Today’s day in the life: Gillian Aitken Snr Business Admin & PA, Price Jones Ltd. Gillian is PA to Pat Price and proud owner of Arch the pug (more on that in that in a bit)…
What are the main aspects of your role?
As a long-time Executive Assistant, my day is incredibly varied which is due, in part, to supporting my boss on both a business and personal level. She is an oncology clinical negligence expert witness and whilst the wider team handle the admin side of extracting relevant medical information to enable her to focus on formulating her expertise – I try to make her day as easy as possible in every other sense.
From managing complex diary arrangements and travel itinerary for handling the personal banking, ensuring the office adheres to health and safety regulations to document management for Tax Returns. Organisation is key in my role and is helped hugely by the fabulous IT investment made by my organisation. I’m pleased to say the bulk of my filing is now done electronically on MS SharePoint. I like to think I’m quite tech savvy and so the design and creation of reports and documents is something I enjoy and am tasked with most days.
What is your morning routine before you get into the office?
I’m lucky enough to live close to the office. I get up around 7am, get ready, have breakfast and feed the dog. It then takes me around 5 to 10 minutes to drive to work.
What time do you get into the office and what time do you leave?
I’m always in work at least 15 minutes early at around 8.45am and leave at 5pm. My boss is a strong advocate of having a healthy work life balance and I’m a firm believer that if you plan your day out well you should be able to leave on time most evenings. Should I need to, I can continue any work from home.
Whilst my boss kindly does not expect this of me, I am happy to sometimes answer emails out of office hours as I respect and appreciate that her working hours are often out with the usual 9-5. Often out of hours emails are not time consuming and are simply a brief sharing of knowledge.
What does an average day look like?
It’s hard for me to describe an average day as they’re rarely the same, but I usually start the day by ensuring all is well with the boss’ home as she has likely been away for a few nights. I’ll do small tasks like open the curtains or empty the dishwasher just to save her a job when coming home late. When you love your job, and have respect for the work your boss is performing you don’t think twice about making their lives a little easier on this front.
I start at my desk by reading my emails where I would expect there would be required actions on my part. I assist with the admin side of the charity founded by my boss and so there is usually some document creation required post or prior to a Trustees meeting. As a keen runner, I recently registered my boss (at her suggestion!) for her second London Marathon! This huge undertaking will raise funds for her charity Action Radiotherapy.
Away from the charity admin, I’ll manage the personal finance side of life for her and so I reconcile the receipts and bank statements.
Often there will be contractors on site and it is my responsibility to ensure the work they do is up to standard and they are following safe working practices. I’ll arrange all regular facilities servicing and ensure insurances and memberships are renewed on time and any outstanding payments for things like holidays are noted and then paid on time.
I will also manage all non-business related incoming mail ensuring none of my boss’ time is wasted on non-important mailings.
What do you do for lunch?
Living close to the office, I am lucky enough to go home at lunchtime and tend to eat there whilst letting my lovely Pug Arch out for a run in the garden. Having lunch at work would not be a hardship though, our office is set in a large, beautifully maintained garden!
What is the hardest part of your day?
Currently the hardest part of my day is working through our GDPR requirements alongside our Business Manager. It’s a hugely complex subject put in place to protect personal information. I have attended a few seminars on the subject and it has been useful to be able to meet with other local businesses and discuss the regulations in depth.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
A bit of a cliché but I genuinely enjoy the variation in my role. One day I’m building websites to support the business, the next I’m helping to form the business objectives for the next few years.
I also enjoy the fact I can develop my role as I see fit. I’ve recently taken on the role of Workplace Mental Health Champion. The tide is turning and there is more of a focus on mental health issues, such as stress, in the workplace. It is a subject close to my heart and I am finding the role complements my BSc Psychology degree well.
What has been your career highlight?
Gaining a role with Apple just as I was finishing university was a game changer for me. The training they gave has changed the way I interact with people and I use their methods of how to deal with specific situations most days.
What do you do in the evening with your spare time?
I enjoy a home cooked meal with my other half Craig. He’s a great cook so I tend to leave that side of things to him! I then snuggle up on the sofa with Craig and our Pug.
What advice you would give to other assistants?
Look to continuously develop your IT/tech skills and stay abreast of new apps that can help you to be more organised. Also, gaining a breadth of experience over different industries as an EA/PA has served me well.
What would you do if you were not an assistant?
I have organically built up a successful social media following for my dog Arch the Pug. Whilst this may sound slightly ridiculous, it has resulted in us becoming Influencers and receiving offers of work for adverts and many a freebie (we no longer pay for his food!) I’m always pleased to be able to tell people that Arch has his own income! If I were not an assistant I would strive to see if I could build on this success further and aim to develop a business advising others on how to achieve something similar to benefit their business.
What is the one piece of technology, app or website you could not do your job without?
As an Apple geek, I cannot live without my iPhone. Native apps like Mail and Calendar are used every day, but there are some amazing apps out there that make being organised much easier such as Genius Scan which allows you to capture a document via the camera and turn the image into a .pdf – it’s proven useful when I’m out of the office.
Can you recommend any events, books, publications, websites, training programmes for other assistants?
A good read is the Definitive Executive Assistant and Managerial Handbook: A Professional Guide to Leadership for all PAs, Senior Secretaries, Office Managers and Executive Assistants written by Sue France.