I was walking with a coworker during our weekly 1:1 (I highly recommend doing this btw), and the subject of imposter syndrome came up. We were recalling times being in new roles and having this unfounded “what if I don’t know what I’m doing” thought looming in the background. I’ve spoken with friends and clients for years about this concept and have come to the conclusion it’s happened to many us do, and often.

Imposter syndrome, also known by imposterism (and a slew of other similar names), is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. According to this article I found in Psychology Today, it’s not an actual disorder, “but the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.”

This great post shares an interpretation of imposter syndrome in that it has multiple faces. In the article it describes how expert Dr. Valerie Young has categorized imposter syndrome into subgroups: the Perfectionist, the Superwoman/man, the Natural Genius, the Soloist, and the Expert and I challenge you to find yourself in the descriptions. Whether you are the CEO, web developer, wedding photographer, or entrepreneur inventor, the potential that you will be afflicted with imposter syndrome is high. Maya Angelou, Howard Schultz, and Sheryl Sandberg have even admitted to struggling with this phenomenon. As your resident health coach I’m happy to share that there are ways to get relief and build up the muscles to overcome it though. Take the time to remember that everyone feels imposterism and to combat it, practice positive self talk to remind yourself of your badass accomplishments and skills. Everyone is good at a lot of things and you are quite likely really good at the work to do. Your accomplishments didn’t happen due to chance, seduction, or some other external factor so don’t let imposter syndrome deceive you.

Check out this short Ted Talk video about imposter syndrome that I really enjoyed and if you have any advice or comments I’d love to see them below.

The “How I Work” series, most noteworthy done by Lifehacker, has been reproduced by multiple authors for good reason: people love to hear from successful and influential people and learn the intricacies of their day-to-day. It can be inspiring and motivating to hear about the best, and oftentimes most simplistic practices.  In our “How I Work” interview we refined our questions by adding a few of our own and spiced them up with inspiration from Lifehacker as well as thinkspace mentor Matt Heinz. Check out our full compilation of the “How I Work” interviews here.

In this edition you’ll be hearing from Kalle Ryynänen who has been working with OptoFidelity since 2007. When he started he was one of the first hires and has been able to be a part of many great teams and projects. Kalle claims that staying hands-on in projects has been the secret sauce as to why he still enjoys being a part of the great team of OptoFidelity.  Kalle has been a member at thinkspace Redmond for a year and a half.

Name: Kalle Ryynänen

Current Gig:Director of Accounts and Team Lead at OptoFidelity

One word that best describes how you work: Respond

Current mobile device: Google Pixel

Favorite verb: Do (things)

Grit Score: 3 (If you’re interested in learning your Grit Score take the test here.)


How do you recharge or take a break from work? Running before lunch.

What was your dream job/passion project as a kid? There have been many but I didn’t pick any of those.

Sunrise or sunset: Sunrise

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I have done most of my career in OptoFidelity. I started in Finland as a systems engineer at the beginning of 2007. It was just handful of employees then and now we have 150 + 8000 in our mother company. The startup growth has given loads of opportunity and has kept me in OptoFidelity. In 2016 I moved to US and Redmond, WA to establish OptoFidelity PNW operations.

Number of unread emails right now? 3

First thing you do when you come into work? Get a cup of coffee and I try not to read my emails before that.

What is your email management strategy? Don’t let the emails pile up. Process them as soon as possible.

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused? I don’t.

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I commute by running and then dedicate time between dinner and kids bedtime + weekends to family.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success? Late evening meetings with remote team.  

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My camera.

Last thing you do before leaving work? Turn the lights off and lock the door.

Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them? My boss and support team in Finland are amazing. We communicate often. 

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal with it? Reporting. I deal with it by scheduling.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend? I recommend Audiobooks. That is my way of falling asleep at night. My recent favorites have been ultra-running related books and business memoirs. To mention one: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike.

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? My boss Lasse Lepistö has supported me and provided resources as needed.

What is your working process like? Continuous prioritization.

Describe your workspace? Light and bright. The reason for selecting thinkspace is the flexible/scalable office service. This is already our third office in thinkspace within 1.5yrs. We have been able to adjust our space based on our needs.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack? I would say that there are no shorts, but being open for new things might take you far fast (or not).

