This article is written by our IMA Germany member Oya Karabulut.
My first contact with IMA was overwhelming for me, a huge thunderclap into a completely new perspective on my job. Today I go to work in a completely different way than before I met IMA.
My company Gleiss Lutz hosted an "Assistants' Networking Hub" at our Frankfurt office on 21 June 2023. My first thought was "motivational speaking doesn't make the job of an assistant any better". I've been working as an assistant in various law firms since I was 16 years old. My colleagues persuaded me to take part in the event and, I was proved wrong: motivational speaking makes every job better!
We were able to attend great presentations on key competences for the assistant of the future, skills in the context of "new work" and digital transformation, the "winning team" and the right attitude towards one's own role and the definition of one's own "WHY". This was followed by an interesting exchange of ideas and a chance to get to know each other at the after-work event. This was the first time I heard about IMA.
As part of this event, an annual IMA membership was raffled off, which was won by my dear colleague Christiane. I was incredibly happy for her because this enabled her to attend the international conference in Cape Town. When do you ever get the opportunity to travel from Europe to South Africa to attend a conference?
For personal reasons, Christiane wanted to give up her prize and - although we didn't even know each other - thought of me, for which I am very grateful. Without her, my trip to South Africa would not have happened in this form.
I spoke to my employer, who kindly gave me time off for the duration of the trip and then everything happened very quickly.
I arrived in Cape Town on the morning of 26 October 2023 after an almost 12-hour flight. That same evening, there was a welcome reception where I met wonderful people from so many different countries. I felt very comfortable and warmly welcomed from the very first second. The community is really very special and radiates warmth. I was able to meet so many interesting people from so many different countries. I was overwhelmed.
We had an exciting African evening in the Gold Restaurant and the get-together brought us even closer together. It was an unforgettable evening, which began with extensive drumming by all the IMAs and continued with a small performance by singers and dancers in very colourful costumes. Afterwards we were served many different dishes and at the end members of the staff sang for us on site.
The presentations on the following 27 October 2023 were incredibly interesting. I was able to take away so many insights and valuable approaches. Sonja de Wet guided us so wonderfully through this interesting day. She was wonderful.
Quinton Coetze - Business lessons from the wilds of Africa - Entrepreneur and Wildlife Conservationist
The first speaker with the most entertaining presentation of the conference for me, as he skillfully drew parallels to the need for cohesion and cooperation between people in the business world using many examples of the simple but very efficient coexistence of the San San, where he lived for a time. In many short film sequences, he showed how these people appreciate nature on the one hand and make use of the resources on the other, acting in a very sustainable way. The audience alternated between laughter and amazement during his interesting presentation.
Prof Thuli Madonsela - Shaping an ethical workplace - advocate and professor of law at Stellenbosch University
The soft-spoken woman has a strong professional background as a professor of law and was involved in drafting the new constitution on equal rights laws, equal treatment in the workplace and various post-apartheid constitutional laws, among other things. She spoke about the principles she has established in the world of work, which she also passes on to her students. As a single mother and former ANC member, she courageously took action against corruption in the country years ago.
Alinda Nortje - "Employee Engagement" - Founder and CEO of Free to Grow
The former social worker and community worker spoke about company culture. With her organisation, she wants to encourage and enable people in communities and organisations to realise and connect themselves. She did a learning exercise with us using Japanese numbers, which I found very interesting. “Free To Grow” now specialises in employee engagement and related learning and development activities.
Helen Monument - Chair: World Administrators Alliance
Helen Monument, who is well known to most IMAs, presented the Global Skills Matrix set up by the organisation, which is a good compass for assistants around the world on how to position themselves when applying for jobs, negotiating salaries and so on.
Ronald Samuels - Building Bridges - CEO: Botswana Insurance Life and author
His presentation about his own eventful and sometimes tragic story of his childhood and youth during apartheid touched me the most. He is the author of the book "The bitter olive", his biography, and based on extracts from it he taught us the following lesson:
In the end, it's not what happened to you that counts, it's what you do about it that matters.
In his presentation, he also spoke at length about the role of assistants and how we can achieve better results in our daily interactions through communication, mutual appreciation, cohesion and confidence in our own high value.
In the evening, the traditional gala dinner also took place in the Congress Centre with the theme "Denim and Diamonds". The hall was beautifully decorated and the tables were set in an unusual way. We danced for a long time and it was a very exuberant atmosphere, which also spread to the service staff.
What touched me the most was the immense solidarity and goodwill among all the participants. You rarely experience something like that in life. At least I do, working in the shark tank that is Frankfurt, where there is always a society of elbows.
My first contact with IMA was overwhelming for me, a huge thunderclap into a completely new perspective on my job. I am no longer just the little assistant who follows her boss's instructions. I am a key person, an ambassador between two worlds (I do build bridges!), my job is important and significant. Today, I go to work in a completely different way than before I met IMA. I am eternally grateful for that.
The event has massively boosted my self-confidence, my self-worth as an assistant. I feel like I'm an important link in the chain, having spent the last 25 years literally wandering through various offices in Germany. I am someone. And I am infinitely grateful for that.
My onward journey through South Africa only reinforced this feeling. I hired a car and bravely drove 2,557 kilometres along the Garden Route and Route 62 through left-hand traffic. I encountered many friendly and warm people and the most exciting animals. It broadened my horizons quite a bit and I am so grateful for this enrichment.
Oya Karabulut, member of IMA Germany