Exceptional EA showcases Real Careers, in which administrators from around the globe generously share the benefit of their experience. We’ve made virtual trips to Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the USA and Wales. Today, we make our way to Edinburgh, Scotland to visit with Sally Lloyd.
I get up around 7:10 a.m. and meditate for about 20 minutes. Then I make tea, have a shower and get dressed before breakfast – a pretty simple routine, really – but the “must have” is the meditation. The rest of my day is so much more successful that way!
I’m very lucky to live close to work, so I have a 15 minute walk along the canal to the office. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I usually listen to my latest Audible book – at the moment I’m listening to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and before that it was Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich. I’m also partial to the Moneybox podcast!
At the Office
Morning Routines: CodeBase is very much a fly by the seat of your pants kind of job, but I try to always to do the following: bank reconciliation, invoice raising, catching up with Jamie (we don’t get to see each other that much, so I always need a check list in hand!) and diary checking.
There’s not really such a thing as a typical day. But I come in the main entrance, say hi to tenants and grab a coffee at Filament (an awesome coffee shop in CodeBase) before heading upstairs to check emails, bank and diary management.
Primary Responsibilities: Aside from looking after Jamie, I am responsible for the day to day finances and legal matters for the company. We’re a small team, too – so we all muck in and help each other where needed.
How long is your work day? This is officially a part time role where I work from 9:00 to 1:00 (this is my choice as I decided to take a bit of time to myself this year), but we’re so busy that I often work more hours than this! I’ve gotten into the (bad) habit of sorting out a backlog of emails on a Saturday night as I know hardly anyone will reply!
What might be a typical lunch? Do you get away from the office? As much as I can – I don’t believe anyone should sacrifice their lunch break! I’m often done for the day at 1:00 p.m., so head home to make lunch there. The bad thing is, that if I work longer, my lunch ends up being later – but I always take one!
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I don’t have a commute – but our set up at CodeBase is as such that we can all work from home when we want/need the space. It can be very useful!
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? It’s challenging when people see me as a block to Jamie rather than a way in. Of course I’m a gatekeeper, but most people don’t realise that a) I do more than put meetings in diaries and b) if you’re nice to me you’ll get to see Jamie quicker! I find it frustrating when someone doesn’t tell me what the meeting is about (“It’s confidential”) and then it’s actually about something I’m 100% responsible for and Jamie just passes the matter back to me. But patience is a virtue and all that, so I just take a deep breath and remain gracious!
Take a deep breath and remain gracious
What do you most enjoy about your career? Being at CodeBase (the UK’s largest tech incubator), it’s that it’s such an exciting environment – we are surrounded by awesome startups, all on an amazing journey. It’s great to be a part of that, and to assist companies in achieving their goals.
Do You Say “No” to Others?
Yes! But not directly, I guess. If I have too much on, or I can’t stay on longer, I’ll say so. I think it’s important to have a life outside work – and this makes it much easier to say you’ve got something on and need to leave.
I was born in Swansea, and now live in Edinburgh. At heart, are you a city gal or small community person (city mouse/country mouse)? City gal! I live a 20 minute walk from Edinburgh City Centre, and this is the furthest out of town I’ve lived so far. I do like to be outside when I can, though!
Away from the office, I enjoy meditation, yoga, family and friends, reading and the cinema.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? With a sneaky wee gin and tonic!
A dream holiday or travel adventure? So far, our big holidays have been road trips around the States – we plan them around friends and family, but also love visiting new places.
Join your local PA network, volunteer, get more training, and make sure you speak up
Education and Professional Development
Education: I have a BA Single Honours Spanish. Most recently, I achieved the MOS Master Certification which involved lots of horrid Microsoft exams! It was totally worth it – I use the skills I learned in training all the time.
Peer and Professional Associations: I’m a member of the Executive and Personal Assistants Association (EPAA), which is new in the UK and just gearing up. I’m the Chair of the Regional Board.