How do you keep track of what you have to do? Confluence task management.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Smile more.

Interested in becoming a “How I Work” spotlight? Contact Stephanie and she’ll be excited to come chat!

On December 10, 2018 Geekwire published an article about Microsoft seating first in Forbes ‘Just 100’ list of most responsible companies. To learn this, Forbes partnered with Just Capital and asked 81,000 Americans what they want to see most from America’s largest companies. Among the top answers were fair pay, treating customers well (while keeping their information private), environmental friendliness, and commitment to diversity. Of 890 of the largest publicly-traded companies, Microsoft ranked #1 which shows that while taking public interest to heart, it continues to grow economically and in public consciousness.

Categories where Microsoft did exceedingly well:

  • Environment – minimize pollution, reduce waste, and protect the planet
  • Worker Treatment – keeping worker pay and treatment at the heart of just business practices
  • Customers – maintaining fair treatment, privacy, and honest sales terms
  • Leadership – prioritizing ethical leadership and value creation 
  • Communities – providing community support at home and abroad

Though Microsoft like any other company has room to grow, the most noteworthy category I found was where they ranked lowest: products.

  • Products and services should be high quality, fairly priced, and beneficial to society.

Entrepreneurs create companies because they have a passion for an idea or product; success often follows if they can solve a problem facing their target market. Having been involved in the software industry for decades, Microsoft’s strong brand awareness and reputation for great products have kept them in competitive business all these years. Because of this it’s rather shocking to see that they ranked so low in the product category. If not for their product, why are their customers so loyal and their brand first-rate?

In an interview that came long the rankings, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Forbes in an interview “People are finally coming around to saying, ‘it’s not just the surplus you’ve created for yourself. What’s the state of the world around you?’ That’s where I feel like we’re at our best.”  With this is mind it seems ever more relevant to ask what your company is doing to support the state of the world around you? Having a product or service that solves a problem or that people enjoy is what put you into business, but how do you take it to the next level in how you give back to your employees, customers, and the environment. We’re curious at thinkspace what you’re doing and where you think you rank in these categories. Leave a comment below and let’s start a discussion on why your product isn’t always the sole driver of your company’s success.



thinkspace members who have met me know that I am Peter Chee’s assistant and that I’m relatively new to Seattle. What the majority of you won’t know is that my background is in holistic health and wellness along with a master’s degree in education. These concentrations share a common foundation in that your health and work ability/brain capabilities work united. A strong mind will allow you to create, innovate, inspire, and persevere; something that as an entrepreneur you should care about. A strong mind doesn’t come just because of mere force. In addition to practice, there are particular foods to eat that will continue to keep your brain strong and fighting disease that will allow you to keep charging away for many years to come, in business and in pleasure.

Through my health coaching program I learned a great deal from Dr. Neal Barnard, President and Founder of PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) and about how foods fuel us and either create health or disease. Deciding what goes on your lunch plate might seem insignificant, and while you might really want the bacon, beer, or birthday cake, I urge you to think about “brain foods” that will power you to be more successful, inventive, and robust.

What are some of these foods? The Cleveland Clinic suggests going green with “nutrients such as folate, lutein and nitrate that are found in foods such as spinach, lettuce and kale.” Dr. Barnard shares the importance of vitamin E found in nuts and seeds, and the anthocyanins that give grapes and berries their color. Each of these are foods that will add up to a big drop in the risk of cognitive problems Barnard states.

Eating well and plant-strong will keep your mind working hard for whatever new and exciting challenge presents itself next, and of course aid in heart health. As an entrepreneur working to build the perfect business, managing stress, long hours and late nights can take a toll and it’s easy to run through a drive through or cook comfort foods that have little nutrition. Though it does take a bit of an effort to start a meal plan or to prep vegetables, I’m here as your resident health coach to let you know that it gets easier with time and a sense of purpose. Head over to this online guide for endless recipes that are plant strong and enjoy the mental fortitude it will bring.

In December we held an event at thinkspace about personal branding. Alec Mountain, Meetup host and Founder of Product Blitz, shared insight and tips about personal branding: “the brand you build around yourself and ultimately, the reputation people come to know and expect from you.” Alec explained that reputation can make all the difference in helping you land more opportunities, create better connections, and live a more fulfilling lifestyle.

