Pepita Soler is the founder and president of Pepitas Secretaries Club, the largest network for assistants in Brazil
Can we start with a little background information? Where are you from and what is your current role?
I was born in Peru and grew up in Brazil. I am the daughter of Eduardo Soler, United Nations diplomat and anthropologist, and Norma Montalvo de Soler, University Researcher, Master of anthropology, sociology and economics. They gave me the passion to study human behaviour and develop people so that they may connect with their inner self and their greatness.
I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I am the mother of twins – university students Felipe and Thiago. I have a great love and gratitude for Brazil, its incredible people, art, nature and culture.
I started my consulting and training business, Pepita Consultoria in 1994; we focus on the development of people, teams and leaders, covering companies all over Brazil.
I created Pepitas Secretaries Club in 1996, and today it is the largest Secretaries Club with more than 8,000 members from over 500 corporations, across 15 states of Brazil.
What is your background?
I am an organizational psychologist, with specializations in positive psychology, appreciative coaching, emotional intelligence, and creativity and innovation from CEF, the Creative Education Foundation. I also hold international certifications in leadership, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and fierce conversations from BluePoint Leadership Development (NY), and the Franklin Covey and Fierce Institute (WA). I am part of the Idea Connection System and have applied their innovation tools to research the innovation strength styles of 100 top executive assistants across Brazil. The results of our studies are presented in our council secretaries’ meetings and innovation forums.
How did you become involved with Assistants?
In 1996 the President of American Airlines for the Brazilian market contacted me and requested that I design an international educational project for their top clients’ executive assistants that their CEOs would appreciate and see the value in sending their assistants. We created a week-long immersion program that included educational leadership and innovation training sessions, intercultural gatherings with their assistant colleagues from the US, hotel site inspections with network functions and guided visits to the main cultural and educational places at the destination. It was the first international program with a design integrating education, research, and space to build good relationships, with great American Airlines destinations. The international program has now been running for 23 years and today we take top executive assistants and secretaries to US, European and Latin American destinations with our airline partners and other business partners that support the Secretaries Club.
You are the Founder and President of Pepitas Secretaries Club and run the FISEC conference. Tell us about that.
Today, Pepitas Secretaries Club is led by councils, committees and ambassadors, who are the top executive assistants and influencers in Brazil. We have monthly gatherings to design, create and implement projects that will help the professional and personal development of the secretaries of Brazil. This special group is composed of secretaries united by their purpose and passion for their profession. The Club’s principles, created by the council, are unite, connect, develop and innovate.
We design and implement a series of master classes, exclusively for secretaries, we hold emotional intelligence weekend journeys, international leadership immersion educational trips, and road shows with TED talks and talk shows. One of our newest designs is the “Secretaries Netweavers Network” where our main focus is to gather all secretaries that are in the process of professional relocation, to promote educational and relationship gatherings with TED talks, emotional intelligence dynamics, professional relocation tips and mentoring, to have a positive space to share and give support needed on this challenging moment in their lives. The council is leading this project and we already have six gatherings scheduled for the second semester, right after our biggest Secretaries Innovation Forum ends.
FISEC RIO 2019 is the 7th edition of the Secretaries Innovation Forum that gathers more than 300 secretaries from 15 states of Brazil. This year theme is Focus – Flow – Happiness and it will be held in one of the most beautiful cities of the world, Rio de Janeiro, my hometown. The secretaries’ part of the council of our Club are working with all their passion and creativity, to deliver the best FISEC of all times. We have a great team of speakers, female inspirational leaders and top executive assistants, that will be present on the stage at FISEC RIO. And this year we have the honour of having Lucy Brazier as our international keynote speaker. The Brazilian secretaries are really looking forward to being able to be with her at the greatest Secretaries Innovation Forum of Brazil.
What lessons have you learned in your time as President?
When you share a dream with passion, and unite good hearts and connect good minds, you are creating strong leaders that will continue your legacy and will build their own legacy. We live our values and our principles. It is what makes us deal with the challenges of business, of life, and what makes us stronger.
How important do you think associations and networks are to the career of an assistant and why?
In today’s world, in the ups and downs of the challenges of countries, of the fast-changing pace of the corporate world, of the new working structures and methods, they are crucial for your career, and for your life.
The interaction in networking meetings, educational meetings, and being part of groups and associations, keeps you updated on what is happening, what is changing, what is new, what you should develop to be competitive in the market, and allows you to deal positively with the changes.
You must always have a learning and researching spirit, cultivate good relationships and be open to network opportunities.
What are the changes that you believe face assistants in the future?
The changes and transformations of the assistant’s role, the changes of the structure of the business world, and the needs, crises and challenges corporations have, directly affect the assistants of the present and the future.
Today we have a variety of roles and challenges for assistants to deal with – depending on the culture of the corporation, the leadership styles and the current state of the company – so we need to develop a culture of innovation among assistants. Assistants need strong creative behaviours, to be open to change, to have high-speed adaptability and the know-how to build relationships, to create synergy, have a global vision, love to communicate and practice emotional intelligence. Assistants need to be willing to keep learning and growing with the company and with their leaders.
And primarily, assistants must focus their energy to create a balance in the main dimensions of life: mind, body, heart and soul. If you forget about yourself, you will not have enough vital energy, that is fundamental to have creative energy, to be prepared to lead the changes of your future.
What inspires and motivates you?
My sons inspire me and motivate me to be better. My students and secretaries inspire me to keep growing. Their stories, challenges and triumphs inspire me all the time, and reinforce that I am on the right track.
The projects motivate me, they keep my creative energy constantly lightened.
My parents are my biggest inspiration, they are my role models. They taught me the importance of dreaming and making it happen, the passion of studying and teaching, the importance of living your principles.
What advice would you give someone just starting out as an assistant?
Look around and see who can be your “mentor/teacher” inside your corporation. Which senior assistant is open to teaching you real life inside the business world? Participate in everything that can be positive for your learning process, inside and outside the company. Participate in network gatherings with secretaries from inside and outside your company. You can learn a lot by active listening and seeing what is happening in other companies.
Offer your help so that you may learn more functions. Research new methods, learn the culture and history of your company, learn to read the verbal and non-verbal communication styles of your leaders and your colleagues.
You have a personal brand. Know your strong competences, check if you want to develop some other areas. Be sure to give your unique contribution to your company, your colleagues, and your leaders.
So, what’s next for Pepita Soler? Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I will prepare my successors to continue the legacy of the Secretaries Club and make it stronger, to contribute more and more of what we sincerely believe: the greatness of this honourable and admirable profession.
In five years, I will be living in the main gathering space of the club, on the mountains of the state of Rio de Janeiro, and my successors will be travelling around Brazil and the world. I will be receiving students at my Secretaries Educational Center, surrounded by mountains, forest, rivers, with the great secretaries, facilitators and mentors of my Brazilian councils.