19 January 2016

The role of an executive assistant is multifaceted.

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As an executive assistant, you need numerous skills to support the grinding demands of your boss, ranging from time management, problem-solving, to effective multimedia skills.

Within the public sector, an executive assistant’s role constantly evolves and they often have to effectively deal with ‘change’ – whether it be a change of their manager, responsibilities, role or work environment.

“The schedulers, gatekeepers and caretakers of the corporate world are rarely seen, but they have a profound effect on the daily lives of the executives they serve,” The Wall Street Journal states in an inspiring article.

“The work can be thankless and often comes at a cost to their own personal lives, but these workers wield subtle influence at a company's highest levels--and no small amount of power.”

The Keynote presenter at Akolade’s upcoming National Public Sector EA PA Summit, Zelda la Grange, had the privilege of working for one the most inspirational and influential figures of the last century, Nelson Mandela.

In 1997 she was promoted to become one of the three Private Secretaries in President Mandela’s personal staff. In 1999 he requested her to remain in his services beyond retirement. Zelda served Mr Mandela for 19 years in different capacities until his death on 5 December 2013.

Zelda will be joining us in February for the National Public Sector EA & PA Summit to discuss her experiences and lessons learned as Private Secretary and Executive Assistant to Nelson Mandela.

Zelda graciously took the time to answer a few of our questions.

A major concern that many EAs and PAs have is to find work-life balance. Do you have any tips that you would like to share?

Personally I did not manage this well. My job was different than that of any other PA – there was no other person with the stature of Nelson Mandela so the situation was unique with very unique and specific challenges - and I had to make certain decisions in this regard.  It always remains a choice though no matter what the circumstances.

What is your favourite quote from him?

My favourite quote is: no person is born hating another. People learn to hate and if they learn to hate they can be taught to love.

What is the single most precious memory of working for Mr Mandela that you will cherish for the rest of your life?  


Most certainly the last time I saw him alive.

After finishing University with a degree in Business Marketing, I decided to make a big jump across seas for the first time and move from the east coast of America to Sydney, Australia. I landed my first job in a sales position in the event industry and soon thereafter moved into a marketing assistant role – following I had the pleasure of interviewing with Akolade which got me to where I am today.
Akolade is a fun, innovative company that brings together people from different walks of life to implement change. As the Marketing Manager, I have the pleasure of wearing many hats which motivates me to succeed, reach people in an array of avenues, grow our events to their full potential, and raise our story. As for me, I am a kind dedicated woman who loves to work hard, exercise, cook, be social and have some fun.

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