The personal branding trend can drive benefits to your company. Though I’m not a marketing professional, I do have fairly strong research skills and thought I’d invest some time into learning more about this trend. What I found was that there were three overarching themes in how to strengthen your personal brand: be an expert, be authentic, create content.

Be an expert. What are you you good at? What do people know you for? If you are able to answer this question, than you solved the first challenge, but now make sure you truly are an expert on it. Read about it, write about it, practice it. Your niche is out there and when you can dial in on the thing you are expert about, they will be out there looking for you. The more specific, the better. Imagine being in need of a vegan marathoner health coach (shameless plug). There can’t be too many of those out there and to dial that into my SEO will help those searching for me that much easier.

Be authentic. Speaking about your own experience can go a long way. Not only will followers and potential customers feel a connection to you, but they will also learn to trust you and your suggestions. That being said, content shouldn’t always be about marketing and trying to be “salesy.” Followers are interested in seeing what you do in your downtime, whether it’s hiking, snowshoeing, standup comedy, or where you eat.  For example, if you recently tried the new baked potato restaurant in Ballard, Papas Hot Potatoes, and want to scream about how exciting the menu is, make sure to share about it.

Create content. Without content, what do you have to share? Without content, what expertise are you able to offer? While blog posts such as this certainly count towards content, the ease and popularity of videos on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube make it a popular choice. Experts in the field claim it as the hottest piece of content to produce. Personal branding experts tell you to come up with a purpose for your video; choose whether you want to educate, entertain or inspire. I’ve created a few videos helping clients learn to cook basic meals, helping them overcome the initial intimidation of cooking from scratch.

Whatever the purpose, it’s most important to simply have one. Ultimately, personal branding is a vehicle to help build brand awareness and help you reach your goals. If content creation or personal branding is something you are passionate about, I’d love to hear what kind of content you create and invite you to share your expertise with the thinkspace community. Is your expertise in another area? I invite you to share it with us in your own guest blog post! Email thinkspace and let us know you’re interested.

Resources: Entrepreneur.com , Forbes.com, Briar Prestidge





The “How I Work” series, most noteworthy done by Lifehacker, has been reproduced by multiple authors for good reason: people love to hear from successful and influential people and learn the intricacies of their day-to-day. It can be inspiring and motivating to hear about the best, and oftentimes most simplistic practices.  In our “How I Work” interview we refined our questions by adding a few of our own and spiced them up with inspiration from Lifehacker as well as thinkspace mentor Matt Heinz. If you’re interested in checking out our previous “How I Work” interviews they get compiled here.

In this edition you’ll be hearing from Rick Miller from Richard Miller CPA, who has provided accounting and financial planning out of thinkspace Redmond for almost four years. Prior to working for himself,  Rick provided tax consulting and accounting services for small businesses, estates/trusts and individuals working as Sr. Tax Manager for Nordberg, Hammack, Kolp & CashPS.  When not with family, Rick can be seen on his bike cycling both for fun and to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  

Name: Rick Miller

Current Gig: Sole Owner of Richard Miller CPA

One word that best describes how you work: Holistic

Current mobile device: iPhone

Favorite verb: moving

Grit Score: 4.1 (If you’re interested in learning your Grit Score take the test here.)

How do you recharge or take a break from work? I ride my bike; an average ride will be about 30 miles.

What was your dream job/passion project as a kid? Geologist

Sunrise or sunset:  Sunrise

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today. I was a geology major at University of Idaho, and it just became clear it wasn’t. I looked at college as a trade school and knew I wanted a degree in something that you could actually get a job at. That’s how I got into accounting. I worked for an entrepreneur, an accountant by trade, and learned that I could take accounting and take it anywhere in business. I didn’t want to work  at a large firm and gravitated to small firm accounting and it fit me well. I was always a small business guy. Two years in Baker, Oregon turned into 10 years. We moved to Washington to be close to family and I ended up on my own since 2004.

Number of unread emails right now? 40 that are important, then probably a lot of junk.

First thing you do when you come into work? Look to see if anybody has sent an email overnight. I try to start each day with correspondence.

