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 21 countries to date: Australia, 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’re back to England to visit with Amanda Snowball.
Amanda Snowball is a PA/Office Coordinator. While her newly married name is Mosscrop, Amanda says, “I retained my previous name as it is memorable and my employer asked if I would keep it – as, basically, they loved it, as does anyone I meet.” Here’s a look at her world.
My alarm usually goes off at 6:30 a.m. However it is extremely rare that I sleep through till this time. My husband travels to Basingstoke, so he is up at 4:00 a.m., which inevitably means I am awake too. I always have 10 minutes in bed to wake up, so I check out the social media and any text messages that have come in. Next thing I do is put the kettle on and then go and grab a shower. Breakfast has to be quick and simple as I am quite ocd when it comes to leaving the house. It has to be at the same time every morning; any deviation from this and I will feel rushed. I have my routine down to the minute, and it feels quite like groundhog day.
I drive three miles for off street parking near the train station. I don’t need to pay, but you have be there early to get a spot. So, I have 15 minutes to kill before I walk the five minutes or so to the station, and during this time I listen to Radio X. Chris Moyles never fails to make me giggle – a good start. My train, subject to any delays, takes only 30 minutes, and then I always walk the 15 minutes to the office, come snow, rain or shine. I find it clears the head ready for the day.
Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? I don’t listen to any music. I find that there is always someone else’s music I can listen to on the train, whether I want to or not; it is one of my bug bears!
At the Office
Morning Routines: I usually arrive at the office at 8:45 a.m. and after greeting my colleagues, I head to the kitchen where I empty the dishwasher and ensure there is sufficient tea, coffee and milk for the week. If we are running low on supplies, I purchase provisions from the local supermarket. This is usually on a Monday, as I also replenish the fruit bowl and biscuit tin with goodies for the team.
Primary Responsibilities: I look after six partners of a specialist business advisory firm. In addition, I provide secretarial/admin support to the team as and when needed. This currently stands at 14 staff, but at the time of going to press, another two members are due to join us and so the workload will increase. I am the only PA and admin support within the office and therefore I wear numerous hats for my role. It’s my responsibility to organise diaries and travel arrangements, and ensure the office is set up for any meetings. Some of my duties include procurement transactions, partners’ expenses, invoicing, IT tasks, reception, marketing, facilities and event organising. The list is ever increasing.
I am the only PA and admin support within the office
EAs and PAs will agree with me when I say that no two days are the same and, if I was honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Once I have done the “kitchen duties”, I do a tea run and ask who needs some caffeine … I try and drink lots of water and caffeine-free drinks throughout the day. Following this, I fire up the computer and see what has come in overnight in terms of voicemails/faxes and meetings to set up. I also check out the six partners’ diaries and see their whereabouts. I check my task list on Outlook for priorities, but this can all go to the wayside if the phones are busy. If we have been appointed to a new job, this creates an influx of calls, and prevents pretty much anything being done. Then I am on catch up.
How long is your work day? Our core hours are 9: 00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with an hour for lunch. I tend to work 8:45 to 5:15, as this works well with my train timetable.
What might be a typical lunch? I am on a major health kick at the moment, so lunch is mainly a pre-prepared salad with protein, or leftovers from the previous evening. I always eat at my desk, although I try to make a conscious effort to step out of the office for a walk, get some fresh air or do a spot of shopping. The latter is very dangerous being in Manchester; it can seriously eat into your pay packet. I don’t have a set lunch time; it all depends on whether there are meetings taking place.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I am not provided with a work phone – thankfully, as I can imagine I would never feel I was away from work. If it has been a pretty hectic week, I have a work laptop at home and will work on an evening and weekend. However, I am keen to keep the work/life balance in check and will do this only if needs must and the workload demands it.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? I would say that’s trying to being the jack of all trades. My role as PA has evolved so much since I began working here. It can be overwhelming at extremely busy times, and it is guaranteed that people will want everything all at the same time.
Exercising flexibility in order to meet expectations
It’s a challenge to prioritise the work of six partners, as they are all important in their own right, and it is sometimes like herding sheep trying to get them all together for a meeting. You only have their diary to rely upon and so a tracker would be good for a couple of them, as they seem to create meetings which I don’t know about. Another challenging aspect is that the partners all have different styles of working and preferences as to how they wish things done. So I have to be flexible in ensuring I meet their expectations.
