EA to Hollywood CEOs – Q&A with Kiyomi D. Mizukami

We are super excited to kick off our “Who’s Week” with Kiyomi D. Mizukami: Executive Assistant & Project Manager to CEOs of Sony, MGM, Fox, News Corp & Fortune 100 Companies.

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DC: Hi, Kiyomi! Thank you so much for taking your time to speak with us. We are super excited to have you! Let’s start off by telling us about yourself: Are you from Los Angeles? Where did you go to school? What did you study?

KM: Hi, Donna, and fellow EAs and PAs! If you read my blog and my column , you’ll know I hail from Japan and also consider myself an Angeleno! I went to school at Cal State Fullerton and studied Communications (Broadcast Journalism) with an emphasis in radio, tv, and film. I loved being a student and consider myself a lifelong learner!

Tell us your story on how you went from temping in LA to being the EA of high-profile CEOs.

KM: When people would ask me in interviews, my first answer was, “No nepotism here!” The more serious answer is I did A LOT of internships. I wanted a strong foundation in which to build my career because I had ZERO connections in Hollywood. Yes, ZERO. I found every single one of my jobs through a temping agency or by referral. But in reality – the most useful skill that opened a lot of doors for me were my soft skills.

What has been your most memorable experience as an EA to a Hollywood
Executive Producer? Are you allowed to disclose who it was? 

My most memorable experience working for a Hollywood Executive Producer is actually only well known in the film industry and not the general public (so they shall remain nameless!  Tee hee!).  I’ve worked for a lot of really nice, down to earth executives, which is already rare, but this boss was very, very vocal about praising employees.  And it wasn’t over the top, fake, or an every day thing, but it was the type of compliment one could live on for MONTHS.

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What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to be a high-profile PA or EA and has absolutely no experience?

KM: The short answer is create your own luck, network for mutually beneficial relationships, give back, know your unique selling point, be proactive, and be humble and grateful.

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What has been your most memorable experience as an EA?

KM: Hmmmm… For me, it’s all the great people that I’ve met and the fun projects I got to work on. Being a Fortune 100 EA means you are surrounded by some of the most brilliant business people in the world and the most creative minds of Hollywood. Just being in their presence means being informally mentored by osmosis.

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What is your most cringe-worthy moment? How did you recover?

KM: A scary moment to share is one time I had 48 hours to pull off a major recruiting event in another country. Since I wasn’t going to the actual event, I had to plan the whole thing via my emails and calls which required dealing with my team, accounting, and the applicants of the event without much time to spare. I had 24 hours before everyone showed up, but about 12 hours to find a new place and communicate that change out to almost 100 people and re-execute the logistics and planning from scratch! And we didn’t have an outlandish budget where I could just go find any ol’ nice place that had availability. We decide to move the event to our international offices for a more “home grown” feel, “an inside look,” and “be a part of our family.” By this time, our international offices are starting to close down for the day and I’m calling every number I have. Since we don’t work with this office it’s not like we have cell phone numbers and home numbers for anyone. Luckily, I got a hold of an assistant who was there later than usual. After she calls around on my behalf, she assures me using their offices is fine. I sort out with her and my team the execution of the guest list, security, greeters, food/beverage, and it’s easy peasy! Phew! Thank god she was there late; once again, as always, it’s the assistant that saves the day! Yay! Kudos to her for saving me!

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What is your day like on a typical Tuesday?

KM: I get in, look at my list of mtgs for the day, go thru my emails, update my to do list, start tackling my projects. I have a standing 2 hour mtg and between working on my projects, I’m fielding emails and requests from all over the company. I am also always required to drop everything I’m doing and meet a quick turnaround deadline as needed, so then I’ll work overtime to catch up if vital. I eat lunch at my desk (or go out if I’m able). The last 30-45 min of my day I plan the following day, and forecast the next week or so. After hours, I will read any emails that come thru if only to know what’s going on so I can act on them first thing in the morning.

What makes an email get a response from a busy person? How can you connect with people who can give you advice, introductions, even job offers?

KM: I’m not sure I have an answer for the first question about a busy person. If I recall correctly, I remember reading an interview with the CEO of Zappos. He gets email requests for 15 min of his time and he has to politely decline. Sure, he can carve out 15 min of his day, but in aggregate, to say yes to everyone that asks him for 15 min takes is too costly. Connect with others by helping them – pass on a job tid bit you heard about, introduce them to someone you know, or even help them out with your time and energy by volunteering on their project.

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What is your PA/EA top tip?

In this day and age of Enron-like scandals, your character and reputation counts more than anything else. Have good credit, keep everything confidential, and never burn bridges.

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Now it’s time for the fun questions, Kiyomi! Woot, woot!

What’s your personal style like?

Personal style, personal style… Let’s see… When I put forth the effort, I go for alluring. Otherwise comfortable!

‘The gutsiest thing I’ve ever done is: _____.’

Have faith that the the entertainment industry would even exist at all in this lifetime through merger after merger, the dot com bust, 9/11, the fall of the music industry, the economic crisis of 2008, and now the bankrupt VFX facilities

What is your favorite quote?

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” -Helen Keller

What is the last book you read?

Tough Sh*t by Kevin Smith

What House would the Sorting Hat choose for you?

I am so unhip and uncool I actually had to Google this! LOL It’s a Harry Potter reference, but I still don’t have an answer for you. Sorry!

What is your favourite movie?

Love Story with Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw

What is your go-to lipstick color?

Actually, I like lip gloss and I usually pick a deep fuschia.

‘If I could not be an EA, I would be: _________.’

An event planner for a nonprofit organization

‘The last time I cried was ______ because _______.’

The last time I cried was when I was reading Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed and her other book Wild. It was so tragic, hopeful sad, moving, heartwarming, and uplifting all at the same time.

‘The best gift I ever received was _______.

Someone’s selfless time, attention, and care. Like Janet said, the best things in life are free, right? 😉

‘My best stress reliever is ______.

A 90 minute deep tissue massage or a good book

‘I am most happy when ____.’

I am with my Boo

What would be your super secret super power? And why?

Not dying? Does that count? LOL The world is such a beautiful place and there are so many things to learn and experience. Who wouldn’t want to be around forever?

And last but most absolutely NOT least: cupcake or muffin? What kind?

I’m a cupcake girl! I’d have to say yellow cake with chocolate frosting or a red velvet is my fave! Yum!

*For the full interview please head over here, for in depth details on how to network yourself into an EA or PA job.

Please note the opinions and views expressed in this interview are solely those of Kiyomi D. Mizukami.

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