What does your career path look like?
I have been working as the Senior EA at PZ Cussons for over a year now and have developed my role to become an integral part of the ExCo Team.
As we have operations in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, amongst others, I am already looking at ways to improve how all of the EAs spread across the globe can work more efficiently as a team, and make a more telling contribution to the ExCo and Senior Management Teams.
As Senior EA to the CEO, my role is primarily operational, but also strategic, and I therefore need to consider improving the smallest details of how we as EAs operate, as well as being aware of the “bigger picture”, and the part we play in it.
So far, my role has included travel across Europe and Africa and this is something I am eager to expand further in the coming years as I look to develop my support role within the ExCo Team.
I have already been fortunate enough to play a key part in working with our charitable partners and this is something I am passionate about increasing in the short term.
What are the main aspects of your current role?
I am primarily responsible for supporting the CEO, CFO and Global HR Director, and leading the EA Team within our Head Office.
No two days are ever the same and my work can vary from arranging and being present at meetings with key clients, assisting with the Group’s AGM, and visiting our factory in Nigeria, and everything in between.
The most important elements of my role are being proactive and keeping one step ahead. The schedules and whereabouts of the CEO, CFO and HR Director are constantly changing and my job is to make sure I foresee any problems before they occur, be that operationally, logistically, or how any changes could impact on their personal or family commitments. Being a good EA means you consider the end consequences of events as they are unfolding and have an awareness of how they impact on the individuals you are responsible for.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
As I said, no two days are ever the same so my job is never repetitive. The first year has been an amazing experience and I have loved every minute of it.
The two highlights have to be travelling to the Group’s operations in Nigeria and experiencing a completely different culture, and being solely responsible for running the Group’s annual conference in Athens for its Senior Management. Organising over 50 people from all over the world proved challenging, yet very rewarding, when you see all of your hard work come together.
What do you enjoy least?
The vaccinations for my travel to our other operating units – I’m scared of needles!
What has been your career highlight?
Setting up The Manchester PA Network in 2011 is without doubt my career highlight and the thing I am most proud of. We are just putting the finishing touches to the first ever Manchester PA of the Year Awards which is a huge milestone for us personally but also the PA’s of Manchester.
The idea came from spending all of my time organising networking events for others, yet never going to any myself. Since 2011, I have watched it grow from a small group of 50, to nearly 500 members in 2015.
We have run over 30 separate PA networking events across Manchester and raised nearly £50,000 for The Christie Hospital in Manchester, which we are all very proud of.
You are well known for your networking skills, what initial steps did you take to increase your network?
I have always looked at ways to develop relationships with the people that I work with, inside and outside of the organisation. The hardest part of networking I have found is being the one that makes the first move. That is something that I have developed more confidence in doing by researching the people I am approaching, finding some common ground or getting an introduction via an existing contact. I have always been interested in social media and work hard at keeping my profile up to date and my postings interesting – that gives people an opportunity to learn something about you before you meet them.
Networking is something that comes relatively naturally to me I think – a large part of it is just being a normal person who wants to get on with the people I work with and from there, strong relationships have developed. I have always looked to meet the people I deal with. Putting a “face to a name” helps incredibly I think, and I would suggest people do it where possible as it inevitably helps you to find more common ground.
Setting up The Manchester PA Network with my co-founders Melanie Sheehy and Hayley Harthern was largely a leap of faith for all of us. We hadn’t known each other very long but sometimes you have to take that jump and make it work, and that’s what we all did. The Network has obviously been a huge help in developing my network of contacts but it has taken a lot of hard work in making the time to meet people at the venues, keeping the events interesting and developing new ideas to make us the most successful PA Network in the North West.
I think a lot of networking is about being willing to make the effort to meet people and putting yourself “out there”. If you don’t attend the events and meet people, they don’t know you exist and are not likely to come knocking on your door.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to other assistants?
There are two pieces of advice that I think that are really important – get networking and be proactive.
There are two reasons why any PA/EA/Secretary and office manager should get involved in networking. Firstly, having a wide network of contacts is a vital element of any supporting role – we are often faced with urgent and sometimes bizarre requests and you need access to people in all walks of life who can help you. You can only build that network by getting out there and attending events, meeting people and making the first move.
Secondly, I have seen first-hand from The Manchester PA Network how networking has rebuilt confidence in people and given them access to opportunities that might not otherwise have been available to them. This has only happened because those people took that leap of faith, came along and made the first move.
Being proactive is one of the most critical factors in my day-to-day role. Being a good assistant is much more than following simple instructions, it is about being aware of the bigger picture, thinking through the consequences of the actions you are taking and examining the smallest details to see where improvements can be made. Being proactive not only helps your day-to-day life run more smoothly, but it also gets you noticed and people have more confidence in you as an assistant if they can see you are thinking things through.