What is your email management strategy? I don’t have folders or anything like that. If I have an assistant one day I’d have each client with a folder. Currently, I pay the extra space from GoDaddy and sort junk and clear deleted emails. If I can deal with an email in it’s entirety, great. Otherwise I flag it and it becomes my task list. Whoever thought to create the “unread an email” option is a genius.

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused?  I have to embrace that there are days that there is more work that comes in that I can do, and that’s okay. I keep a list and prioritize it or ask who is the squeaky wheel that I don’t want to deal with if I wouldn’t get it done. I know afternoon isn’t the time to start a big project, so that’s when I can choose things that will be easy to get from A to Z on. I to to find a way to find momentum.

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I’m still on that journey to tell you the truth. My clients all go through the same projection. They are grow, grow, grow, and I take on a lot of work. Then companies hit a second stage of how to make the same amount of money, but work less. The third phase is asking how much income do I actually need and how to cut back. Looking for that transition is stage four. I don’t know too many successful people that just stop.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success?  Yes, answering correspondences first thing in the morning usually; and working on simpler, less complex tasks during the day when there are many interruptions.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My creative solutions cloud, which contains most of my tax and accounting related software programs.

Last thing you do before leaving work? Look at the next day’s schedule.

Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?  Mainly clients and their bookkeepers. Good communication as to what I need to do my work is critical.

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal with it? Tackling something that I’m not 100% sure about, or that is new to me – which will involve a learning curve. I try to block out some uninterrupted time to deal with these.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend? I just finished Dan Abram’s book about Lincoln’s last trial (before being nominated in 1860 for President). I’m also about 1/2 way through H.G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine.’

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? Todd Flynn, CPA CFP at Soundmark Wealth MGMT; Brian Bircher, CPA at Martin, Bircher, Thompson, CPAS; Richard Cash, CPA at Novogradoc CPAS; Doug Purd, CPA (RETIRED).

What is your working process like? I work alone; no employees on all planning and implementation projects. I heavily rely on client correspondences during an engagement. ‘ Out of dialogue comes truth.”

Describe your workspace?  Single office in Redmond; C-shaped desk; good sound system with computer for Pandora and Youtube Music while working.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack? Not needing to keep everything or scan every single piece of paper that comes my way. Get your work done: scan what’s truly important. 

How do you keep track of what you have to do?  To do lists, project tracking features in my tax software.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? The only person who is ever going to make your life better is you. Like the Great Steve Harvey has said, “You gotta jump.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? It’s cliche, but I do get my best ideas for helping clients or “thinking outside the box” when doing something totally different, like riding my bike or mowing the lawn. It’s important for me to get away from my work in order to do my best work.

Interested in becoming a “How I Work” spotlight? Contact Stephanie and she’ll be excited to come chat!

thinkspace Seattle has stand up paddle boards for members that were launched this summer. Peter Chee, founder of thinkspace, demonstrates how non-intimidating this can be for the beginner.

One of my favorite things about thinkspace Seattle is that I can see so clearly over Lake Union to Eastlake and no matter today or in five years, it will be the same or similar view; that is they won’t be building on top of water anytime soon. I also find watching the seaplanes taking off and landing fascinating not to mention the fancy of all the yachts, sailboats, and rowers I see daily. While sitting in the coworking space I find that I am oftentimes inspired to write, to create, or brainstorm with my team and apparently this isn’t unique. According to marine biologist and author Wallace J. Nichols, “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment” is triggered when we are in, or near water.

Wallace explains “When we step away from our high-stressed lives and step into nature, we get a shift. Physiologically, our brains and bodies change. We relax, and the quality of our thought changes. A different brain network activates. That brain network is available for a completely different kind of quality of thought which is much more introspective and self-referential. Oftentimes it leads to feelings of connectedness and that can lead to innovative thoughts.”

Life and work might seem high-stressed but at thinkspace it’s juxtaposed to nature, so harnessing that balance is accessible. When I’m perplexed or feeling confined, I’m literally a doorway away from the patio, or a walk along the waterfront. As I write this I’m looking at the water investigating my own thoughts, which are indeed introspective. If anything else, I’m inspired to show up because I love where I get to spend my day, and the work will come. If you’re interested in reading more about Nichols’ book here’s a great article from The Washington Post.

