How Executive Assistants Streamline T&E with Navan

Tips, Tricks, & Tech: Here’s How 5 Navan EAs Achieve Success

author two

Samantha Shankman

24 Apr 2024
10 minute read
Happy EA Day to Navan Executive Assistants!

This EA Appreciation Day, we tip our hats to Navan’s executive assistants (EAs), who are responsible for keeping the plane on course (and taking off in the first place).

From Palo Alto to London to Tel Aviv, Navan EAs are constantly juggling busy calendars, conflicting travel schedules, and daily operations so Navan executives can focus on strategic goals.

How Navan Works for Executive Assistants 

Navan empowers EAs to focus on more strategic matters by streamlining, consolidating, and automating the expense and travel management process. Here are just a few examples of how Navan works for EAs:

  • Automated Expense Reports: No more collecting executives’ receipts. Expenses are tracked at the time of swipe, in real time, so EAs don’t have to chase down executives for insights into what was spent and how to reconcile it.
  • Save Traveler Preferences: Travelers’ preferred airlines and hotels are listed first, with seating preferences factored in. EAs never have to search again for passport info, loyalty details, or Known Traveler Numbers (KTN).
  • Itinerary Syncing: Navan saves EAs time by automatically sending travelers updates on new bookings or changes via itinerary emails and calendar invites.
  • Trip Planner: As a delegate, EAs can draft a full trip or suggest flight, hotel, and travel details to add to existing trips for approval. Pre-select options to save time when planning future trips.
  • Group Travel: EAs can help bring teams together with Navan Group Travel in a few easy steps. They can invite groups to corporate retreats, president’s clubs, and other company get-togethers in one central location.

And when EAs book for others on Navan, they earn rewards for their own vacations, while travelers also earn loyalty points when using their favorite travel brands. Learn more.

Meet Navan’s Executive Assistants

To celebrate this EA Day, five Navan EAs open up about their career paths, what inspires them, the challenges and joys of their work, and what technology supports them in keeping their busy worlds running on time.

Rachel Henson, executive assistant to Navan’s chief revenue officer, moved from London to San Francisco when she first discovered the opportunity to become an EA in the tech industry.

“I'm a natural planner and love to be on top of everything, so it seemed like a great fit. I'm still doing it nine years later,” said Rachel.

Her Navan teammates are her favorite part of the job.

“Our small but mighty EA team is amazing to work with,” she said. “They are very collaborative; and together, we manage to make the impossible possible. The sales team is also all great. I say many times a day, ‘You're the best!’ And I truly mean it!” 

“I’m working on several team offsites right now, and this is one of the best parts of my role. I love planning fun things like dinners and team events that bring the team closer together. The connection the team gets from being together in person makes a huge difference.”

She’s found Navan Expense transformative in managing her and her executives’ expenses. It automatically pulls information about attendees and events from the calendar, so she’s not stuck spending hours piecing together who was where and when. 

“With automated itemization and reconciliation, expenses are automatically checked against policies, categorized, and reconciled,” said Rachel. “I don’t even have to subcategorize hotel receipts, which makes everything quick and easy. Plus, I love that I can earn rewards from my executives' travel!”

For EAs building their career, Rachel recommends “being the ‘yes’ person who is always willing to do what needs to be done and keep a smile on your face.” In her experience, making connections and building rapport with colleagues makes life much easier and more enjoyable.

Nikki Lepeirs, executive assistant to Navan Expense CEO and VP of Product, Expense, has always had a knack for organizing and planning, so she started exploring the world of EAs several years ago when considering a career move.

“Calendaring sometimes feels like Tetris, but I enjoy it and am so glad I went down this path,” said Nikki. 

“My favorite thing about Navan is the people I work with. I am so lucky to have such amazing executives and love my fellow EAs. Having people to lean on, learn from, and get support from is great. I have a great work-life balance and feel appreciated; I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Nikki recently wrapped a big project planning the Navan Expense offsite in Austin, Texas. 

“It is a lot of coordination and planning,” she said, “but these offsites always go well and are super fun and worthwhile.”

While Nikki loves the entire integrated Navan ecosystem, the automated expense process has impacted her role the most.

Not having to submit expenses is the most amazing thing ever,” she said. “It is so seamless and easy, and that entire part of my job is eliminated. It saves me hours and allows me to be more of a strategic partner to my execs instead of doing their weekly expenses.” 

Outside of Navan, Nikki leverages tools like Slack and Google Calendar to keep track of busy schedules.

“I love Slack! I love how you can customize it to different colors, groups, and emojis — and it is also so much faster than emailing back and forth,” she said. “I also love Google Calendar. Color coding is super helpful, and you can turn an email with everyone on the thread into a calendar invite.”

Nikki’s greatest takeaway at Navan is the importance of working for a company and executive you enjoy and believe in. Her advice is to not take oneself too seriously — mistakes happen, and almost everything can be solved.

Ozge Gundogdu, executive assistant to Navan’s chief technology officer, chief information officer, and executive vice president of engineering, built her career in hospitality before transitioning to EA roles.

What I loved the most about hospitality was connecting with people, hosting them while they were away from their homes, and making their experience as perfect as possible,” said Ozge. “After spending nearly 10 years with one hospitality group, I held a hybrid role where I was an office manager/HR manager and an EA for a wonderful nonprofit organization. The role exposed me to different opportunities, and I realized what I loved among all my responsibilities was the EA role.” 

