Archive for April, 2012

“We work really well together”–administrative support at Jules

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Chances are if you dial in to Jules Catering from nine to five, Monday thru Friday, you’ll be greeted by either Stephanie Vargas or Daniela Avila–distant cousins, close friends, and administrative support professionals who–without prompting–let us know, “we work really well together,” and “we¬†love our jobs!”

Stephanie (foreground) and Daniela (just across the way) multi-task simultaneously

 A productive collaboration

While each is fully able to support or even sub for the other, and while the work they perform feeds into the same rapid-fire sequence of events through which orders generated by the sales team are transformed into food and service delivered to Jules’ clients, Stephanie is primarily charged with preparing invoices and generating food labels, while Daniela develops the Excel spread sheets upon which all members of the Jules team rely.

“Because Stephanie and I are such close friends, we find it easy to motivate one another,” Daniela explained. “Not just at work, but also outside. For example, each morning before we come into the office we meet at a fitness club and work out together–and Friday nights, when our brains are fried–”

“We let off steam by going dancing with friends,” Stephanie smiled.

Never have they said, “It’s not my job”

Although administrative support responsibilities generally keep them closely tied to computers and phones, each has what it takes to expand beyond their usual roles and take on assignments that fall outside any formal job description. For example:

Short-notice staffing problem? No problem! Both Stephanie and Daniela have wait-staff experience with Jules and can hurry off to a catered event to help serve drinks, pass hors d’oeuvres, clear tables, or…

Oops! A menu item has somehow failed to be loaded onto a van already en route to an event soon to be populated by hungry people? Hand over the keys! Both Stephanie and Daniela know how to negotiate metro-Boston traffic and deliver the goods on time.

With or without wheels, on a regular basis and in a pinch, Daniela and Stephanie deliver!

More often, though, the two can be found at their desks, focusing on their primary responsibilities–responsibilities that are fundamental to pretty much all the work that’s accomplished at Jules.

She’s a young ‘old hand’

Stephanie works up an invoice.

At age 16 Stephanie Vargas began to provide administrative support for Jules. Each day after school, she’d stop by for a couple of hours, to file spreadsheets and help out with other office tasks.

Before long, Stephanie also became a reliable member of the wait-staff team, serving food at Jules-catered events in a variety of venues.

Now, having worked for Jules Catering for eight years, Stephanie understands how the administrative support she provides fits into the big picture: “And the nice thing is, I’m always learning something new, whether I’m picking up tips from the sales people on how I might better interact with clients, or learning some fascinating bit of information about some new-to-me kind of food.”

She excels at Excel

Daniela types up a spreadsheet.

Soon after Daniela Avila graduated from Suffolk University in May 2011, where her studies were “all about business” (i.e., marketing, entrepreneurship, and business management), she was hired by Jules to provide additional administrative support.

“Especially with some of Jules’ longtime clients, who order daily, keeping track of what they’ve ordered in the past is essential. Anita and the chefs are always coming up with something new, which is great because we of course need to keep ‘mixing it up.’ And it helps that we can refer back to spreadsheets that date back as far as nine years, so that the food we provide never becomes run-of-the-mill.”

In addition to working with the all-important spread sheets, Daniela is beginning to develop a Facebook presence for Jules and–when the time is right–she will begin to tweet.

A system that works

What about these spread sheets we see all around, both upstairs and down? we inquired.

Daniela filled us in:¬†“Each morning, first thing, I separate out from every order written up by members of the sales team each menu item that needs to be ordered, prepared, and delivered the following day. I work with the white copies, Stephanie will eventually develop invoices from the pink copies, yellow copies go to the cold kitchen, green go to the hot. The challenge is to be absolutely accurate and to leave nothing out–and also to make things perfectly clear so that chefs, drivers, everyone can easily grasp the information they need to deliver the right food to the right client on time.”

