Olympia and Bonnie

Olympia and Bonnie


In order to be a top PA or Industry professional, it is vital to look to others for their expertise, wisdom and guidance in the industry. One of those exceptional people is Bonnie-Low Kramen, who graciously gave back to Savvy readers with the below Q & A.  Bonnie will  be speaking at the upcoming BEL event {along with myself}, is a successful published author &  offers customized training workshops for other PA’s in the industry through bonnielowkramen.com.

Q & A with Bonnie:

LH: Ecstatic  to see you in the upcoming BEL conference speaker line-up! What topics are you eager to share with other professionals?

Bonnie: In the past month, I sat in the front row for two of the world’s most prominent leadership and workplace experts: Sheryl Sandberg, author of the genius book Lean In and Jack Zenger, author of How to Be Exceptional. I am going to share with the BEL audience what I learned from Sheryl and Jack, including the secrets of embracing your tremendous power as an assistant and why it is necessary for you to manage your manager. When that happens, you change the world around you and the positive effects are transforming and profound. I will also be talking about leadership lessons from my 25 year career working as the Personal Assistant to Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis. We are going to have a great time. I hope you’ll join us!

LH: From one author to another, kudos on writing your book! What makes your book unique from other PA books & what is one tip from the book to share with readers to apply in their busy PA life?


Bonnie: Thank you, Lindsey! “Be the Ultimate Assistant, A celebrity assistant’s secrets to working with any high-powered employer” pulls the curtain back on a profession about which there is great curiosity, myth, and mystery. The book is not theory. As one of my students commented, “It’s the real stuff. No fluff.” In addition to my own experiences, my very generous colleagues contributed real-life stories which paint the picture of what it is really like to work as an assistant at the highest levels.

One tip from the book – Pay attention to the first thing out of someone’s mouth. That tells you the most important thing on their mind. If they repeat it, treat that as a red flag of the highest priority. My thanks to the wonderful psychologist Dr. Maddy Gerrish for this tidbit. Try it. It’s so true.

{Savvy insider:  BEST tip! I tried this & it is amazing! What a great way to connect with others}

LH:  For our readers to know, your co-pilot for your workshops,etc. is Vickie Sokol Evans. How did you meet your professional teammate & what makes you guys the ultimate duo?

Bonnie and Vickie

Bonnie: Vickie Sokol Evans and I have known each other for about 10 years and we met through a mutual colleague at New York Celebrity Assistants (NYCA) which is the organization I co-founded 17 years ago. Vickie and I spoke on the phone and I knew immediately that all assistants need to know what Vickie teaches. I am not kidding when I say that she is the best technology trainer in the country. What makes her so good? She is not only a Microsoft Certified Trainer but she is a former assistant so she totally “gets” what assistants need to do their job. On top of all that, Vickie studied improv comedy so she makes a typically dry subject unbelievably accessible, entertaining, and very, very fun.

One of the smartest things I’ve done is to team up with Vickie because she cares as much as I do about giving Personal and Executive assistants the tools they need to go as high in the profession as they desire. I am committed and passionate about the soft skills of organization, problem-solving, leadership, and communication and Vickie is equally committed and passionate about the hard skills of technology and productivity. I have the deepest respect for Vickie. I hope every assistant gets to see her in action and learn, laugh, and learn some more.

In the 2013 workplace, training is no longer an option. Ultimate Assistants don’t just happen by magic. There is simply too much to know to wing it anymore.

So now Vickie and I travel the world together and we have become great friends and she happens to be a terrific roommate too.

LH: Your travel schedule takes you to a whirlwind of Cosmopolitan cities, each with their own flavor of style. It’s hard to pack lightly when going from San Fran, NY to Miami! What travel & packing tips have you learned when trying to travel light yet look stylishly professional for each city?

Bonnie: I keep notes of what outfit I wear in each city because it’s impossible to remember. The photographs tell the story! I am diligent about checking the weather where I am going so I’m warm enough and dressed properly. I’m not a fan of being cold. I also have a really cozy and cushy eye mask for sleeping from Brookstone. I haven’t learned how to travel light, unfortunately.

eye mask

I just had something happen two weeks ago that never happened in 25 years working for Olympia. My connecting flight was cancelled and I was put on a different flight but my suitcase didn’t make it. I was speaking at 9AM and my suitcase did not get to me until noon! I taught the workshop in the same clothes that I had traveled in. Fortunately, my audience of 90 assistants in Evansville, Indiana had a great sense of humor and didn’t mind my lack of style at all. They applauded when my suitcase showed up.

Lesson learned: Pack my speaking clothes in my carry on.
2nd Lesson Learned: Never stop learning!

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~ More questions for Bonnie? Tweet her at:  @bonnielowkramen~

Thanks Bonnie! See you soon in NYC!