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CEO Spotlight: Accepting the Challenge of Entrepreneurship

Madeleine Beach

Marketing Coordinator - 08 Feb, 2022

Joanna Ericta talks seizing opportunity and navigating self-doubt

Joanna Ericta is co-founder and CEO of The Assist, a weekly newsletter providing career development and work productivity tips. It’s beloved by a strong community for its personality and professional-pointers on navigating the workplace. While Joanna’s now a pro at what she does, her current job wasn’t something she ever anticipated: The Assist was the product of a bit of luck, a lot of hard work, and seeing opportunity within a challenge.

Her path to email marketing CEO has been a little unconventional, but her varied experience is a tribute to how adaptability and resilience are two key ingredients in entrepreneurship. Joanna began her career in the music industry, she did a little bit of everything – interning for a label, doing admin work for an instrument company, talent buying for a music venue, working music festivals, and even managing events for The Cleveland Orchestra.

When Joanna moved back home to Los Angeles, she switched into the tech industry and started working at ZipRecruiter running marketing events. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, she was furloughed. She found herself working a part time job community managing Facebook groups – which, unknown to her at the time, would be the experience that inspired The Assist.

“I’ve been working hard my entire life, constantly feeling like a jack of all trades but a master of none; well, turns out that my “random” experience in accounting, or that one year I learned to build backlinks, has really paid off as an entrepreneur.” - Joanna Ericta

One of the groups Joanna was charged with managing was a private Facebook group for executive assistants. It was a high-engagement group where over 10K members shared tips and advice with each other on navigating their jobs. But then members started reaching out to Joanna, asking for a more streamlined way to get valuable content that would sometimes get buried amongst the daily posts.

That’s where The Assist began. Joanna and her co-founders launched the newsletter, directed towards a niche audience of executive assistants and administrative professionals, but the team started receiving feedback from readers that their content was useful for so many others as well.

Now, The Assist produces content for the modern professional and has collected a large audience who love the weekly gifs, tips, and bite-sized explainers The Assist provides. Joanna and her team enjoy being able to connect with readers and produce content that has a tangible positive impact.

Hearing that the content we put out has helped instill confidence in our readers when it comes to their professional lives, or that we helped a reader negotiate for a raise at work, really motivates me to keep doing what we’re doing.”- Joanna Ericta

Entrepreneurship hasn’t been without its challenges. When she started The Assist, Joanna didn’t have a strong email marketing background so she had to tackle imposter syndrome (feeling like she wasn’t qualified to be taking on the job). Teaching herself skills on the fly or being the primary problem-solver – and doing that on a regular basis – led her to question herself and whether she was doing things right.

In reality, acquiring skills so quickly was proof of her capability. Her unique professional history had built a very versatile foundation. Looking back, Joanna knows she was well-equipped to deal with the challenges that launching The Assist presented.

Q&A Corner with Joanna

Q: What's the best piece of professional advice you've received so far?

A: One of my co-founders (also my mentor) likes to remind me “action over perfection” whenever we’re testing something new, and it’s really helped my mindset with The Assist. It’s so easy to get caught up in wanting things to be perfect that you either take twice as long to put something out because of it, or not at all. You can always improve something, but you have to try it first.

Q: Do you attribute your success, thus far, to hard work or luck?

A: Both — there’s that quote from Seneca that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”, and I can 100% relate to that. I had been building all these unique skills from my previous professional experiences, so when I was given the opportunity to launch The Assist, I was well equipped to deal with all the challenges that came with it.

Q: How do you find work life balance?

A: For me, work life balance doesn’t mean getting all my work done within a 9-5 schedule because I have the freedom to make my own schedule — but that can be a double edged sword. I find it helpful to schedule my breaks and personal activity times in my calendar (lunch, gym, etc.), and stop feeling guilty about taking a half day or full day off during the week when I would start to feel burned out. I consciously ask myself “does this email need a response or does this task need to be done immediately or can it wait until tomorrow?” — most of the time it can wait.

Q: What's something you do to boost your productivity?

A: I don’t always do these things, but I am most productive when I do them:

  • Write my to-do list the night before
  • Time block my calendar
  • Turn on Do Not Disturb on my phone (iPhone now has ‘work mode’)
  • Listen to a ‘focus’ type playlist on Spotify (like Deep Focus or Lo-Fi Beats on Spotify)

App-wise, I use Google Suite for everything, Canva for quick design needs, & Zapier for automations. Office Otter is good too — it automatically turns your convos on Slack & email into tasks! Prioritizing can also be a challenge because there are a million things we can be doing but have a finite amount of time each day, so I have to stay focused on using my time for the highest leverage activities.

Q: What's a book or podcast you'd recommend to a colleague?

A: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a classic & Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug is also great for anyone working in the digital space, but as far as podcasts go — I recommend My First Million by The Hustle & Shaan Puri.

Q: How do you empower your team to create meaningful work and inspire innovation?

A: I just hired my first full time employee, Cameron, for The Assist this past January (woohoo!). What I’m finding leads to meaningful work is getting a good understanding of her professional aspirations and passions, and leaning into that. I give her the opportunity to work autonomously and we both openly share feedback and opinions whenever we have our weekly 1:1's. I am also super transparent about our company goals and set clear expectations of her. I think having a connection with your team outside of work goes a long way, too — building trust is everything.

Q: What words of wisdom do you have for an aspiring leader?

A: Be patient with yourself, learn how to take feedback, and surround yourself with people who will push you to be better. Becoming a good leader takes consistency, making mistakes and a willingness to grow.