Gloria Gratacos is the National Chairman of EUMA Spain

Can we start with a little background information? Where are you from?

I was born in Barcelona where I have been living and working almost my full life, except for one year (1990-1991) when I moved to Edinburgh (Scotland) to improve my English studies.

I am the youngest of two brothers and two sisters. My hobbies are dancing, wine and food tasting, reading, travelling and cinema.

What is your background?

Since my early ages I showed a great vocation for the profession. I feel really fortunate for being able to work on what I consider my vocation. I had this clear in my mind from an early age. Just as an example, my favorite game when I was a child was having my “own office at home”. I used to ask my father to be my boss and asked him to dictate me letters and give me other assistant duties.

I studied a five-year degree (“formación profesional”) in Administrative and Executive Assistant studies. In parallel I completed my studies in foreign languages, computing and other disciplines needed for the profession. I also have a Masters Degree in “Assistant Business Administration” by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Catalonia Open University).

Among other companies, I have worked for the Autonomous Government of Catalonia and for a law firm. I joined Almirall, S.A., 11 years ago. This is a very well-known Spanish multinational pharma company. During these years I have been working in the export department, dealing with our customers in America, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Very recently I have just started a new challenge at the Global Alliance Department. I am very excited for this new opportunity and I am sure it will be a very positive experience both in my personal life and in my professional career.

You are currently the Chairman of EUMA Spain: how did you get involved with EUMA in the first place?

I joined EUMA in 2003, following my wish of belonging to a European network of professional assistants. In Spain all the professional associations are run on a regional basis (for instance, I also belong to SEiEM, the Catalan Association of professional assistants), but no one had this European scope. At that time EUMA Spain did not yet exist, therefore I joined as an individual member linked to the European Committee, with only another 2-3 members.

How have you got to your position as Chairman?

Since I joined the association I had the idea of building up a group in Spain. Our flag had to be on the map! In 2005 we started the project with another two members until EUMA Spain was finally ratified by the rest of EUMA countries in the AGM of Berlin in October 2008. In 2009 we had our first elections and I was elected National Chairman. My four-year term is coming to an end next June. I believe it’s time for new blood

You are hosting EUMA’s Spring Training Day in Madrid in April. Tell us about the challenges of putting on an event like this…

This will be the first European event organized by EUMA Spain. Therefore it is a great challenge for us, as participants in the training are limited to 120 people but we expect many others to attend the National Committee meetings and the social events we have organized for a full week.

For me the first challenge is to have a solid organizing team. I feel very lucky having Pilar de Torres (our National Treasurer) and Javier Izquierdo (our Public Relations officer) in the team. We also hired an agency to help us with all logistics related to registrations, payments and so on.

As you all know, the global crisis is affecting Spain very deeply, therefore it has also been a great challenge for us to prepare a viable budget, as costs have significantly increased ie last July VAT increased greatly so we had to start all over again.

What are the main changes you have seen in the time you have been in business?

I have been in business for 25 years now; therefore I have witnessed many changes. Technology has changed so much. I am one of those who started working with a manual typing machine and using carbon copies! I consider computers and email the main advances among many others.

As middle managers are decreasing in companies now our role demands more seniority, which I think is positive not only because we have enough skills to do this, but also because we are gaining visibility within companies and therefore our profession has more prestige than it had years ago. This is very clear especially in Southern European countries like Spain where unfortunately our role still does not enjoy enough acknowledgement.

On the negative side I would mention that pressure is obviously higher, especially now that we are living through this terrible global crisis. With unemployment reaching 25% in Spain, it seems as if we are living in constant competition.

What inspires and motivates you?

In my daily work I feel inspired and motivated when I see that my performance can both help the company and my profession to gain prestige. I am also inspired and motivated by good, kind, upright people. I always say that you can never be a good professional unless you are first a good person.

What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?

If I go back a few years, the main highlight was probably when I decided to move to Scotland to improve my English skills. That was one of the best decisions I ever took, a real investment for my professional life.

More recently, I think that joining EUMA 10 years ago, making EUMA Spain flourish and managing the association in Spain is also a very important milestone in my career.

What are the main challenges facing Management Assistants at the moment?

In my opinion and thinking specifically in Spain I would say there is a need for more specialized training. There are very few professional schools, training centers, universities, whatever you want to call them, but unfortunately most of the good training centers we had in the past are no longer active.

We also need to have greater acknowledgement of our profession. It’s true that the situation has significantly improved over the last years but we still have a long road ahead, especially if we compare to Northern European countries.

And there is, in my opinion, a great challenge for Management Assistants: we are lacking a sense of pride and self-respect for our profession. I am afraid sometimes we are our worst enemies.

What advice would you give someone just starting in the role?

My first advice would be to go for very specialized and updated training. Sometimes people believe that it is very easy to work as a management assistant, a job anyone could do without having completed any professional studies or acquiring technical skills.

My second piece of advice is to be in continuous learning; therefore we cannot stop our training but must keep learning new skills and management trends, as well as foreign languages. Last but not least, we have to “believe” in our professional and make ourselves visible in the company with the same professional acknowledgement and chances of progressing as anyone else.

So what’s next for Glòria Gratacòs? Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?

Things are getting so difficult that only God knows where I’ll be in five years’ time! First, I really hope that the global crisis will be over by then. I see myself having learnt a lot more about life and the profession and still being a very active member within EUMA. I also hope my background and experience can help and inspire many young professionals and other colleagues. But definitely I see myself still working as an assistant until the last days of my professional life!

Lucy Brazier, OBE is one of the world’s leading authorities on the administrative profession. Author of ‘The Modern-Day Assistant: Build Your Influence and Boost Your Potential’, she is the CEO of Marcham Publishing, a global force synonymous with world- ... (Read More)

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