Preferred form(s) of social media? I love Instagram (which I don’t think translates to work, really) and Twitter.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? Something that stops people sending meeting invites to my boss (this is a pet peeve as I can easily miss them coming in this way!), and another app that puts contacts in my phone and boss’ phone at the same time – I’m always duplicating!
I think it’s important to have a life outside work
Awards and Recognition
I won the Scottish PA Network’s 2016 Scottish PA of the Year award.
A Meaningful Career
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. I’m proud of starting at CodeBase and realising I was in my dream job! I can’t wait for the next few years to see the role and company development. As well, there’s winning Scottish PA of the Year for 2016 – it seemed to go hand in hand with my decision to change roles, and it’s amazing that the outside world recognises this as well as me knowing it inside.
The Edinburgh PA Networking Group: a team providing excellent events and support to PAs
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I’m part of the founding team for Edinburgh PA Networking Group and we’ve been working really hard to reach all the PAs in Edinburgh – we think there are over 1,500! The team consists of myself, Amy Smith (Skyscanner) and Sherien Ahmed (Venture Trust) and we would like to really develop this network, continue to provide excellent events and support for PAs across the city.
Inspirational reads? I’ve just finished Atul Gawunde’s The Checklist Manifesto, which has changed my life!
What might we find in your desk drawer? I don’t have desk drawers! I suspect that everything is in my handbag, though, as you’ll see at http://www.patothecity.com/bag/.
Travel or travel planning advice? Be adaptable. Always look up taxi companies and put them in your manager’s phone (“Taxi – Cambridge”, “Taxi – Manchester”, etc). Save confirmations for yourself so that you can forward/check easily if your manager arrives somewhere and asks you something.
Role models or mentors?
Jamie Coleman – Jamie is the first manager I’ve ever had who takes my personal development as seriously as his own. He always checks in on the next stage of things, as well as being an all round great boss. I have quite a lot of extracurricular activities and he’ll always spend a couple of minutes talking through them and offering advice. It’s super useful to have this amazing advice at my fingertips, and to continue to learn from him!
Ewan McCowan, Head of Marketing, Float – Ewan is a friend of mine and a tenant in CodeBase – we carried out peer to peer mentoring around a year ago to invigorate our search for new challenging roles, and now we are both in awesome jobs!
Kath M. Mainland, CBE – Kath was my manager before Jamie, and was so very very good at her job! She started as an admin. assistant before ending up as Chief Executive at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (the largest arts festival in the world!), and has such a calm, diplomatic air. I learned so much from her in our six years working together.
Amy Smith and Sherien Ahmed – my fellow Edinburgh PA committee members. They are amazing sounding boards and support – well, we all are to each other. I don’t know what I’d do without them!
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Don’t spend time trying to get people to like you. If you’re a nice/good person, they’ll like you in time, anyway! Don’t worry if they don’t (they are clearly idiots!).
Discuss with your principal how much autonomy you have
Your most effective time management strategy? Just getting on with it!
Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? I’m not a mum, so can’t really offer advice. I do have lots of friends who are, though, and it’s mighty hard to get back to work – I admire all mums, at home or at work!
Role model/mentor: a manager who takes my personal development as seriously as his own
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? A conversation around how much autonomy you have is useful – Jamie is happy that I do my job as I want/need to. My last manager liked to give me more structure. Both worked for me, but it took a while getting used to the structure from the last role!
Peer to peer mentoring: invigorated searches for challenging new roles
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Find someone you trust so you don’t feel the need to check on her/him. When your assistant gets something wrong, just say so– but also give advice on how to get it right.
For those interested in promotion: Join your local PA network, volunteer, get more training, and make sure you speak up about it!
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Sally referenced may be interested in checking the following links.
- Sally publishes her own blog, PA to the City
- Edinburgh PA Networking Group – also on Twitter and Facebook
- EPAA – Executive and Personal Assistants Association
- Scottish PA Network