Real EAs of Wellington: Episode Four – Maria Mouroukis
Maria Mouroukis is one of our talented Wellington EAs. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Maria about her amazing career journey. In this episode, she shares her wisdom and experience as she unveils her career pathway, some of her funniest moments in the job and the biggest challenges she’s faced along the way.
Tell us about your pathway to becoming an Executive Assistant (EA).
I started my work career in the early 1980’s fresh out of the Wellington Polytechnic Secretarial School as a young secretary to three executives for Salmond & Spraggon Limited.
My education at Wellington Polytechnic consisted of a one-year secretarial course with shorthand and typing as the key learnings. The first two terms focused on Pitman 2000 shorthand characters and the third term purely on improving speed. I can recall the clatter of typewriters in a class of 20 students who were all given the same passage to type – it was a rhythm and sound that filled the room.
When I started my Secretary role at Salmond & Spraggon Limited, it took me a good six months to adapt to the office environment. Pre ‘twink’ days, typing errors were corrected with an eraser. Tea breaks were at set times, held in the staff cafeteria and at allocated tables. There were no such thing as hot desks back then.
I stayed with the organisation for six years and left to have my first child. During my time there, I was promoted to PA for Max Factor Cosmetics which was a division of the organisation. The role involved organising make-up schools nationwide for our in-house cosmetic artist. Staff monthly sales included nail polish selling for 20 cents.
I returned to the workforce eight years later (the day my youngest started school) as a PA in the Cinema industry for the Wellington Regional Manager. Technology had improved dramatically with the word processor replacing the old typewriter. It was a great environment to work in and the generous perks included many complimentary movie passes. My strengths in organising, multi-tasking and dealing with deadlines all came into good use. Raising children was instrumental in fine tuning my skills – always expecting the unexpected and dealing with situations in a calm and positive manner.
After a further six years with the Cinema industry, I then moved into the EA role for Wellington Waterfront Limited – a Council Controlled Organisation charged with developing the waterfront. The role was diverse and one that required a close working relationship with the Chief Executive, diary management, vetting calls and liaising with board members and key stakeholders.
What’s your funniest/most embarrassing moment as an EA?
I was attending an Easter service and was arranging to meet my daughter at church on the upper mezzanine level. I quickly prepared a text using an old Nokia which read ‘come when you’re ready, I’ll be upstairs’. To my horror the text went to my Chief Executive. Explaining myself to him was awkward to say the least. Thankfully he had a sense of humour.
Another incident involved a young colleague who was nervously unsure if she was pregnant. To help put her out of her misery, I offered to run down to the pharmacy and pay for a pregnancy test kit. And run…. I did, and out of breath I approached the counter and asked the pharmacist for the fastest, cheapest pregnancy test kit available. I was in my early 40’s and got a very sympathetic look from him!
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
Keeping calm during times of adversity. Over the 20 years with the organisation, a number of restructures took place which created uncertainty and unrest amongst colleagues particularly for those who were the main breadwinners. I fell into the role of support person helping colleagues through these difficult times.
Who do you admire and why?
Doctors, nurses, lawyers, and teachers – those who preserve life, care for the weak, ensure justice is served and our youth are taught.
If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?
A forensic scientist to satisfy my morbid fascination with crime scenes. For now NCIS and Criminal Minds provide avid viewing.
If you could rewind 10 years and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Believe in yourself, have confidence and aim high. Don’t sweat the small stuff, we all make mistakes, it is a part of how we learn.
What’s the best piece of advice that’s helped you in your career?
Keep calm, don’t make any rash decisions and tomorrow is another day.
What’s your favourite piece of work wardrobe?
Classic, simple styles that fit well and look elegant, teamed with nice shoes.
Where is the best place in Wellington to get a coffee/drink?
Mojo coffee – consistently good.
If you were not living in Wellington – where would you be and why?
Wellington is my home, I love that it’s 20 minutes from anywhere. But during the cold winter months I would love to be some place warm – the Mediterranean comes to mind.