Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Praise of [Enter Title]

Every six months or so, we go through a new naming thing for the people who hold down the fort in department offices. At one point, I think they were called "department secretaries." Then they weren't secretaries, but something else, and so on.

Anyway, you know the folks I'm talking about. Here, they're mostly women, mostly from the region, and mostly they keep things running in our department offices and over in the administrative fort.

We got a new one a couple years ago, a replacement for a goddess of wonderfulness who herself was a replacement for another goddess of wonderfulness, each of whom left for the glories of a better life (retirement, or moving to be closer to family). So, our new person, let's call her A, likes to be busy. A also has high standards. Some months ago now, when I was doing some official thing and was about to handwrite (which is, at best, a generous term for my writing) a letterhead envelop, A gently admonished me that it would look better if it were done on the computer, and offered that she'd be glad to do it. So she's gradually trained me to email her whatever I have that needs an envelop, and she takes care of it magically, and it looks perfect.

Maybe you all have caught on to such things before?

I was a fill-in secretary/receptionist at the family business for a while in the stone ages, and used to happily type whatever, but there's no typewriter I can easily get to, and I feel awkward asking the [enter title] folks to do stuff I should be able to do myself. (Even though they've all been incredibly gracious here.) And I could probably figure out the envelop thing, but I don't have a printer in my office, so doing it from here means: set up my computer so there's a button to push only; then go to the department office to set up the printer with an envelop; then come back to my office to push the button, and then go back to the department office to get the envelop out before it messed someone else's printing up. I'm way too lazy.

Today I had a bunch of recommendations to print out on letterhead and with envelops. And for once, I took A's advice and emailed them all to her. A few minutes later, I went to the office to see if it was okay that I'd sent her all the stuff, and she looked at me, gave me a big smile, and told me they were already all ready in my box, waiting for my signature. And then she sent me an email telling me she loves when I give her work. I'm not quite sure what that means, but it seems good, doesn't it?

Seriously, A just makes my life better. I know it's a little thing, and maybe you've had someone take care of that stuff for you before, but me? I could get used to this!


  1. I'm jealous. I'm over the top jealous.

    We have a goddess in training, so she is, alas, too overwhelmed to do such niceties. Enjoy "A" and send her flowers: weekly.

  2. Since I'm out post-op, I'm appreciating my goddess... her most recent project is distributing budget info for me.

    I have a feeling your goddess is happy to do things for you, because you appreciate her!

  3. We don't have such a person. Sigh!

    The only admin person with whom I've had such contact is the dean's assistant, who is, shall we say...decidedly *un*goddess-like. In fact, I have not ever known her not to make at least some kind of major error in any task (e.g. my contract has been wrong for the last three years, but in a different way every time; she got the date wrong on a flier for a recent talk, the title of which, she apparently thought, was "Title Here"; etc). I do not mean to bash; I know that such people exist--we had a FANTASTIC goddess in my grad dept--and I honor them! But they no longer exist in my world, alas.

    Oh well. I honestly think that I'd be uncomfortable sending them work, anyway.

  4. Oh, and when I say, "We don't have such a person," what I meant was that my department has no administrative assistance, not that we have a person who is not a goddess. If that makes sense.

    (The neighboring dept DOES have one, and she seems quite good.)

  5. We have a goddess in our department now. She orders the preferred pens of all the different faculty. When I was hired, she made a point to tell me that I was to let her know what my preferred pen is so she could keep some on stock for me.

    It's such a difference from the one I had in graduate school, who was terrifying. She spent a lot of time reading a paperback at her desk because we were all too scared to ask her to do anything.

  6. Our staff people are all really nice, and do what they need to do, but it doesn't usually extend to typing envelopes....

    As a former secretary, I'm always really appreciative of the staff people who keep the wheels greased.

  7. Dr.GunPowderPlot9:34 AM

    Chocolate and flowers--or find out the goddess's favorite treat. Seriously, thank her a lot. I know I couldn't do my job without fantastic admin help, and I've been very very lucky.

  8. Lucky you!

    I used to be an [insert title] back while finishing my dissertation. All of us were very underpaid and underappreciated, IMO. :)

    The title thing was always weird. I was fine with "secretary" or "assistant," but our official title was "administrative assistant," but that's too long to say, so it was always abbreviated to "AA," which makes me think of a 12-step program!

    Our [insert title] left us recently (sniff!), and our new [insert title] is lacking in functional literacy. Sure, she has basic literacy, but that's not the same thing. Sometimes I can't figure out what her e-mails mean. I've been waiting for office supplies for six weeks now, but it's not her fault, she claims. (It's not her fault...because she messed up so many office supply orders that she has to get retrained in ordering supplies before the Uni will let her order any more. Sigh.)

    I'd actually send her work if I could. But she'd mess it up.

    So yes, chocolate is good. Or, if your [insert title] is paid as poorly as ours are, a nice gift card from the department -- for groceries, gas, your local Target -- can be a very nice gesture.