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Administrative Professionals Thrive as Function Evolves

As Director of Business Improvement and Administration with J.D. Irving, Limited’s Transportation & Logistics Division, Vanessa Keating’s role is about evolving the function of administration by streamlining processes and reducing manual work. 

It’s about “identifying opportunities within processes,” and scaling solutions and new technologies across the division’s ten businesses. 

“That’s the benefit of the role,” says Vanessa. “We can leverage the best practices, technology, and wins across our businesses.” 

She adds that young employees have many opportunities to make a positive impact on their business.

Though her current role is new, Vanessa has a background in business improvement with two of the division’s trucking businesses: RST and Sunbury Transport. There, she led the companies’ administrative department, implemented an RPA (robotic process automation) and leveraged the team and projects that resulted in 52 hours per week saved across the department.

Often these improvements produce results quickly, she says, leading to a desire to move on to the next project. 

“There is administration in every business and every function – including operations, safety, human resources, finance – and we need to continue thinking of administration as a function that weaves our processes and various departments together versus a single person’s role. We have a team that embraces the administrative function. They are curious, open to new ways of doing things and helping us to progress. With that kind of variety, it’s far from monotonous work.”

Meet The Team: Laura Wills

As Team Leader, Office Administration with RST and Sunbury Transport, Laura Wills encourages administrators to always strive for better and to think ‘bigger picture.’ With a large and integrated team, she views administration as a critical driver of business continuity. 

“In trucking, keeping the wheels turning is precisely our goal,” she says. “However, with time you will need to replace those wheels, refuel your truck, and pay your drivers. None of that maintenance, planning or payment happens without administrative professionals.” 

Recently, Laura’s team created and deployed a Power App for driver pay adjustments, now used across all RST and Sunbury operations. The app allows managers to approve pay adjustments digitally and in real time for both company drivers and outside brokers. It has led to improved turnaround time, reduced paperwork, and has created an improved employee experience. 

Meet The Team: Anukriti Roy

Anukriti Roy is an Operations Analyst with NBM Railways. Recently, she worked with a cross-functional team to automate part of the railway’s billing process. The improvement converted over 20 hours of manual work per week to “just a few clicks.” With customer volumes increasing, Anukriti says this work was vital to ensuring NBM Railways could meet (and exceed) customer demands:

“We had to roll up our sleeves to match the growing demand. And we reduced our cycle time from one day to 20 minutes, allowing us to keep the wheels moving!”

Administration is necessary when it comes to meeting deadlines, process improvement, policy compliance and more, she says. It helps keep business objectives and fundamentals clear to all employees.

“Administrators have the power to lead and motivate team members…forming the backbone of any organization. You use your values to collaborate, build teams and strive for high quality work. Remember, you will be the key link between an organization's various departments to ensure the smooth flow of information.”

Meet The Team: Alexis McGrattan

As Senior Office Administrator with Atlantic Towing Limited, Alexis McGrattan believes administration plays a key role in implementing change. 

“In the name of progress, work methods must be adapted to suit necessary skills and economic trends,” she says. “Resistance to these changes often stem from an absence of clear implementation strategies or a lack understanding of the reasons behind the change. Effective administration helps in limiting resistance and acts as a change-operator for implementing new strategies.”

Alexis led a process improvement with the marine service provider, changing how new seafarer onboarding progress would be communicated to operations and crewing departments. 

“I created a simple checklist to help recruiters track all [onboarding] steps. The checklist is in a shared location to give increased visibility, ensuring we know how close candidates are to being ready to board a vessel.”

The result? Alexis says fewer steps are being forgotten or missed, and there is greater transparency across the company. The team is still refining the process but considers the work a significant success.

Being an administrator is primarily about supporting team members, she says. Alexis encourages her colleagues to be empathetic, flexible, and open to continuous learning. 

“Office procedures are ever-changing so you will need to adapt to new administrative procedures and learn about new technology throughout your career.”


There are hundreds of administrative professionals working across J.D. Irving, Limited operations, and businesses. On Administrative Professionals Day, we thank every one for their vital contributions and dedication. 

Join a winning team and make a difference. For more information about current openings in administration, or other fields, visit: