Meet Barbara Cameron, 2011 Administrative Professionals Innovation Award Winner

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

American Management Association is pleased to honor Barbara Cameron as the winner of AMA’s 2011 Innovation Award for Administrative Professionals. Barbara, an administrative assistant for Capital One in Richmond, Virginia, received the award at the 19th Annual Administrative Professionals Conference in Nashville on October 4.

Barbara came up with the idea for her winning entry, “Admin U,” when she recognized the need for a collective place for administrative training to serve the hardworking, dedicated administrative professionals at Capital One. She formed a team of 10 colleagues with diverse backgrounds to create a training program for all of Capital One’s 650 assistants throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. With training offered both live in the classroom and online, Admin U has been a huge success: to date over 200 assistants have participated.

When presenting Barbara with her Award, Andrea Iadanza, Director of Portfolio Management and Operations for American Management Association, told the audience:

“Today we celebrate an innovation which began with an administrative assistant realizing a long-held dream: to bring to life training opportunities for the administrative assistants in her company. Seeing a need to harness packaged training, she created Admin U, a ‘college’ for assistants. She and her team were able to launch this program in six weeks.”

We spoke to Barbara Cameron to learn more about her award-winning innovation:

How did Admin U come to be?
I work in a large corporation with administrative assistants around the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. Capital One acquired Hibernia Banks in 2005, North Fork Banks in 2008, and Chevy Chase Banks in 2009. Due to these acquisitions, new assistants were suddenly faced with all new systems, processes, and procedures. They were expected to come up to speed very quickly. I discussed the situation with my manager and we talked about the need for some standardized training for all of the new assistants. As a former teacher, I have an enormous passion for my profession and for sharing information. I developed a project plan and a team to hold classes at some of our remote locations to help integrate our new assistants. The team worked on this project for over a year, visiting New York, New Jersey, Dallas, and New Orleans.

This past June, I was approached and asked if I would consider organizing my freelance teaching into something larger. I jumped at the opportunity to lead the effort, quickly forming a great team. We received executive support and a budget, then created a mission statement, set goals, and created a logo. On July 1 we announced the creation of Admin U as a “college” for assistants, where they can enroll in classes according to their level, experience, needs, or interests.

One really exciting thing about Admin U is that it is a training initiative created by assistants, for assistants, based on feedback from assistants.

Talk a bit about the importance of executive support for this project.
I am fortunate to work for an executive who supports and encourages this venture. When I took the lead on the project, it became overwhelming very quickly. I wanted to do it all, for everyone, and I wanted to do it NOW! I received some great coaching from my manager, who suggested that I step back and roll the project out in phases. That approach really helped, because I didn’t want to say no to anyone. It allowed me to organize requests by placing them into particular phases of the rollout and also gave me the time I needed to work on the curriculum and get my first group of trainers up and running. This approach also helped me focus on the big picture, planning site visits for the various locations.

At Capital One we have an Administrative Professional Network, which is the central point for all administrative newsletters, announcements, and so forth. That network has an executive sponsor and we were fortunate to be funded by the network, with the blessing of their executive. Now we have other executives approaching us saying they, too, want to become involved.

What are some of the successes for Admin U?
I am proud to say that we have been incredibly successful. After completing the roll out phase and phase one, we are now recognized by Capital One as a sanctioned “college.” This is the first time our assistants have their own “college” that offers the tools we need to perform our jobs and enhance our careers. We began by offering four tracks aimed at different skill levels. Over time, we will steadily increase the number and type of classes we offer. 

What are your plans for the future of Admin U?
In order to keep Admin U growing, I am creating a Train the Trainer program where a select group of assistants from all of our locations will be brought to our campus in Richmond to participate in a Facilitator’s Conference. The goal is to put them on track to receive a Facilitation Certification. We believe that having multiple trainers in multiple locations will help make Admin U sustainable for years to come.

What advice can you give other assistants who want to introduce innovations in their companies?
Here’s what I told the wonderful APs who were in the audience at the Administrative Professionals Conference in Nashville:

In thinking about innovation and the creation of Admin U, four words come to mind:
• Passion: you have to have it and want share it.
• Branding: you will be known for something; pick well.
• Boldness: you must step out of our comfort zone; think big.
• Leadership: you never know what you can accomplish until you put your mind to it.

I also reminded them that you are NEVER too old to improve your health, learn something new, or to step out and innovate!

It’s not too early to think about AMA’s 2012 Administrative Professionals Innovation Award. We will keep you posted about how to nominate yourself or your team in upcoming issues of Administrative Excellence.