Where does work end and happiness begin? Are the two separate? Does one merge with the other? Consider a woman named Julie Cislo Sykes, who, when asked what’s the most difficult part about her job, laughed and said she doesn’t see her work that way. “I think the only negative thing about my job is the drive in. Other than that, the job is a breeze,” she said to our ezCater team.
Julie is a student-services coordinator with the InfoSec Institute in Illinois. Her upbeat attitude is one of the reasons she’s been nominated for ezCater’s 2018 Office Hero of the Year Award in celebration of admins everywhere this Administrative Professionals Day.
How is it that her attitude is so deeply positive toward a profession known for its colossal demands?
“The people I work with are amazing and wonderful. The students I work with, they’re all great. They’re all looking to better themselves or achieve certifications and education and I get to talk to people even out of the country. Australia and England and South Africa and India, and I get to talk to so many different people and they have so many different stories and it’s amazing.”
What ties work and happiness together for Julie is finding a style of approach, a positive attitude, that will allow her to be in tune with her environment. “Only you can control your happiness at work. The happier you are the more productive you are. You need to find a nook that makes you happy at that job. Because it makes the job so much easier to accomplish and you learn so much more if you open yourself up to experience,” she said.
I spoke to Julie early one morning to talk about her work. We spoke for half an hour and she steered the conversation always toward her joy, her appreciation, and gratitude.
As an office hero you must have some time-saving tricks. What are your favorites?
When I first got hired in 2012, we were, the person before me was, ordering lunch and catering from [third-party delivery services] and several different catering services and it was just so time-consuming. And I was like, ugh, I got to find a way to save time with this, this is really taking away a lot of my time from assisting students. Finding ezCater was amazing, you know? That was one time-saving trick that really helped me a lot because something that was taking me four hours, three days week, turned into 30 minutes a week. So ezCater is kind of the silent hero in my story because ezCater freed up my time to assist students that needed guidance or help with their certification exams or materials.
Before ezCater I was having to stay late or work on the weekends [to schedule the catering] and I thought, how was the person doing this before me? This is just too much. And when I found ezCater I was like, this is amazing. This turned into 30-minute-a-week task, sending out two emails, a preliminary and final, and it’s done. Rain or shine, lunch gets there on time. We get blizzards in Virginia and if there’s a weather issue, I can just call up ezCater and say, Food’s not there, and ezCater takes care of it. Not only is ezCater a hero to me, but ezCater is a hero to our students, who need to eat.
What advice do you have for an administrative profession just starting out?
Having a positive attitude and a sense of humor makes your workday easy. Because having a job you don’t like, it’s like having two jobs, it’s like doing a job for your company and then you have to work on making yourself motivated because you’re so unhappy with the job. So when I’m working, I’m going to have a positive attitude and I’m going to make the best out of any situation.
When you’re just starting out, you’re going to be doing all the grunt work. Because you need to get that experience under your belt. Only you can control your happiness at work. The happier you are the more productive you are. You need to find a nook that makes you happy at that job. Because it makes the job so much easier to accomplish and you learn so much more if you open yourself up to experience.
I can honestly say that every job I approach I look at it as a new learning experience so I’m going to gain all the information that I can get in my arsenal.
My first job I was a field assistant and that was when computers were first coming out. It was MS-DOS and I’m aging myself now! But it was just WordPerfect and the MS-DOS. Every lunch hour I would go to one of the girls in the office secretarial pool and say, You know, these computers are really interesting. I’d like to learn some stuff. She said, Oh, Julie, just come out to lunch and I’ll show you some stuff and you can use my computer while I’m on lunch I’ll show you a few things and you can do some practice stuff, and that’s what I did. I had no computer experience out of school and I learned all those programs on my lunch breaks. So always go out of your way to let somebody seasoned teach you something you don’t know, and then when someone else comes in pass that knowledge on.
For all the other office heroes out there: what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My dad taught me loyalty and hard work always pays off. You have loyalty and you work hard and you’re going to go someplace. And that’s the advice my dad gave me, and he’s been such an outstanding role model for me. He had a very high dedication to his family and his work. Pretty much I can be speechless about how in awe I am of him. He laid the groundwork for me for who I am today. I take that with me on a daily basis.
You’re our office hero, but who’s your hero?
My dad is 77, he still drives, he’s very—he worked at a printing company, he was a printing supervisor, a production manager, at an envelope company, and he’s still very active and he just wants to do everything on his own. My TV went off last night and he came over and helped me fix my TV. He puts family first. He said, Oh, you need TV for the weekend, the weekend is coming, Julie. And he’s like, I’ll come over with your brother and we’ll look at it. He pulled the back off my TV, he did something, and I was like, Wow. He fixed it.
Do you think Julie should win ezCater’s 2018 Office Hero of the Year Award? Make sure you vote for her here. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, April 25, 2018.