West Windsor, N.J. -- When MCCC alumna Christine (Macaulay) Eggert ’79 (A.A.S., Office Systems Technology) started out professionally 30 years ago, her job title was secretary and her main duties included typing, shorthand and, yes, making coffee.
These days she is the office supervisor and executive assistant to the CEO of Celator Pharmaceuticals, a Princeton-based biopharmaceutical company making exciting strides in the delivery of cancer drugs. She is also a Certified Professional Secretary, Microsoft Certified Application Specialist Expert, Microsoft Master Instructor and Microsoft Certified Trainer in Office 2003 and 2007. She spends time in the evening teaching courses in office technology at MCCC, her alma mater.
In her day job at Celator, Eggert wears many hats. She prepares the IT budget, serves as liaison to the company’s board of directors, plans board meetings six times a year and makes travel arrangements for a long list of VIPs to destinations in the United States and abroad. She has a company counterpart in Vancouver, Canada, with whom she coordinates daily.
Eggert has also become a technology guru for this firm’s office of 16 employees, teaching in-house workshops four times a year and fielding questions every day. With most employees do their own word processing, her role is one of problem solver. “It keeps my brain exercised,” she says. “There is always an answer; you just have to find it.”
On any given day, Eggert may also handle human resources, public relations, event planning, administrative, accounting, project management and marketing duties – as well as greet visitors in the reception area. It all adds up to a very full plate. “No two days are ever the same,” she says.
The changes in Eggert’s field have been profound since the days she studied secretarial science at Mercer County Community College in the late 1970s. Attending Mercer was an easy decision for Eggert, fresh out of Ewing High School. “I won a full one-year scholarship from the Ewing Lions Club. I always knew I wanted to be a secretary, so Mercer was a perfect choice for me.” She funded her second year of college working as a bank teller and in part-time secretarial jobs.
Eggert studied at Mercer before computers were even part of the office technology curriculum. “In those days, computers took up whole rooms. No one used them in their office,” she observes. Instead she learned skills such as typing and stenography (which she still uses today). She recalls her Mercer years as highly productive. Even a course in Business Law proved helpful in one of her subsequent jobs. “My Mercer education was practical and hands-on. I learned the tools I needed to succeed.”
Eggert’s first full-time position was with the New Jersey Hospital Association. Starting as a staff assistant, she was promoted to customer relations manager by the time she left, maintaining contacts with all of New Jersey’s hospitals. “I went steadily up the ranks,” she notes. The 1980s was the dawning era of office computer use and Eggert was engaged practically from the start. Her company sent her to a class presented by Wang, one of the early companies in the office technology business. “I was sent to evaluate whether their word processing program would be a good fit for our offices,” she recalls.
Eggert was immediately intrigued and began using word processing to type documents and create corporate financial statements. “I took to it naturally,” she says. “When you are expected to do it, you have to learn real fast.” Her can-do attitude has served her well ever since.
Taking time off to raise her children, Eggert started a home-based office services business, teaching herself an early version of Microsoft Office one summer while her children played in the backyard. She decided to test how much she really knew with a noncredit class back at Mercer. At the end of the two days, she was approached by the teacher, who asked if Eggert would be willing to work as a classroom assistant. “This was a great supplement to my home business,” she notes. Then, in 1993, she became a full-fledged instructor for MCCC’s noncredit division, teaching the latest software from “soup to nuts” – Windows, Internet and updated versions of MS Office.
Several years ago, Eggert was asked to teach courses on the credit side and began team-teaching an introductory class in Microsoft Office. This spring will be her busiest semester yet – a credit course in PowerPoint 2007 and noncredit courses in PowerPoint Complete 2007 and Excel Certification Preparation 2007. With a full-time job, Eggert’s commitment to teaching three evenings a week sounds like a lot. “But for me, it’s like playing,” she says. “I enjoy it so much, sharing tips, tricks and experiences from my job. I give students real world advice, so they know what they will need in order to be successful.”
Last spring she presented a lunchtime workshop for MCCC students and staff entitled: “Administrative Professional: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.” She told her audience that the “super admin” of today must be a multi-tasker, have advanced proficiency in Microsoft Office, be able to problem-solve, work independently and support whole departments. With nearly half of executive assistants having earned bachelor’s degrees and average salaries in New Jersey of $50,000, the field is competitive and employer expectations are high.
“If you work in an office and don’t know technology, you will never advance or earn a comfortable living,” Eggert observes. “I know secretaries who are still trying to play catch-up. Now they are competing with younger people who are comfortable with technology. You have to force yourself to learn.”
Eggert notes that her boss at Celator “has supported me in all my advancements.” In return, she gives the company one hundred percent. “I savor the responsibility placed on me. There is no micromanaging. The office is like a family and I am depended upon by everyone.”
|MCCC Associate Professor Kristen Callahan with Alumnus Christine Eggert.
Eggert and MCCC Associate Business Professor Kristen Callahan briefly switched roles this past summer. Callahan had been seeking some temporary office work as she contemplated an update to Mercer’s office technology curriculum. “I wanted to experience what our students will be walking into,” Callahan says.
Eggert was happy to have Callahan fill her post while she was away on vacation. After her six days on the job, Callahan reported that she learned a lot about today’s job requirements. “I felt all thumbs the first day, but the experience was excellent. I loved it.”
Callahan observes that the role of the administrative professional has changed dramatically in the last 25 years. “The list of responsibilities is immense. We have to tweak Mercer’s program constantly. Today, the virtual office and collaborative work efforts are prevalent in the industry. We’ve added components to our courses to support that shift.”
MCCC’s programs for administrative professionals include A.A.S. degrees in Office Systems Technology, Business Studies, Microcomputer Systems Administration and Business Software Applications. Shorter-term certificate programs in Administrative Support and Microcomputer Systems Administration are also offered. Students with prior work history may be awarded credits for life experience.