Assistant is a bit of a catchall term. Sure, assistants schedule meetings, take notes, and retrieve coffee, but they can also act as a quasi concierge, sending fruit baskets to top clients and buying gifts for partners. In an effort to unearth the highly specific material needs of powerful people, we sat down with “Sukie,” a career executive assistant who was, until recently, the right hand to a New York City hedge-fund managing director. We spoke with Sukie about bimonthly bouquets, gift certificates to a chic underground spa, and $400 Tiffany cups meant to resemble paper ones.
Sukie worked with a $100,000 yearly gifting budget (for 150 employees) described by her company as a “morale fund.” Along with buying items to celebrate promotions, career milestones, and departures, she was tasked with sending gifts to encourage self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sukie worked for her boss for six years and says the two have similar, vintage-inspired tastes, so they were often on the same page.
As a way to raise spirits among her boss’s immediate management team of 11 people while they were working from home during COVID, Sukie sent everyone these wicker picnic baskets. She filled each one with a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Champagne from Sherry Lehmann, a midtown wine and liquor store.
Sukie’s boss gave these Tiffany coffee cups to a colleague leaving the company. They’re made from fine-bone china and resemble the blue- and gemstone-colored paper cups found in Tiffany stores. Sukie says the five-piece set serves as a “useful keepsake” and a reminder of the company culture, where “coffee is a big deal.”
These candles from a New York City–based, Black-woman-owned brand would be sent as a congratulations, like when an employee announced their pregnancy. Sukie’s boss has two favorite scents: Josephine and Lady Day, both of which reflect her 1920s-inspired personal style, Sukie says.
Five years ago, Sukie started going to Aire to treat herself for having survived 25 years in New York City. She told her boss about the subterranean spa, and she began going, too — and giving gift certificates as rewards for employees who went above and beyond the scope of their jobs or for those exiting the company. Gift cards for services such as thermal baths, holistic rituals, and massages would typically fall in the $320 range, Sukie says.
“Fashionable but not flashy” is how Sukie describes her boss’s aesthetic for her personal items and office décor.
Sukie’s boss lives downtown and starts her day by going to the gym before walking to the office, where her meetings begin at 9:30. While looking for a bag to tote her workout gear, Sukie says her boss displayed her characteristic decisiveness. “She just knew” it was the right one after seeing it online “because of the luxe design and durability,” she says, adding that her boss was already a fan of the designer’s commitment to sustainability.
Bimonthly floral arrangements for the director’s office were Sukie’s idea. “As a surprise, one day I made a bouquet with a vase I found in the company kitchen and flowers from a bodega that I picked up while I was out getting her lunch in another neighborhood,” she says. The director was delighted and kept the blooms on her desk, and after that, Sukie would regularly refill the vase with “mostly monochromatic arrangements — a lot of white and pink.” Later, Sukie outsourced the job to Élan Flowers for convenience, opting for “exquisite” combinations of peonies, tea roses, tulips, lilies, and irises. “I’d spend a couple hundred dollars on a huge bouquet every couple of weeks,” she says. “Everyone loved seeing the flowers on her desk. It made people happy when they were in her office, and … it made the boss cheerier.”
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