The “How I Work” series, most noteworthy done by Lifehacker, has been reproduced by multiple authors for good reason: people love to hear from successful and influential people and learn the intricacies of their day-to-day. It can be inspiring and motivating to hear about the best, and oftentimes most simplistic practices.  

Bi-monthly, you’ll hear from thinkspace’s Stephanie Slaton, Executive Assistant of thinkspace CEO Peter Chee, as she makes her way around the office getting to know you. In our “How I Work” series, thinkspace will feature members from Redmond and Seattle who are veteran entrepreneurs or startup techies, answering what will become our standard “How I Work” questions.  You’ll be able to catch up on previous featured stars here as well. This “How I Work” entry features Tiffany Larson of ZappBug, a thinkspace Seattle member.

Name:  Tiffany Larson

Current Gig:  I do both Marketing Management and Web Management at ZappBug

One word that best describes how you work:  Sprints

Current mobile device: IPhone X

Favorite verb: Strive

Grit Score: 3.70 (If you’re interested in learning your Grit Score take the test here)


How do you recharge or take a break from work? I take short walks

What was your dream job/passion project as a kid? I was obsessed with animals and wanted to be a Veterinarian. But as I got a little bit older there was a live stream on tv of archaeologists unearthing mummies in Egypt and after that, all I wanted to be was an archaeologist and go to Egypt.

Sunrise or sunset:  Sunset

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.  I graduated from college with my degree in Visual Communications and Design. I graduated during the recession and getting a Graphic Design job was nearly impossible. I had an interest in web design and development but my school didn’t offer much at the time, so I taught myself the basics of front-end development. With the help of a little saying “Fake it until you make it,” I was able to get my first web development job for an eCommerce store. I moved on to a social media marketing company and from there to my current role at ZappBug.

Number of unread emails right now? Thirteen in my work inbox, 5000+ in my personal. I make sure I check for important emails and I just ignore the others.

First thing you do when you come into work? I have to get coffee. 

What is your email management strategy? I read what is important and then once every couple months I do a mass delete of all the spam and non-important emails .

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused?   I make lists for everything. By breaking down larger projects into small tasks it helps me to stay focus and not overwhelmed. I feel a lot more accomplished when I can look at a project and see half the tasks checked off. 

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I think it is super important to have a good balance. If you work too hard for too long it can really drain you. I have worked for companies in the past that didn’t believe in the balance and it just burns you out. I am very lucky to currently work for a company that believes strongly in a work/life balance.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success? I work in sprints. I spend around two hours at a time getting lost in my work and then I get up and go for a short walk and repeat. 

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?  PhotoShop, Everything Google (analytics, drive, etc…), and Asana.

Last thing you do before leaving work? I double check that I have completed my list for the day and if there is anything left I create a new one for the start of the next day.

What’s your least favorite thing to do, and how do you deal with it? I do not enjoy writing, especially large pieces of content which is needed for marketing and websites. Writing is not my strong suit, but obviously most jobs involve a lot of writing. I will usually quickly write something up and have someone copy or edit it, or I will just straight up ask or hire someone else to do it for me.

What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend? “Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders.” I have just started it. I am not sure if I would recommend it yet. 

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? I have a couple of college professors that really pushed me to do my best, Brian Kamp and Kristine Hwang.

Describe your workspace? Organized chaos; my desk is always a little messy.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I mentioned earlier, “Fake it until you make it.” We are lucky enough to live in the day of the internet. It is so easy to google anything you don’t know.

Interested in becoming a “How I Work” spotlight? Contact Stephanie at stephanie@thinkspace.com and she’ll be excited to come chat!

Recently, I attended a workshop on Building a Predictable Sales Pipeline by Heinz Marketing. The focus was enablement strategies and tactics to increase your confidence in hitting your number month-after-month. The speaker was Matt Heinz who has over 20 years of marketing and sales experience translating strategy into execution and building a framework that allows your company to generate a net-new sales pipeline with predictability and at scale.

During the workshop, one of my questions was in a “boiler sales room” how many prospects does a sales person have to reach out to every single day, Matt’s response was 130-200 but you can’t have productive conversations. Since I’m not interested in creating a sales boiler room, I asked, what is a reasonable number of people that a sales person should be reaching out to on a daily basis? Matt said, that 40-50 people is considered to be reasonable.

