This article first appeared in the August/September 2014 issue of OfficePro Magazine.
Written by Emily Allen
Visit the St. Louis campus of Boeing and you’ll soon discover that Antoinette Smith, CAP-OM, not only knows every inch of the campus, but that most everyone knows, and also respects, her. Through her 38-plus years of employment at Boeing, Smith has gained a reputation for being a leader, a mentor and an innovator, not just for her executives, but also for the administrative staff.
“Toni is the complete professional,” say Lissa Hollenbeck, vice president at Shared Services Group, and Smith’s boss at Boeing back in the 1990s. “She takes on responsibility and everyone respects her. Two things come to mind when I think of Toni, her professionalism and teamwork. She brought a lot of talent to our admin team and also helped with career management and skills training.”
Smith understands the role of the administrative professionals and how they lead. Yes, lead. Just because those working in the administrative profession might not have the title of CEO, doesn’t mean they aren’t involved in leadership. She understands, and demonstrates, that leadership doesn’t always take place by being the one in charge.
“Sometimes you lead from behind, sometimes from the middle, and sometimes you are in the front,” says Smith. “Learn to go with the flow.”
Throughout her administrative career, that’s just what she’s done.
Over her career at Boeing, she has spearheaded programs still going today. She created the Career Portfolio and taught classes for other admins on how to create and maintain their own.
She also helped charter Boeing Association of Administrative Professionals at the St. Louis/St. Charles sites, which involves career development and training for Boeing staff on processes and procedures and tools needed for the job. In addition, she’s mentored others working in the administrative profession as well as participated in cross mentoring—all this while volunteering for IAAP and working her job at Boeing.
Kathy Irvin, an executive office administrator supporting two vice presidents and two directors, met Smith in a training session decades ago.
“When it first started, I participated in an off-site meeting and in comes Toni and she floats, she doesn’t walk. She stands up and gives a presentation on mentoring. Nobody knew her,” says Irvin. “With no funding or high-level executive supporting, she and a couple others took this training to the next level.”
Part of the leadership that Smith has exhibited is her commitment to mentoring. Two people that Toni mentored over the years are Jessica Hunt and Pam Bouckaert.
“Toni mentored me before there was a professional mentoring program,” says Bouckaert, who’s been at Boeing for 35 years. “Out of that I was introduced to IAAP. With her support I’ve served in many positions on the chapter board. I was really not very good at public speaking and she encouraged me to start speaking a lot.”
Hunt and Smith have been cross mentoring, with both learning from one another.
“Toni has a workflow book and I’d never seen it before,” says Hunt. “When I started mentoring with Toni she showed me her book because I was having trouble managing my workflow after being promoted to be an admin of a VP.”
Building into others is intrinsic to Smith and is an integral part of her leadership style. She’s taken the attitude of continuous learning and leadership and brought it not only to the workplace, but also to her volunteer work with IAAP.
“I always viewed the secretarial field as a career, not just a job. IAAP validated that view for me,” says Smith. “Having the opportunity for continuous learning, to participate, lead committees and hold leadership positions at all levels of the association enhanced my teambuilding and leadership skills. I’ve been able to bring these skills to my workplace where I’ve led teams and various projects over the years.”
IAAP’s commitment to professional growth and its certification program is what led Smith to get involved with IAAP.
“Chapter representatives came to my place of business and gave a presentation about IAAP—called PSI at the time—with information about the certification program,” says Smith. “The presentation focused on how being certified validated your secretarial skills and was an added value tied to your experience, whether you had a high school diploma or a college degree.”
After joining IAAP in 1997 her career soared and she never looked back.
“When you volunteer to serve you soon discover that the work is never done. This has kept me going on the leadership track,” says Smith. “Leading efforts that ensure IAAP is relevant for future generations is important to me. We’ve come a long way moving from a subservient role to becoming a critical piece of the puzzle for keeping businesses running.”
Vision for IAAP
These are uncharted times for IAAP. Smith, as well as the other members of the board of directors, have come under fire for their decision to dramatically change the association from its old chapter and division structure in an effort to revitalize IAAP. Smith stands behind that decision because she has a vision for the new IAAP.
“We are headed in the direction where businesses will seek out employees with IAAP certification and support their employees in IAAP education events; rely on IAAP to provide relevant education and career guidance; and place IAAP on the continuum as the industry thought leader for the profession,” says Smith.
We’re not there yet. The 2014-15 year will be a time of significant planning that requires the leaders, staff and especially the members to band together and work to create lasting change and growth.
“Leaders with strategic focus and member engagement are what will get us there,” says Smith. “Our obstacles are imbedded in all the necessary steps that go with embracing and managing change. IAAP has a rich history we can all be proud of that built a strong foundation. Going forward we now must let go of some of the things we’ve grown accustomed to doing.”
Toni’s Three Pearls of Wisdom:
- Understand that the administrative profession is a career of service. It is a service field and a partner relationship. Advanced administration requires leadership skills; sometimes you lead from behind, sometimes from the middle, and sometimes you are in the front. Learn to go with the flow. Knowing what position to lead from is a key factor to your success.
- Continuous learning is a must in the administrative career in order to stay on top of the field. Business trends and changes happen often. You are never done.
- Skills and talents are essential; but with that, a friendly smile in this profession goes a long way. Having a good positive attitude and likability are essential if you are to succeed and get ahead. Playing nice in the sandbox sometimes takes practice, but if you are really good at it, you can build strong relationships.
Get To Know Antoinette Smith
Who: Antoinette Smith, CAP, OM
St. Louis Chapter, Missouri Division, Southwest District
Joined IAAP in 1997
Certified in 1996
Employment: Executive Office Administrator reporting to Randy E. Phillips, Vice President Business Development & Strategy, Corporate Development, The Boeing Company; with The Boeing Company 38 years.
IAAP Background: Smith has been on the IAAP Board of Directors since 2006. She’s also served as division president and chapter president and chair of numerous chapter and division committees.
Beyond IAAP: Smith serves on the St. Louis Community College Advisory Board; Boeing Association of Administrative Professionals-St. Louis; Boeing Leadership Association; Boeing Affinity Groups: Women in Leadership and Diversity; Boeing Volunteer Learning Together Program.