion departments at two different stations and got to meet famous people and thought, “This is what I want to do with my life.”
In 2008 I was laid off and couldn’t find another radio job. I worked as a production assistant on music video sets and then landed my first “adult” job at Grey Advertising as an Executive Assistant to the Chief Marketing Officer. I loved working there, but I missed working in music, so I joined Universal Music Group. However, it was not what I expected and I was working exhausting 12-hour days. Through a side gig I met an HR leader and she changed my life. I began working as an Executive Assistant at a Public Relations firm and I worked in several other PR firms as an Executive Assistant to CEOs, but the environments were very competitive. I developed a very thick skin, but I started to feel burned out.
"You are the person who is the glue who holds the whole office together, so immerse yourself in the company."
A recruiter reached out about the role at Tictail and told me, “I think that you would be perfect for this job—it’s a tech company, it’s young and cool.”
I thought, “These people don’t want me, I’m not cool, I just got instagram,” but I decided, “Fine I’ll meet them, it can’t hurt.” My first interview was at a coffee shop and I thought that was really crazy and very different from the corporate world.
During the interview, Brandon, who I still work for, flipped over my resume and said, “I don’t need to look at your resume—I know that you are qualified.” He explained there were three circles to the job: Executive Assistant, Office Manager, and a third circle that I could figure out. I was struck by the fact that I would have some freedom in my job. Often when you are an Executive Assistant your life is about someone else’s life ten hours a day, so to have that freedom was really attractive to me.
When I joined Tictail they had never had a “real” executive assistant or office manager before, so they invited me to tell them what I needed to make the relationship work. My first nine months I was straight up EA and office manager. I reorganized and relabeled everything in the office, and figured out a new meeting structure. Once that was all in place I began to take on tasks such as payroll and expense reimbursement that had originally been handled by our Swedish office. That rolled into me taking over HR full time. While it happened in baby steps, in only two years I went from being an Executive Assistant to running the full HR function in both of our offices.
Every morning I set goals for the day, which I divide in the following way: I can’t leave until I get these things done; if I finish, these are the tasks to work on; and if I have time and my brain isn’t too tired, here’s what to work on. I treat my calendar as my to do list and I put everything single thing on it. For example, I will block out time to write an offer letter. If it’s not on my calendar I’ll forget about it.
In addition, I’ve streamlined my office management responsibilities for the most part. I set up recurring grocery deliveries and ensure I order more office supplies if we are getting low so there’s no last minute runs for batteries, toner, or paper. Automating office management tasks gives me time to focus on HR.
Being the office manager, as a general rule, is the most thankless and most important job at a company. You are the person who is the glue who holds the whole office together, so immerse yourself in the company. Just because the role can seem thankless doesn’t mean the people you work with are.
In addition, you are in a unique position because you become the most well-liked and trusted person in the office just by doing your job. Be full on, be everybody’s best friend, but also, maintain a level of professionalism. Create a balance between being the coolest and most fun person in the office, but be trustworthy, inspire confidence, and keep your future in mind if you want to be a leader at some point. This is my best advice.