IMA celebrates 45 years – from traditional secretary to strategical management assistant

Published: 2019-10-16

This year IMA – International Management Assistants is celebrating their 45th anniversary as a professional network. The Swedish Executiveeffect has met IMA’s Executive Chairman Else-Britt Lundgren who will let us understand IMA’s journey – what started as a small European secretary association to being represented in almost 30 countries around the globe.   

Else-Britt Lundgren is, besides an international Executive Chairman for IMA – International Management Assistants 2013-2019, Senior Administrator at BioArctic AB – a Swedish biotech company, and former National Chairman of IMA Sweden 2008-2012. Else-Britt is ending her third and last term as an Executive Chairman on the 19th of October 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.   


Hi, Else-Britt Lundgren! How did you get in contact with IMA?   
- In 1995, I was invited to an evening event by European Association for Professional Secretaries (EAPS) by a colleague of mine, who was trying to make me become a member of the association. At that time, you had to be recommended by someone inside the association and also your own manager had to vouch that you actually were a secretary at management level.   
What have your different roles within IMA meant for you?   
- It has been an amazing opportunity for my personal development, mostly because of the last 15 years with assignments at board level and with being a chairman for the last 10 years both nationally and internationally. All of this has given me such a great experience which I’ve been able to apply to my professional life within project management, communication, digital marketing – useful for web and social media – presentation techniques, leadership and change management. What I have found being unique when meeting people from other countries and cultures is the increased level of understanding, which has taught me to adapt my communication.   
This year IMA is celebrating 45 years, how come it was founded in the first place?  
- It was our founder Sonia Vanular who came up with the idea to create a self-evolved association, Sonia who started working as a secretary, and later on became a Lawyer.  
- It was in 1973, at a seminar with a small group of manager assistants from different countries in Europe that Sonia suggested the idea to create an association for secretaries, as a main purpose to change the perception of secretary. Sonia’s suggestion was well received by the participants and at the very first gathering, which took place in Zurich in 1974, six countries had their own representative: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain and Great Britain. All representatives were urged to make their own national group in their own country, and later that very same year three countries (Sweden, Norway and Great Britain) founded their own national groups.   
You said that IMA is a “unique international network”, how would you say that it is unique?   
- It is the only international non-profit association for assistants on management level. To date, IMA has 18 member countries and just recently South Africa became a national group, which also is the first country outside of Europe. We are now represented in almost 30 countries together with our member countries and individual members – these are members who not yet have a national IMA-group within their own country, such as: Botswana, Canada, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and The US. All assignments within our network are voluntarily.  
Is there any difference between IMA Sweden to IMA in other countries?  
- I wouldn’t say that IMA Sweden is different from our other member countries. After all, all our member countries are following the same statutes. However, 10 years ago IMA Sweden has strategical been working with activities such as mentorships, chairman blog, blog corporations with the Swedish training company Företagsuniversitetet “How does the Executive Assistant do it?”. Which has enabled us to enlighten our work and attract new members by being visible on our website and our social media channels. This may very well be one of the factors that IMA Sweden as a member country has the largest number of members right now. IMA Sweden has since the beginning been working actively on its presence on both websites and social media channels which has yielded into good results.   
What has IMA meant for yourself as EA during your years in the association?   
- As I mentioned earlier when we spoke about the different roles I’ve had in the network, I believe that my concrete competences have been strengthened or obtained. In addition to myself, it is an amazing network, a network which Maria Cirillo (chairman of IMA Sweden) explains in the best way - “IMA’s network is like a Kinder Surprise Egg; you’ll get three networks in one; an international, a national and a personal network”. Through IMA I got an eye for trends and changes in our profession. With IMA we have a great potential to exchange experiences and technical knowledges, which nowadays is very important. 
- I had the possibility to get a mentor from IMA Sweden in my career as an EA to a CEO in 2003, the possibility to exchange thoughts and ideas when you are new to a certain role meant a lot for me. Thereafter, I actually became a mentor myself, which later lead me to arrange mentorship programs.   
How has IMA changed during the years and not at least the role of the management assistant?  
- Ever since our network was founded in 1974, as European Association for Professional Secretaries (EAPS) the role as secretary demanded certain expertise.  A few of the requirements were to have certain language skills, to be able to take directives, being structured and service minded. Our technical tools differed from today, back then we had typewriters, telegram and landline phones. Back then EAPS had a career ladder, which meant that you started as a secretary and then worked yourself up to an executive secretary role. In the 80s new kind of technology arrived such as telex, word processing machines and the ability to use fax. In the early 90s the PC was launched which reduced the number of secretaries due to efficiency of the profession, now the role demanded even more technical knowledge, communication skills and executive support to one or more managers which also meant that the role of the management assistant changed.  
- It was for this reason that, in 1998, it was time to take the association to the next level, as the traditional secretary role changed and to uphold all requirements the association was given a new name and a new brand: European Management Assistants (EUMA). 
- As of 2014 our network began to attract more members outside Europe and it was during this time that we began to work for a change of the name and brand to what it is today. Due to the world becoming even more technical advanced and as the requirements for management assistants now includes more of strategical advices, project management, being proactive and to understand their company’s business even more.   
- In 2017 our network changed its name to IMA – International Management Assistants. The very same year an international “Profile for Management Support Professionals” enlightened the width of management assistant, which means that our members have to adapt to develop even more. IMA Sweden was the first country to release the Profile back in 2011, which already had an impact on Företagsuniversitetet's program called “Master Class for Executive Assistant”.   
Since 2018 we regularly offer our members webinars via IMA Online Academy which focuses on different knowledge areas. 
What is IMA’s focus in the upcoming future?   
- I believe that IMA will need to be even more supportive to their members, which means for our members to increase their visibility and being more direct with what they can provide to the business as management support professionals. As the digital evolution is rapidly moving forward, we as an association must be in the front row of what will be required of the management assistant role. A lifelong learning is even more important today and if IMA can offer activities which reinforce competence and at the same time develop new ones, the need of such a powerful network to exchange knowledge and experience will be necessary.   
- Later this month, on the 18th of October 2019, our international conference will take place in Geneva, Switzerland with the theme “The Future is Now: How to be a challenger in your role”. To this date more than 260 participants from over 20 countries will be gathering. And on top of that, we will celebrate our 45th anniversary as a network!    
This interview with our Executive Chairman Else-Britt Lundgren was originally published by the Swedish online news site Executiveeffect , business partner of IMA Sweden. - Independent news, expert advice, inspiration and tools for you who work closest to management in companies and organizations. We want to serve you who work in roles as manager assistant, department assistant, CEO assistant and CEO secretary.  




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