Stephanie weighed in:¬†“As soon as Daniela finishes with spreadsheets for the following day–usually about 4 or 4:15 each afternoon–I begin to create food labels. Nothing is handwritten, and we’ve developed a color-code system (for example, orange highlighter represents hot food) so that everyone involved in the work flow can see at a glance which particular tasks must be tackled by each particular person. Because on a typical day we’re dealing with at least 50 orders, this is a fast-paced, deadline-driven type of operation, with little-to-no room for error.”

But it’s never boring! On that–and so much else–Stephanie and Daniela agree.

Stephanie and Daniela would love to hear from you!

Photo Credits: Liz Muir


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Jules supports admin support!

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Because April 25 marks the 60th anniversary of Administrative Professionals Day (known prior to 2000 as ‘Professional Secretaries Day’), and because the celebration runs through all of next week,¬†we checked in with Jules’ Executive Chef Albert Rosado, who confirmed that some clients are showing their appreciation by pre-arranging celebratory buffets.

      Jules gears up for Administrative Professionals Week, April 22-28

It was too soon to photograph food being prepared for next week’s celebrations, Albert advised, but he was able to share several of the menu items Jules’ customers have selected for upcoming buffets:

Chicken Brochettes
Poached Jumbo Shrimp
Barbeque Boneless Short Ribs
Diver Scallops with Smoked Paprika Sauce
Saffron Risotto Cake

Administrative Professionals Week, 2012

Celebrated worldwide by millions of people, Administrative Professionals Week represents an opportunity for executives and managers to formally recognize support personnel whose performance of ever-more demanding and technical tasks is absolutely central to smoothly functioning office teams.

According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics cited at¬†the International Association of Administrative Professionals‘ website, more than 4.1 million secretaries and administrative assistants are working in the U.S. today, and 8.9 million people are working in what is termed “various administrative support roles.” So while¬†“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”¬†is a catchy title, it’s the stuff of myth, in no small part because success in business tends to require a¬†lot¬†of administrative support.

‘The Pulse of the Office’ and the ‘Mad Men Effect’

The theme of this year’s week of appreciation is ‘Admins, the Pulse of the Office.’ This was among the noteworthy tidbits we picked up at the¬†IAAP website, where we also learned that over the past several years an ever-growing number of admins are adopting ‚Äúsecretary‚ÄĚ as a job title. This trend has led some to speculate that the popular AMC series Mad Men¬†might be “stoking nostalgia for the¬†1950s-era¬†classic image of the American corporate secretary.” (The IAAP refers to this as the¬†‚ÄúMad Men¬†Effect.‚ÄĚ)

Other items that caught our eye were¬†results of¬†a survey on office technology. For example, when asked which “extinct technology admins would like to bring back,” about 25% identified the electric typewriter.¬†This last finding triggered a musical memory that dates back to a time when manual typewriters held sway. Given that it’s late on a Friday and the music is a fine way to kick off the weekend, we introduce to you, without further ado, percussionist Martin Breinschmid¬†and the Strau√ü Festival Orchestra¬†performing¬†Leroy Anderson‘s “Typewriter”:

A challenging profession

Providing administrative support can be fun and rewarding, but challenges abound.

Post- Great Recession admins are so busy it can be tough to stay afloat!

An enlightening 2011 benchmarking survey conducted by the IAAP collected data on job responsibilities, job satisfaction, and other real-world issues. Among the findings: Admins feel more pressure at work as a result of the economy and significant daily challenges, which include:

  • ‚ÄúJuggling multiple priorities‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúDealing with difficult people and personalities‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúNot having enough time to complete work.‚ÄĚ

Study findings also suggest that the trend toward fewer admins doing more work is likely to continue. According to this survey, respondents report that the most significant issues facing them over the next five to 10 years are:

  1. Keeping up with changing technology
  2. Increased workload
  3. Doing more with fewer resources/cost reductions
  4. Balancing work and family
  5. Corporate downsizing

Give him flowers?

Long used to test typewriter keyboards "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is an English-language pangram (which means it includes every letter of the alphabet).

