The Executive Assistant – The Great Enabler

The highest ranking female executive of Ayala Land, Inc. emphasizes the vital and evolving role of the Executive Assistant in the changing times.

She shares her views in her speech “Take Your Career to the Next Level” delivered during LEAP’s General Assembly, 17th April 2018 at The Holiday Inn & Suites, Glorietta.

Anna Ma. Margarita B. Dy, Filipino, is a Senior Vice President since January 1, 2015 and a member of the Management Committee of Ayala Land, Inc. since August 2008. She is the Head of the Strategic Landbank Management (SLMG) of ALI. She is also a director of Cebu Holdings, Inc., one of the publicly listed subsidiaries of ALI. Her other significant positions are: Director and Executive Vice President of Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation; Director and President of Nuevocentro, Inc., and Alviera Country Club, Inc; Director of Aurora Properties, Inc., Vesta Properties Holdings, Inc., CECI Realty, Inc., AyalaLand Medical Facilities Leasing, Inc., and Next Urban Alliance Development Corp.

Prior to joining ALI, she was a Vice President of Benpres Holdings Corporation. She graduated magna cum laude from Ateneo De Manila University with BS of Arts Degree in Economics Honors Program. She earned her Master’s degree in Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science UK 1991 and MBA at Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in Boston.

The EA’s Role: Comparison and Contrast … Then and Now

The old role of an EA called for him/her to run for coffee, collect the executive’s coat upon his/her arrival. The EA had his/her own room with a door that was often closed. He/she would need to buzz somebody in the executive’s room before anyone can enter. The EA typed and physically distributed memos. 

“It’s hard to imagine this kind of office environment today. In my mind, this change was driven by three things.”

Drivers of change: Technology, Business Culture and Social Norms

Evolution in technology has changed how work is done. Technology has allowed professionals to be more self-sufficient.

Business Culture: Largely due to the change in technology, how business is conducted now is very different. Open floor plans, co-working spaces, open-door policy equate to transparency, open communication and accessibility.

Social Norms: Today’s EAs support teams, not individuals.

Can Siri and Alexa outdo the many roles of the EA?

“How the EA delivers on her role as an enabler continues to evolve. As business aims to implement automation in the workplace, other jobs will also be changing. Technology will always just be a tool to help us achieve our objectives. As technology changes, it is imperative that you (EAs) change with it. In order to continue adding value, the job description of the EA has to include Leadership.

I am pretty sure that one day, Alexa and Siri will be office mainstays. They will do as what they are told. But I don’t think they will be able to anticipate disruptions in the business, to prioritize limited resources, to build cultural sensitivities and personal relationships. They will remain as tools and not partners. Those partnerships will remain between the executive and the EA and these are partnerships that create a winning team.”

The author’s personal note…

While I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Meean, I was touched by her humility. In the early part of her speech, she half-kiddingly said that she isn’t the highest-ranking female executive of ALI. She was on her toes when ALI and LEAP’s Jinky Aguinaldo invited her to speak. So, she considers Jinky as the highest-ranking female executive at ALI. She further went on to say that: “I will be the first to say that I am a flawed executive. I have my strengths and I celebrate those, but I most certainly have my weaknesses.” Humility – hallmark of a true follower and leader.

Ching Bognot