This is the first time that I’ve heard anyone say a specific number. It’s 40 per day.

After hearing that number 40, I decided to start asking questions to sales people that call me. My question to a sale representatives at Outreach.io and to SalesForce.com was how many people do you reach out to regularly? They said about 40 people. They are also said that they are looking for seven (7) meaningful prospects each day of those 40. Meaningful is defined as someone that is genuinely interested in solving their problem with our solution. I also started to research the number 40 and found this: “The average sales rep makes 52 calls every day.” — The Bridge Group 

If you expect your sales people to reach out to 40 people per day, you’re going to need to have a good process. That means you’ve defined things well and you have a good sales sequence. Without a sequence that the team can follow, you’re going to end up with randomness, uneven results, and something that isn’t predictable at all. Sales sequence steps are things like 1) phone call. 2) voice mail. 3) email. 4) social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. 5) newsletters. 6) invitations to events. How many steps are in your sales sequence?

There’s a lot more which was covered by Matt and I’ll continue to blog more about that but I wanted to first touch on the number of prospects that your sales and business development people are reaching out to every day.

Heather Smith, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Jess Stipe, Moz; Nicci Herron, Rover.com

Seattle Startup Week is a week long celebration of entrepreneurship in Seattle. On October 9, 2018 we hosted an event that focused on Executive Assistants with panels of EA’s from small startups to large tech companies. Those in the field know an executive assistant is the unsung hero of the office who is running the show. Executive assistants spend countless hours anticipating the needs and supporting their bosses to make the CEO look good and of course to keep him or her organized. Though there are endless professional development and conference options for any given profession, executive assistants don’t have much to depend on in this arena. Peter Chee, CEO and founder of thinkspace, and his EA, Stephanie Slaton, decided to take on the task of bringing together EA’s from all over the Seattle area and create the opportunity for a shared learning experience.

Leslie Hall, Amazon; Lynanne Lewis, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Sheena McKinney, Heinz Marketing

The first two panels included amazing Executive Assistants from Amazon, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rover.com, Heinz Marketing, and Moz, and excitingly the final panel highlighted both the CEO and EA from Heinz Marketing, to capture how to best partner in this role.

We were able to transcribe Matt Heinz and Sheena McKinney’s responses to this final panel and have shared it below. Head over to the livestream links to all three of the panel discussions to hear more!

Video link to Panel 1 – Train Like the CEO/Executive That You Support
Video link to Panel 2 – Tips and Tools From the Best EA’s in Seattle
Video link to Panel 3 – How Best to Partner With Your EA

Matt Heinz & Sheena McKinney, Heinz Marketing; Stephanie Slaton & Peter Chee, thinkspace

The last panel showcased Matt Heinz, CEO of Heinz Marketing and Sheena McKinney, Executive Assistant to Matt. It was great to see the two of them on stage together, interacting, and communicating. They have been working together for four and half years so it was good see what a well-oiled machine looks like. Below are some of the questions that we asked them starting with a lightning round of questions:

Interview Lightning Round:

What is your favorite guilty pleasure TV show? 

Sheena: I watch a lot of HGTV and Food Network, but I must confess…. with emphasis on the word “guilty” vs. “favorite” … I watch The Bachelor.  I know.  It’s embarrassing.  My own brother almost disowned me when he heard I watched the show.

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? 

Sheena: I’m pretty task oriented so I tend to think about things I need to do.  I press the home button on my mounted-hands-free iPhone and tell Siri “add eggs to my groceries list” or “remind me tomorrow at 10 o’clock to update the spreadsheet”.  I will also say– on the way to work I listen to the radio in my attempt to keep current and on the way home I listen to my book club books on Audible.

What is a hidden talent you have that has come in handy at work? 

Sheena: I find writing comes easily for me.  I’m able to send off emails without too much thought and occasionally I get to write blog posts for our blog.

Best Partnering Questions:

First, how long have you been working together?  4 ½ years

Matt, one of the key reasons Peter was hiring an EA was to open up time, 5 hours a week specifically. What are your top reasons for hiring an EA and how has hired Sheena changed the way you work?