What do you most enjoy about your career? I love the variety of my role; it certainly keeps you on your toes. I am very much a people person and I enjoy the constant interaction with key clients and colleagues alike. I relish how the team gels together; it couldn’t work any other way. We have a great banter and this is a massive help when everyone is bogged down with work and needs a pick me up. I am also a highly organised person and enjoy the way I can create a smooth and efficient day for the partners. I find it very rewarding, professionally and personally.
I relish how the team gels together; it couldn’t work any other way
On Saying “No”
I do need to work on this more; I don’t like to let people down, and should say no more than I do. If I am busy, I find out from the person how quickly they want the job done and then work out from there whether it is feasible. It often ends up with me reprioritising my list to incorporate the request. It is very rare that I do not complete any ad hoc requests.
I was born in Norwich, Norfolk and from there my parents moved to Doncaster, South Yorkshire when I was still a baby. This is where I did the majority of my growing up and I love going back to my roots. I then moved to Seaham, County Durham with my then-husband and that’s where my twins (a son and daughter) were born. We moved back to Doncaster in 2004 and in 2013 I moved to a beautiful place called Bollington, Cheshire with my new husband.
It has such a wonderful village community, I couldn’t envisage ever moving from here.
At heart, are you a city mouse or a country mouse? I like having the best of both worlds. I love being in the hub of Manchester for work; it has a great vibe and there is always something going on. But then I like to retreat to the Peak District which we live close to. It is so picturesque, and helps you forget the humdrum of working life.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? That’s easy – in the gym. I have registered for three events this year as part of the PA Pledge that MPAN (Manchester PA Network) are running on behalf of The Christie, one of the largest hospital charities in the UK. This supports the work of the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist cancer centre in Manchester. Training has started in earnest – I go at least five times a week. I try to incorporate the training with networking events as these are invaluable. On weekends, my husband and I enjoy quality time as we fail miserably during the week with work diaries, so you will find us in a local pub or restaurant catching up.
MPAN runs events to fundraise for The Christie
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? At the moment it would be a good upbeat spinning class; they seem to melt away the issues of the day. I also try and include a pamper nail or massage; just some me time is reward enough.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? I think I experienced my ideal holiday in November 2016, when I visited Thailand for my honeymoon. We visited three different areas, each as amazing as the other, and I would love to go back there again. It was everything people say about Thailand.
Peer and Professional Associations: I am an active member of MPAN (Manchester PA Network), and have been a member for two years now. The network has helped me secured some amazing friendships for which I am eternally grateful. As a lone PA in my workplace, it is extremely isolating and the network has enabled me to gain support and advice from its members.
In addition, when I started in my current role, I was totally new to Manchester. The network helped me via visiting venues and restaurants, and I was able to draw on these experiences for recommendations to the partners.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Facebook for friends and family, Twitter for the MPAN members and stalking (I mean following) celebrities as well as sharing work related media publications, and LinkedIn for work
I also hold Instagram and Pinterest accounts, and find the latter invaluable for ideas re home projects, cooking and crafting.
Style and Substance
Name a go-to piece or two from your wardrobe to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? A navy blue Jaegar dress and heels. It is a classic and there is always some sort of complimentary comment when it is worn. I usually team it up with a scarf or fancy necklace.
What might we find in your desk drawer? I have three drawers; the top one is for spare stationery that I don’t want to go “walkabout” if it saw the light of day. The second is for spare access key fobs for the office and keys, and the third contains the petty cash tin. I do like to go home knowing there is a tidy desk for me to return to, so I spend a couple of minutes before I leave each evening to put everything away.
Diary and travel management for six partners
How long have you been an admin. professional? I initially started in an admin role for the NHS (National Health Service) in Doncaster in 2008. From there I became secretary to the Director of Children’s Services before moving to the North West and my current role. I am aiming to retire in this role in the next eight years.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. The main accolade that I am extremely proud of is being crowned as Manchester PA of the Year 2016 at the MPAN (Manchester PA Network) awards in October 2016. I am still in awe of the award. You may want to click here to read what it means to me.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Amanda mentioned may be interested in checking the following link.
- Manchester PA Network (MPAN)