“I love ‘being helpful’ in life, and this job satisfies me. I love seeing how big of a difference I make in busy and successful executives’ lives by doing the simple things I would do regardless.”

EA job descriptions rarely do justice to the complexity of the role, and that’s especially true at Navan.

“Every day is a journey at Navan! It is rarely monotonous,” said Ozge. “My role is very important and exciting because my executives don’t have time for small things. They are relieved not to give a second thought to those things and give me full autonomy to decide on their behalf. The result is a win-win. I do what I enjoy, and I get rewarded for it.”

Of all the tools and technology Ozge leverages to do her job so well, Navan Expense is hands down the most influential.

It is beyond wonderful not to fill out expense reports! What we do with Navan Expense is pure magic for EAs. I also absolutely love that I don’t have to waste time calling airlines,” she said.

Ozge’s advice for EAs building their careers is to focus on care and relationships. 

Our job descriptions are very open-ended and can be seen as very difficult by some,” she said, “but as long as you have a passion for helping others and have an eye for detail, you can be very successful being an EA.” 

Mariana Nadler, legal executive assistant, supports Navan’s general counsel and the chief financial officer. After studying journalism,  she moved from Brazil to California and experienced firsthand how difficult it could be to make a living writing in her second language. 

“I transferred some of my communication and computer skills into admin work in my mid-20s,” said Mariana. “All the jobs I had in my first decade in the U.S. had some EA aspect. For years, I worked as a project coordinator for an engineering company building the Bay Bridge's eastern span. At a certain point, I realized I was doing the job of an EA plus more, but with less pay since I didn’t hold the EA title.” 

“At that point, I decided to become a C-level EA and pursue higher-level jobs. The ‘legal’ part of my current title came years later when I supported a general counsel at a private company. There, I acquired legal assistance experience and became a notary public, which helped me join Navan as a legal EA in 2021.”

Mariana loves working alongside other EAs. “Our bond is unique. They have my back, and I have theirs, and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” she said. “I also appreciate the legal team, which has always been my home at Navan, and the flexibility of a hybrid schedule where we’re in the office most days but can also work from home.” 

Mariana is constantly juggling executives’ busy calendars, conflicting schedules, and day-to-day operations so they can focus on their strategic goals.

“I find excitement in that, and I hope others see the importance,” she said.

Since joining the organization, Navan Expense has been a game-changer in saving her time and effort so she can focus on higher-level problems.

“I look back at my days of taping receipts to copier paper and entering expenses in spreadsheets and do not miss that one bit,” she said. “EAs starting today may never know what that was like, and I am glad for them.” 

“I sometimes wonder how I lived my earlier EA years without Slack, Google Drive, and the ability to do my job from my phone, whether on the ferry to the office or in line at the grocery store.”

Mariana advocates for young professionals building their careers to do so intentionally and ambitiously. 

Her advice? “Start as a lower-level admin and advocate for a title change when you realize you already do the job. Don’t be afraid to support several execs at once; volunteer whenever the opportunity arises. Leave jobs that are not admin-related off your resume and build a focused ‘C-level EA’ resume.” 

“If you are looking at your EA job as a stepping stone into other positions, I think taking on more responsibilities outside your scope and more project management-related work would be the way to go. No matter what, don’t be afraid or ashamed of the assistant title. When I was starting, a good friend asked if I wanted to ‘get stuck with that title.’ But it’s actually great that many people feel this way about being an EA — it means more jobs for you!”

Michelle Vaughn, executive assistant to the CEO, is driven by the opportunity to empower her leaders to achieve their goals.

"I'm inspired by the dynamic nature of the role and its ability to make a tangible impact on the organization," said Michelle.

"I love the collaborative environment at Navan and the opportunity to work closely with our CEO. The dynamic nature of my role is what keeps things exciting."

From managing calendars and coordinating meetings to providing crucial support in decision-making processes, every task contributes to the company's smooth operation. Additionally, being the central point of contact for various stakeholders lets Michelle stay plugged into the company's pulse and contribute insights. 

The importance of her role lies in her ability to facilitate seamless operations, foster efficiency, and ultimately contribute to the success of Navan as a whole — which also serves her.

"Navan is incredibly helpful in my role,” said Michelle. “I have been fortunate enough to work with our product team to suggest implementing numerous product features that benefit EAs and business travelers." 

"If I had to pick my favorite feature, it would be our expense management product. It simplifies the process of tracking and managing expenses. It is truly magical and light years above any other tools I have used, and it allows me to focus more on other responsibilities."

Outside of Navan, Michelle loves Superhuman, an email AI product revolutionizing how she manages her inbox. 

“As an EA, I live in email,” she said, “and Superhuman's intuitive interface and advanced features make navigating through emails and staying on top of communication significantly more efficient." 

Her advice for EAs building their careers is to always seek opportunities for growth and learning. Continuous development is key to success, whether that means attending training sessions, networking, or taking on new challenges.

"Don't underestimate the power of building strong relationships and cultivating trust with your colleagues and executives — it can make all the difference in your career trajectory," said Michelle.

Explore Navan Expense and see how it can transform your job today.

Return to blog

Here's related content we recommend