‘Be proactive!’ AEC’s Chief of Staff Shares Her Advice on How to Hit the Ground Running When Returning to Work After a Leave of Absence

Natalie Gitter first joined AEC over 15 years ago and has overseen the development of various departments, including Dealer Network and Services, Communications and HR. In 2021 she went on maternity leave, only to come back this year to a much larger and stronger organization and in a new role as Chief of Staff. We sat down with her to hear her advice for transitioning back into work after a leave of absence.

AEC: Welcome back to AEC, Natalie! It’s great to have you back as our new Chief of Staff after being on maternity leave. Do you have any advice for those returning to a company or position after a period away? 

I remember saying before I left “I know I will be coming back to a whole new company,” as we already had so many initiatives and projects planned for the coming months. My advice to anyone in the same position would be staying in touch with a few colleagues, reading company news and other communications, also generally trying to stay in the loop of what is happening in the industry. At the same time, being away was helpful to get a new perspective and a big-picture view on some of the daily challenges that will inevitably catch up with you once you are back. So, using the first weeks to observe and try to approach things with a new mindset is a great gift of coming back from a longer leave.   

What are the responsibilities of Chief of Staff?
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AEC: Your role involves acting as a liaison between the Executive Team and the many different departments at AEC. Do you have any advice for working with many different people and teams across locations on a daily basis?

I try to get an understanding of what is important to someone, what style and channel of communication they prefer, etc. For example, if someone is a planner or to the contrary very spontaneous, prefers to email or hold an in-person meeting. I try to accommodate these preferences whenever possible when working with different people and make it easy for them to share info and join up for projects.  

AEC: What advice do you have for new joiners (or re-joiners) to get ahead and make the most of their first 100 days? How can you make an impact while still in the new, getting-to-know-the-ropes stage? 

In two words – be proactive! Ask a lot of questions, ask to be included in meetings, offer your help even if it’s just to make notes of the meetings and find ways to add value. Introduce yourself to people you know you will be working with, come to the office more frequently if you work from home. Make the most of the time in between meetings and scheduled trainings – HR & Corporate Communications have an excellent overview of the materials, tools, recordings and other important information, so make sure you connect and take advantage of that.