Matt: Having a great executive assistant can make you literally 3-5X more productive than you can be on your own.  It’s not just taking stuff off your plate, it’s delegating those things and having them done better, faster, smarter.  And when I focus on the right things, it has an exponential impact on my business.

What are your work styles and how do you compliment one another? 


    • We are both zero inbox people.  I’m so addicted to the freedom of this approach I’m also a zero-saved-texts person. Anything I might need from a text I copy/paste/save elsewhere. For sentimental conversations like a mushy note from my husband or a screen full of emojis from my granddaughter, I take a screenshot and save it to my photos.
    • The way we approach tasks and information is very similar.  Matt is a David Allen “Getting Things Done (GTD) guy and I originally learned the Franklin Covey system back in the early 1990’s (when Matt was about 14 years old— which makes me feel really old!).  There are a lot of similarities, especially in GTD’s Five basic steps.
    • I’m naturally more here/now minded and less future minded.  Matt’s really good at short, mid, and long term planning and goals so I think we compliment each other here.
    • I’m more detail oriented (not that Matt isn’t).
    • I have perfectionistic tendencies… Matt is better and letting “Good” be “Good Enough”
    • He works better in the morning, I work better in the afternoon

Matt: Before we hired Sheena, our HR consultant told me I needed to find someone who would take an assignment and think through the next 4-5 steps to get it done (vs me having to telegraph it).  Sheena does that really well and isn’t afraid to come back to ask for further detail.

We also have our own hidden language of sorts.  For example, I’ll reply to someone telling them I’m happy to grab an intro call with them and copy Sheena.  Sheena knows that means a 30-minute call, knows when during the day to avoid scheduling it, etc.  These levels of efficiency take time but they add to the extreme benefit of having an EA.

Expectations are important and communication is key. As the Executive Assistant, how do you set expectations with Matt? How does he set expectations with you?  

Sheena: Yes, communication is key and we are in almost constant email communication.  Our weekly 1:1 meeting is also a key way to set and communicate expectations.  Sometimes, we’ll email each other prior to our meeting when the list is longer and/or needs some previous thought or research.  Our annual review is really helpful in setting goals and areas of improvement.

How do you decide when it’s appropriate to use “short but sweet” communication vs. detailed communication? 

The key word here is “decide” I naturally lean toward too much detail but I’ve learned to be as succinct and concise as possible at all times– because of whom I married and because most of the exec’s (current one included) strongly prefer “short but sweet”.  I sometimes (literally) will reply to an email with “Short Story:……….and list the info. with bold fonts, underlines, highlights, etc. and below that, “Long Story:…. And then list out all the detail and back story… knowing full well he may not read it… but it makes me feel better and in some cases, if he questions the short answer… the longer one will help him understand why I arrived at my conclusion/decision.

How do you know when to solve a problem on your own or to ask for help?

Sheena: Plan A is to always try to solve the problem. 1.) I have self-sufficiency issues, 2.) It’s my job to gate keep and let Matt do what he does best.  If it’s a completely new issue where I do not have previous experience from which to draw, I’ll ask for help… sometimes from one of our VP’s who has been around longer and knows Matt and our business better.  If the outcome of the problem could negatively reflect on Matt and/or Heinz Marketing, I will ask for help because I/we care about integrity a lot and I’d rather be safe than sorry.  Fortunately Matt is good and quick at making decisions and is so approachable I feel pretty free in asking when I do need to ask for help.

What have you found to be the most effective way to work together?

Sheena: Open, continual communication is key.  I truly want feedback, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re both comfortable with fierce conversations.  Also believing and assuming the best is important. Mutual respect and expressing appreciation is crucial.  At a previous job I had no idea how I stood with my boss.  It wasn’t until months into the job at the company Christmas party (and the alcohol was flowing) I found out from my co-workers how much my boss appreciated me and was glad he hired me. Matt does a great job of showing appreciation and confidence in me and that’s priceless.

We have startup founders and CEOs in the crowd today too, what advice can you give about how to hire and onboard your EA. 

Matt: Do what I did, start the week by making a list of all the things you do that someone else could do for you.  Next to that write how long it took.  At the end of the day look at how many things and how much time is reflected, and consider the opportunity cost of what you could have spent that time doing.  It won’t take you long to do the math and start the hiring process!