Who doesn’t love a spring bouquet?

But while administrative professionals appreciate any demonstration of thanks, they tend to be a pragmatic lot, whose Wish Lists include opportunities to learn and grow.

So says the same IAAP survey, which advises companies aiming to attract and retain highly skilled administration professionals to be aware that growth opportunities are a top priority for admins looking for new positions.

And that’s not all…

Because Administrative Professionals Week runs from April 22 thru April 28, and because we are already tapping out a related post profiling the two talented admins who support Jules Catering’s multifaceted operations, we hope you will stay tuned for more!

This blogger provides her own administrative support

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to read over the weekend, check out one of the novels briefly described in a recent NPR broadcast,¬†Skirting The Job: 3 Secretaries With Novel Ideas:

  • Loitering with Intent – Muriel Spark
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson and Twycross Martin-Henrietta
  • Novel on Yellow Paper – Stevie Smith

For whatever it’s worth… While we haven’t yet read anything by Watson and Martin-Henrietta, we think highly of Muriel Spark and Stevie Smith.


Photo and YouTube Video Credits:
Jules’ Buffet Setup: Liz Muir
Leroy Anderson’s¬†“The Typewriter”: Martin Breinschmid
“Typing Pool”: Wikimedia Commons, Deutsches Bundesarchiv
Civilian Conservation Corps Typing Class with W.P.A Instructor: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library & Museum
Italian Operatic Soprano Amelita Galli-Curci Typing in Fur Coat circa 1920: Library of Congress  

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Table talk

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Anita Baglaneas and members of the Jules team set a buffet table and strategize party flow.

“A table should enhance the food, not dominate or distract,” Anita replied, when we asked about her approach to setting a buffet table. “The simpler the better.¬†Like a frame that properly sets off a painting, a table should promote the food’s natural good looks.”

What about this, we wondered, peering at the organic-seeming synthetic, just below…

Exotic mushrooms? Fragile seashells? No, this is a closeup view of a table runner.

“What drew me to the table runner,”¬†Anita enthused, “was the texture and color. Once I had this in hand, ideas began to percolate. And when I visited the Boston Flower Market and lucked into rosy crabapples and mini-pumpkins on the vine, it all began to come together.”

Crabapples and mini-pumpkins await arrangement.

Beyond all this, the addition of complementary-colored green figs “really jazzed things up.”

Green figs accent the warm colors of copper, crabapples, and mini-pumpkins.

“One of the advantages of this arrangement,” Anita added, “was that fragrance wouldn’t be an issue. The scent of fresh flowers can sometimes compete in an off-putting way with the food.”

When we expressed interest in the foundational elements used to support this buffet, Anita said, “I like to add vertical interest because no matter how beautiful the food, if it’s presented at all one level it can look unappetizingly¬†flat!”

The underlying structure in any buffet table setup is key.

“This is really basic,” she continued ” but presenting food at different heights makes it ¬†more accessible to guests and, when artfully arranged, varying heights can add to the visual appeal.”

Here, at last, the table is ready to party!

Photo Credits: Liz Muir


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We’ve launched a blog!

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

By way of introducing this new venture, we turned to Jules’ Owner-Chef Anita Baglaneas, who (in a mere minute-and-a-half) profiles the full-service catering company she founded in 1987:

“This video captures a lot,” Anita explains, “but if you scroll down through the blog, you’ll see that since the end of last year we’ve been building a little backlog of posts. And we will be adding new content no less than once a week. So whether you’re a prospective customer stopping by for the first time or someone who has been with Jules over the course of the 25 years we’ve been in business, we hope to engage you, we hope you will follow us, we hope to hear from you. And if it turns out that you¬†‘like’ our blog or feel inclined to ‘share’ us or subscribe to email updates…well, all the better! Bottom line, though, we want to thank you…thank you for taking an interest…thank you for tuning in.”

YouTube Photo Credits: Liz Muir

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