Real Careers: Kelly McAulay

Exceptional EA is pleased to showcase Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share the benefit of their experience. We’ve made  virtual trips to  Canada, England, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United States, and now make our way to Glasgow, Scotland for a visit with Kelly McAulay.

Kelly McAulay is Executive Assistant, William Grant & Sons Limited. Here’s a look at her world.

Coffee,  News and Email

My alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. and my first must have is a cup of tea, two jaffa cakes and Sky News! At 7:00 a.m. I check my emails just to see what’s come in overnight and to give me a head start before getting to the office.

I am six miles from my office. However, the commute can be anything from 20 – 45 minutes in the car depending on traffic, and there is a major roadworks operation in place at the moment. My morning commute involves listening to the radio but it has to be something really easy like Smooth Radio. What song or two are we likely to find you singing along to when driving, or if no one’s listening? The World’s Greatest  by R Kelly – it’s my motivational song and always lifts my spirits.

At the Office

Morning Routines: The working day for me starts at 8:00 a.m. with a quick check of the diaries to ensure nothing has changed, a quick catch up with my boss if possible, then another quick check of the email before moving on to the to-do list.

Primary Responsibilities: My roles is hugely varied, working for three executives – the Chairman, Company Secretary and Group HR Director – so it can be anything from diaries, travel, preparing board papers, attending meetings, HR activities or event planning.  Every day is different and that’s what I love about my job!

How long is your work day? I arrive in the office around 8:00 a.m. and leave most nights around 5:30 p.m., depending on what’s in the diary.IMG_9639

What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat?  Lunch most days is at my desk and is usually some sort of salad if I’ve had time to prepare and bring my own. We’re very lucky to have an on-site restaurant so, on the days when I haven’t been so organised, then maybe a toastie or some soup.

Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? Sure, my mobile is always on and I tend to check emails fairly regularly in the evenings and weekends.

Dealing with Challenges

What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career?  Managing multiple executives and projects can be hugely challenging at times. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

On mentors: approach someone you respect, and with whom you have some common ground

What do you most enjoy about your career? I love the job that I do, the people I work with, the industry I’m in, the events that I attend and the people I get to meet – I really do enjoy being a PA and feel in a good place right now.

On Saying “No”

I probably don’t say no as often as I should and, in the past, have found myself a bit overwhelmed. I am on a learning curve, though, and I think it’s all about setting realistic deadlines.

Kelly’s World

Map of worldI was born in the small town of Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland and now live in Glasgow. I’m a city gal. I do love escaping to the country for a few days, and Scotland really does have some beautiful countryside (just not the weather!). However, it’s not long before my feet are itching to get back.

I spend my time outside the office with my family, outdoors if I can, and watching my boys play football. I also love “me” time, so shopping trips and spa treatments are also a lovely treat when I can. How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? Hendrick’s Gin and tonic

A dream holiday or travel adventure? New York City in Winter has always been a dream and my husband surprised me for my birthday, so I’m looking forward to going there in December.

Education and Professional Development

Education: I don’t have a degree but I do strongly believe in continued professional development. I completed my Diploma in Personal Assistance, DipPA with Distinction, and attend as many courses and industry events throughout the year as I can.

Attend industry events, and read publications related to your industry

Peer and Professional Associations: I’m involved with the Scottish PA Network as an Ambassador and attend as many of their networking events as possible. I also founded Lanarkshire PA Network in April this year to encourage PA networking and professional development in my community. Being involved in these networks has been a great learning opportunity for me and has been invaluable for both my personal and professional development.



Preferred form(s) of social media? Twitter and LinkedIn

Awards and Recognition

2015 has been an amazing year. Firstly, I won a Stand Fast Award  through an internal recognition programme. I won this for founding the William Grant & Sons Internal PA Network which I launched, with the support of two of my colleagues, in November 2014. Then, in May this year I was lucky enough, and hugely honoured, to have won Scottish PA of the Year with Scottish PA Network/Hays PA & Secretarial.

Style and Substance

Toronto Style Copyright Shelagh DonnellyWhat is your go-to outfit to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? Black dress, smart jacket and heels.

What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? I have three essential cosmetics – bronzer, lip gloss and mascara.

Heels or flats?  Heels, in the office and while commuting. Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? Christian Louboutin, no question!

Preferred scent: Right now I’m wearing Very Irresistible by Givenchy. I also love Creed Spring Flower.

What might we find in your desk drawer? All sorts of miscellaneous stationery, business cards, mints, a sewing kit and a stress ball.

Inspirational reads? Laura Schwartz’ Eat, Drink Succeed was great for motivation and inspiration. I also enjoy reading the books of former PAs and I thought Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by Zelda la Grange was fabulous. I also read a lot of the online articles and industry magazines, which are really good for learning new things and expanding my role.

Develop the ability to say no, respectfully and with confidence, when appropriate

Role models or mentors? I think there are many wonderful role models in our industry right now, but at the moment I’m lucky enough to have the amazing Marion Lowrence of The PA Hub as my mentor. Marion has had an amazing PA career herself and some aspects of our backgrounds are very similar, so it seemed right to ask Marion to be my mentor at this stage in my career.

Lessons Learned

What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Develop the ability to say no confidently and respectfully.

Network as though your life depends on it

Your most effective time management strategy? Being clear on what the priorities are, and knowing exactly what time of day works for your executives if you need to speak with them.

Know when your executive is best able to dedicate time for consultation or updates

Advice for new executives on how to best work with assistants: Communicate with them, believe in them and trust them.

For those interested in promotion: Make time for training and learning – ask for the opportunities and, if your company won’t invest in you, then invest in yourself. Just as importantly, network like your life depends on it!   By networking, you build contacts and relationships, and are able to keep up to date with the industry – there are often many free learning opportunities to support your professional development.


… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Kelly referenced may be interested in checking the following links. To explore a range of resources recommended by our readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page.

One Comment on “Real Careers: Kelly McAulay

  1. Pingback: Meet Kelly: Insights from Scotland | Exceptional EA

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