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, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, the USA and Wales, and now make our way back to Guernsey to visit with Helen Le Poidevin.
Social Media and A Quick Commute
At 6:45 my alarm goes off. Once I have woken up I take a shower and decide what to wear before heading outside to feed my rabbit, Indy. I then just have time to have a quick look at my emails and social media, as I am a big Twitter fan.
My husband drops me off on his way to work, and this usually takes around 10-15 minutes depending on the traffic. In the summer I try to cycle to work as much as I can, but only on days with nice weather!
At the Office
Morning Routines: When I arrive at the office I log onto my computer and, whilst waiting for it to load, I will go and make a cup of tea and have some breakfast. I then check my emails that have come in overnight and deal with anything urgent. I then check my executives’ mailboxes to see if there is anything I can do for them. I have authority to read and delete emails I do not think my executives need to know about, or I keep such emails to one side and brief my executives at our scheduled catch ups.
I will then have a quick look on LinkedIn and Twitter to see if there are any interesting PA articles posted that may be of use to myself or the rest of the team.
Primary Responsibilities: I am a PA to one partner, two directors, two senior managers and a Tax team of six. I also have an active role in marketing, which includes event management, research and purchase of branded merchandise, organising internal photo shoots, maintaining our client database, booking business travel (including visas, expenses, timesheets), minute taking at our management team meetings and any ad-hoc work. I also have responsibility for the secretarial team when my manager is not in the office.
No two days are the same. I could start by setting up a business briefing at an external venue, followed by putting together an itinerary for my Director’s trip to Brazil, after which I’d spend time coordinating a PwC-branded merchandise order for the PwC golf day, or organising a photo shoot for a piece of literature we’re producing.
How long is your work day? My core hours are 9:00 to 5:30 Monday and Friday and 8:30 to 5:00 from Tuesday to Thursday. As my husband drops me off, I am usually at my desk by 8:15 every day. I try to leave on time as much as I can, as I usually have an exercise class booked or other plans in the evening.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? That’s definitely trying to keep on top of all of the diaries I look after. After the weekend, there is usually an influx of meeting invites which come through and I have the responsibility for accepting/declining on behalf of my executives. That can be challenging, as I may need to move meetings around based on priorities, while making sure the allocated time is sufficient. I try not to accept back to back meetings.
We are seen for all the different projects we do rather than just as glorified typists
What do you most enjoy about your career? I probably enjoy the learning aspects of the role the most. The role of the PA is starting to get more widely recognised, and we are seen for all the different projects we do rather than just as glorified typists. With this role, there is always something new to learn and we must keep up to date with technology so that we can help our executives and be the “go to” person in the office.
There is always something new to learn, and we must keep up to date with technology
On Saying “No”
I do not like saying “no” to anyone and feel really guilty if I do. However, if I am too busy at the time someone asks for a piece of work, I will always ask them when it needs to be completed and then I can determine if it is a priority. If it is not, I will add it to my “to do” list for when I have the time. I do see myself as a good delegator and allocate work to other members of the team if they have the capacity.
I was born and live on the small island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, and I have the delight of enjoying its beauty each day. After visiting Australia a few years ago, I would consider moving out there – however, my husband is definitely a Guern and would not leave.
I am a country mouse. Living on such a small island, I am used to a relaxed pace of life, although when I do go to the UK I do love the hustle and bustle of the mainland – but not the Tube!
When I am not spending time with my hubby, I am out catching up with friends, whether it’s a night out on the town or a night in with a good movie. When I am feeling motivated, I like to go to the gym as I really enjoy spinning, or go for a swim in our local pool.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? If I have had a tough day at the office, I like to either curl up on the sofa with a good movie or go to a spinning class to refocus my mind.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Last year I travelled to Cambodia and Thailand for my honeymoon, visiting Bangkok and Angkor Wat temples which were an amazing experience and hard to top, but my dream travel adventure would have to be visiting Machu Picchu in Peru as it would be a once in a lifetime experience.
I look on LinkedIn and Twitter to see if there are any interesting PA articles that may be of use to myself or the rest of the team
Peer and Professional Associations: In February 2015 Guernsey PA Connect was launched by Donna Olliver, whose profile you may have read here. It has been a great way to network and I have made some great connections through it so far.
In October I went to the office* show with a colleague from PwC. There, I met some really interesting people while attending a dinner that was organised through Donna’s connections. PA Connect has a workshop with Heather Baker in a few weeks, and I am looking forward to it.
Preferred form(s) of social media? Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram – I love social media
Awards and Recognition
Each of the past three years, we have held an internal awards evening and this year I won the Bright Spark award. I have also been nominated before for the Unsung Hero and Couldn’t Live Without awards. We do not have any awards yet within our Guernsey PA association, but hopefully we will one day.
My colleagues were very supportive of my ambition to be promoted and gave me great advice and feedback
Style and Substance
Heels or flats in the office? Heels. For your commute? 100% flats; heels and cobbles on Guernsey’s high street do not mix
What might we find in your desk drawer? As we have a clear desk policy, you will find my draw overflowing with work files, PA magazines, books, course materials, muesli and cereal bars, etc.
Inspirational reads? I recently read Zelda Le Grange’s Good Morning, Mr. Mandala, which I found very interesting. I enjoyed it so much I recommended it to my colleagues. I was lucky enough to see Zelda’s talk at office* Show and found her very inspiring.
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. In July this year I was promoted to a Senior PA role, which was an achievement for me as it proves how far I have come over the past six years working for PwC. I am proud of this, as I worked hard to get to where I am today. My colleagues were very supportive of my ambition to be promoted and gave me some great advice and feedback. My confidence has grown since my promotion, and I am enjoying my role.
I have completed a Level 3 Certificate in PA & Administration course, which I found relevant to my role and very helpful. This has led me to continue my studies, and I have just started a Pitman Executive diploma which has 12 different modules.
Join a PA network, where the connections you make can come in very handy
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I would like to complete my diploma in the next 12-18 months, and I have aspirations to be a mentor to a junior secretary and also become the team leader one day.
Your most effective time management strategy? I always try to make a “to do” list before I leave the office at the end of the day, and without this list I do not know whether I am coming or going.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Spend time getting to know your PA on both work and personal levels. Your PA is going to be your right arm, so you need to work well together as a team and understand each other.
Be willing to put in the time and develop yourself
For those interested in promotion: Be willing to put in the time and develop yourself. A PA needs to be up to speed with the latest technologies in case an exec requires our help. Learn as much as you can and, if your employer does not support you by sending you on courses, there are lots of online materials to help you. I would also suggest joining a PA network where the connections you make can come in very handy.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Helen referenced may be interested in checking the following links. To explore a range of resources recommended by readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page or click here to see all professional associations and networks recommended by peers.