What are the main aspects of your role?
I have a dual role: my primary responsibility is being the PA to the managing director. I manage his schedule and monitor his emails, as well as help organise some of his travel, company events, and client dinners, occasional research, expenses and ad hoc tasks – all the general PA duties.
The second part of my role is office manager, which involves maintaining and helping to run our trendy studio in Shoreditch. This includes general admin, renovations, and supporting the operations, HR, finance and marketing departments.
What is your morning routine before you get into the office?
My alarm goes off at 05:30 and I usually hit snooze twice before actually getting up. Three mornings a week, I kit up and go for a brisk 10-minute jog, followed by a quick circuit of abdominal, arm and leg exercises back at home. I spend a lot of hours sat at my desk at work, so maintaining good cardio, and keeping fit is important to me.
After all that physical activity, I brew myself some coffee, tea or green tea and then prepare breakfast and lunch for me and my three-year-old son before gently coaxing him awake and getting him ready. I leave home around 07:30 and drop him off at his childminder’s before catching the DLR and Overground to work.
What time do you get into the office and what time do you leave?
Although I don’t contractually start until 09:00 I usually get into the office any time between 08:00 and 08:30 in order to open up and mentally prepare myself for the day before the rest of the team get in. I also try to have a quick catch-up with the MD either by phone or face-to-face. Most days, I work through my lunch (eat and work) so that I can leave any time between 17:30 and 18:30, but I try my best to ‘work smart’ – i.e. prioritise the top three most important things to get done. On event nights, I head home around 11pm after getting the office back in good order.
What does an average day look like?
To be completely honest, no two days are the same for me. There’s what I plan to do when I get in and what I actually do when I get in. Priorities and demands are constantly changing, so I often find myself reorganising my day at least a couple of times.
An ideal schedule would be:
- Open up and perform general office-related matters.
- Go through mine and the MD’s inboxes, and action tasks, schedule meetings or flag anything important.
I try not to look at my boss’ inbox more than three times a day because that tends to distract me from the tasks that I need to be getting on with.
- We have our daily ‘standup’ at 10am where the team goes through what they did the previous day, what their plans are for that day and any blockers they have so that they can be resolved; we cover current projects, office, marketing, new business, and team-related things.
- Then I’d get on with tasks on my to-do list (this could include things such as processing expenses, setting up meeting rooms, reorganising the office, ordering supplies, internal meetings, setting up new members of the team etc).
- Check mine and the MD’s inboxes again around midday;
- Complete more tasks in the afternoon.
- Prep for a catch-up with the MD; have the catch-up, and carry out immediate actions.
- Wrap up for the day: plan the next day’s to-do list, deal with office matters.
What do you have for lunch?
I love cooking, and I usually pack whatever I made the previous night for dinner. Rice, couscous and pasta dishes, with well-seasoned meats or fish, and veg (I love my greens) is usually on the menu; home-cooked food that’s good for the soul. On days where I’ve been too knackered after work to cook, for lunch the next day, I’d pop to one of many great restaurants near the office. There are some fab vietnamese restaurants – I’m partial to a kimchi banh mi. There are some great street food vendors in the area, too, so a generously sized Turkish wrap (spicy meats and salad is my preference) goes down a treat.
What is the hardest part of your day?
I wouldn’t say any part of my day is the hardest , but I usually lose brain juice, and I am less motivated around 4pm. I’m in my least productive state then, compared to the mornings which is my time of optimum productivity. I try to tackle this by planning simple, non-tedious tasks to do for the last 3 hours of my day.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
That it’s so varied. My tasks during the day range from going out to do errands, helping to curate our fortnightly newsletter, purchasing furniture and quirky items for the office, liaising with contractors for office improvements, admin, organising and attending internal and external team lunches, and coordinating logistics for company workshops and events. The time goes really fast for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How does the PA role and Office Manager role differ?
Both are ultimately support roles, but one deals with an individual; catering to his specific needs in order to help utilise his time best and manage his priorities to aid business development. The other involves working with the team to keep the company’s cogs going and the plates spinning i.e. the day-to-day management and image of the business. Both roles overlap greatly.
What has been your career highlight?
I can’t pinpoint a career highlight per se. Recognition in my role, such as receiving an industry award, or featuring in national media would definitely be noteworthy if those opportunities were to arise, but validation is something I seek only from myself. I find my job, in general, to be quite rewarding, and have grown immensely in the last year by really challenging myself. So, in a way, I could look at 2014 as my career highlight for growth.
What do you do in the evening with your spare time?
In the evenings, after cooking and spending quality time with my son, I work on either blogging or photography. I’ve got a personal style and food blog and I’m an avid photography enthusiast, so I either spend time planning and composing blog posts, or editing photos.
After that, I take five or ten minutes to organise what I’ll wear the next day. I don’t work in a corporate environment, and our dress code is quite simply ‘wear what you’re comfortable in’, so that gives me freedom to experiment with different looks.
After a refreshing shower, I wind down by checking my Facebook, Instagram and Bloglovin feeds in bed, then meditate for about 20 minutes before going to sleep around 22:30.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to other assistants?
Good mental management/health is vital for survival in such roles; stress and frustration is inevitable, but if you can channel all of those emotions into positive energy and view every challenge as an invaluable lesson, you’ll be able to deal with situations effectively and progress. Always think of how you can better yourself and what you can learn.
What would you do if you were not an assistant?
I would say a photographer, but it’s a hobby, and would like to keep it that way. So maybe a writer, beauty or fashion journalist, a columnist or radio presenter.
Rebecca will be speaking at the Assist Conference (Friday 27th February 2015) about her career and her dual role at the London based start-up – Adaptive Labs. For more information on Rebecca and the rest of our wonderful Assist Conference speakers please visit the website.