Leaders are tasked with setting a company’s vision through multi-year strategies, constantly balancing equally critical priorities and ensuring ongoing communications with their teams to deliver value for stakeholders. Successfully leading global organizations requires a laser focus on prioritization, optimization and problem solving. These crucial skills represent just a portion of an executive assistant’s responsibilities today.
We caught up with Paulina Gomez, Business Excellence Manager and Executive Assistant (EA) to our CEO Revathi Advaithi, located at our U.S. headquarters in San Jose, California. Below is an excerpt from our conversation where she peels back the curtain on her role and experiences at Flex and shares her perspective on effective leadership, her inspiring journey from the Guadalajara public sector to the world of manufacturing and more.
You’ve been at Flex for eleven years. Can you tell me more about your journey in getting started here?
I’ve been at Flex for over a decade and an executive assistant to Revathi for three and a half years. I didn’t plan on becoming an executive assistant, but when the right opportunity came along, I embraced the challenge.
I received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from ITESO in Guadalajara, Mexico and, after graduating, worked in a state government role as an International Training Project Coordinator for a few years. I loved working in the public sector but was looking for a change. I was impressed by Flex’s business and its role in different industries. I started working at one of the company’s Guadalajara facilities as an EA, supporting Global Operations in the Americas region.
On a business trip to what is now called the Silicon Valley Customer Experience Center, I heard that the former president of Global Operations and Components needed an executive assistant in San Jose. I took a chance and got the job! In this role, I grew my skillset while focusing on internal stakeholders for several years.
Tell me more about your transition to working in your current role.
I will never forget the day I started working for Revathi. It was February 11, 2019, and I came to work like any other day. My boss at the time not only believed in me, but he sponsored me and advocated for my career advancement by recommending me for the role. While I have similar responsibilities in my current role, my work now is geared towards a wider variety of stakeholders like customers, investors, the board of directors, media outlets, etc.
One exciting project I’m working on now is leading the efforts to create and maintain an EA Community within Flex that serves as a platform for training and mentoring the extended executive leadership team’s EAs. Some of the training will include topics like skills development, business operations, emerging technologies, EA onboarding and general best practices.
How were the first couple years in your current role?
My first year in my role, one of my primary focus areas was establishing a strong working relationship with Revathi. Every leader has a unique working style, and this is something that continues to evolve the longer we work together, which has been very rewarding.
Since COVID-19 was named a global health emergency in early 2020, the first year also included challenges that I couldn’t’ve expected but also created opportunities to learn and adapt.
Today, we have a better cadence of planning to be more proactive and continue looking at the big picture, since priorities and initiatives can be dynamic. We have taken this approach with our planning given the nature of how quickly things can shift and to help regularly prioritize initiatives and manage her time.
As someone who works closely with senior executives, what do you feel are the key qualities of an effective leader?
For me, the first and most important leadership trait is leading by example. Some other important qualities of an effective leader are empathy, credibility and the ability to empower your team. To me, credibility means delivering great results not only for the company but by putting people first.
Having empathy as a leader helps empower teams and enables you to delegate effectively. When leaders have a lot on their plate and still say “good morning” every morning, “thank you” and “please,” it’s really something to admire as it’s those little things that you appreciate when you work alongside someone every single day.
I feel the company’s leadership team demonstrates these traits and leads by example.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Every day is different. I collaborate on different projects with teams across the organization to make things happen. As executive assistants, we contribute in meaningful ways to achieve the company’s goals by planning, scheduling and prioritizing so the leadership team can focus on the strategic initiatives that move the needle.
Prioritizing is a significant part of my job, and I believe this skill comes with time, a growing awareness of executive priorities and working styles and open communication with leaders. In this field, we’re also in a privileged position to learn about business, operations and other functions based on interactions with and decisions made by senior leaders.
As executive assistants, we get to contribute in meaningful ways to help achieve the company’s goals by planning, scheduling and prioritizing so the leadership team can focus on strategic initiatives that move the needle.- Paulina Gomez, Business Excellence Manager and Executive Assistant
Now, what’s your favorite way to spend time outside of work?
My way of relaxing is being outdoors. I love hiking, skiing and during the pandemic, I picked up mountain biking. Since the onset of Covid-19, I’ve visited nine national parks. My favorite park I’ve visited is Yellowstone where I saw eight or nine grizzly bears and a pack of wolves! It was mind blowing.
Outside of that, I’m a big foodie. Friends and colleagues say that I could easily become a food blogger. My favorite cuisine is probably Japanese, but I love Thai and all Asian food in general. Food has always been a huge part of life, maybe it’s because when I was little as an only child, one of the ways my mom demonstrated love was through the foods I liked. She would ask me what I wanted to eat this week, make a list, and then make it for me. It was easier for her to plan meals that way and not have to think about what to cook.
My favorite Mexican food is chilaquiles. I’m originally from Sonora but I can call Guadalajara my home since I spent so much time there, went to school and worked there and made so many meaningful connections.
What excites you most about the future of Flex and your future at the company?
I’m excited about our company strategy and driving the right kind of growth. I really admire our efforts around sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion.
We’ve done so while running the business and managing challenges like the pandemic. Over the past couple of years, Flex has demonstrated a strong sense of resilience and a culture of finding a better way forward. This is exciting to see.