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Creative freedom + great boss: Not bad!

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For 17 years, Carrie Aulenbacher has been the executive administrative assistant to Joe Benacci, CEO of Lake Erie Logistics in Erie, Pennsylvania. Working for a family-owned business has been like being a member of the family, Aulenbacher says, as she has been able to watch their children grow as well as the business.

Many of her duties are typical of an admin’s job—answering phones, faxing forms, processing paperwork and invoices, and helping the CEO with his computer. She says she also finds herself doing odd jobs around the office, such as helping the water-delivery guy carry in jugs, reloading the postage meter, fixing a stapler and watering the plants.

Her duties have expanded over the years, and now include processing payroll, updating the company’s website and handling accounting tasks.

She says one of her favorite parts of the job is the freedom she has to be creative. She creates the company’s ads and leads its online presence, allowing the work to be done in-house rather than contracted to an outside business. “I carry my camera everywhere and take our own stock photos whenever I can so we have images to use whenever inspiration strikes,” Aulenbacher says. “The CEO trusts that I’m invested in the company and that I’m passionate about what we’re doing, and he lets that dedication shine in my creative work.”

One challenge she says she faced early on was learning to speak her mind and build self-confidence in a male-oriented business. At first, she says, she approached her CEO carefully when she had ideas to share.

“After a while I realized he was always willing to listen and entertain anything that could make for a better process in the workplace,” she says. “I started to push the boundaries of leading myself and communicating my ideas more. It made all the difference.”

Aulenbacher says she loves being able to take initiative, set her own schedule and make the job fun within the lines of professionalism.

“I’m ruined for any other type of job after this, because my freedom here to tackle any situation is just so wonderful,” she says. “It means the world to feel validated here and I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”

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