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, Turkey, the USA and Wales, and now return to England. Today, we’re making our way to Hale, Cheshire to visit with Melanie Sheehy.
Doubly in Demand
My typical day starts at approximately 5:30 a.m. with my twin boys shouting across the landing, “MUMMMMMMMY, downstairs NOW!” Mornings are chaotic, fun and challenge my negotiation skills! Once we are all up, it’s a morning filled with running around after three-year-old twins as well as trying to get ready for work! I am very lucky to have a great husband who makes me a fruit smoothie and supports my caffeine addiction every morning.
Thankfully I have a short drive to work, which takes approximately 20 minutes.
At the Office
Morning Routines: My first job is a daily meeting with my boss, CEO Chris Morris, during which we’ll look at his agenda/travel plans for that day. After that I meet my team and address any issues we might have. My landline is forwarded to my mobile, so I always check voicemails immediately and likewise with email; my mantra being “respond to them immediately” or they build up very, very quickly.
Primary Responsibilities: As well as managing my team, my raison d’etre is to be the EA to our CEO and every day is different. During my hours in the office, he is my first and last thought.
Since there is no typical day in my job, I have to be flexible and be where I’m needed. That might be in the office, in London for Board meetings, or even working from my boss’ home office as was the case when he had a skiing accident and dislocated his collar bone.
How long is your work day? My work day is restricted due to childcare, so I officially work from 9:00 – 5:00. I do find that if I need to, I will work evenings as well as during my day off – on a Friday – just to ensure everything is done.
What might be a typical lunch? Ha ha, lunch? What’s that? I do try and get away when I can and try to have something healthy and low carb. I will eat either at my desk or in the kitchen area in the office
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I do work from home during my off hours, but my boss is very good and understands the challenges of being a working parent – and I love what I do, so it rarely feels like work.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? The most challenging part of my career is juggling all the roles I have: being a working mum, an EA and a network co-founder. Some days, it is such a juggling act that I feel like I am about to drop a ball.
It’s up to you as an individual, and how much you want to succeed in life and make your job your own
What do you most enjoy about your career? I am very lucky to have formed a great working relationship with my boss, which means I get involved in lots of parts of the business – and that creates variety within my role.
On Saying “No”
I am the gate-keeper to the CEO and so I’d suggest colleagues might say I say “no” often. I feel my role is to support the CEO, and it’s my call as to whether I think he need involve himself in all matters. Thankfully, we’ve worked together so long that I usually make the right call. In terms of advice, I think it’s having that mutual understanding with your colleagues, being in tune with their thinking.
Five-Year Goal: to see the Manchester PA Network grow even more & fundraise £100,000+
My time outside work is taken up with my children and husband. I love to embrace my family time and ensure we have as much fun as possible. Apart from that, I don’t have time for anything else.
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? This is going to sound sad, but currently I don’t have time to spend on myself; it’s all about my boys. If I am lucky, I get to have my hair done.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? We are fortunate to have a little bolt hole we can go to in Marbella, which is great to have a home away from home when you have little ones. Having said that, there is so much to see in the world that, when the boys are older, I hope to explore more.
I get involved … and that creates variety within my role
Education and Professional Development
Education: I wasn’t hugely academic and knew university wasn’t for me, so I went straight into my first job as a PA very young. There, I was lucky enough to have worked for a big blue chip company and was provided training and also had the opportunity to progress through the ranks before leaving to get out into the big wide world. A lot of it is up to you as an individual, though, and how much you want succeed in life and make your job your own.
EPAA will open up a new world for PAs
Peer and Professional Associations: I have had the honour of just becoming a non-executive Director of EPAA, The Executive and Personal Assistants Association. EPAA will open up a new world for PAs to have someone to turn to, and of course I belong to this association.
Preferred form(s) of social media? I don’t have as much time as I would like to use social media, but I am a big reader and watcher. Facebook would be my go to in my personal life, to help share my family growing up with family across the globe.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? A global network app where you can ask PAs across the world questions, or seek help and support
Awards and Recognition
As yet I haven’t received anything, but there’s time yet.
Style and Substance
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? Crème de la mer foundation and Mac eyebrow pencil
Heels or flats? Heels in the office, and flats for my commute. Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? Love my Christian Laboutins, my go to going out shoes.
Preferred scent: Viktor& Rolf – Flowerbomb
What might we find in your desk drawer? Not much, as I can’t find the key!
Travel or travel planning advice? Attention to detail is key. Don’t book too early and, if you do, book flexible tickets as things always change.
Inspirational reads? Honestly, I read utter trash to escape work and home, so there isn’t one.
Role models or mentors? My dad was a huge role model for me growing up and in my early years of working – just seeing his work ethic and how being positive about life can get you through anything. He achieved so much in his life, with his family being his drive. Later on in my career and life, my husband has become my rock and my go to person for when I have work challenges or big decisions to make – be it in work or life in general.
Being positive about life can get you through anything
Tell us about a career accomplishment of which you’re particularly proud. For me, just being a working mum and seeing that I am achieving my goals at work but also seeing that my boys are happy is an accomplishment. The other accomplishment is seeing how far the Manchester PA Network has come in five years – and to finally say we can recognise PAs in Manchester with the Manchester PA of the Year awards.
Seeing that I am achieving my goals at work but also seeing that my boys are happy is an accomplishment
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? In the next five years I would like to see the MPAN (Manchester PA Network) grow even more and reach a fundraising amount of over £100,000.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Expect the unexpected.
It’s all about the little things; get them right, and you will go far
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Find out about them – and remember that it is all about them.
Your most effective time management strategy? Lists, lists and more lists. Not only do I have lists but I also have Post-it notes scattered around my desk.
On saying no: My role is to support the CEO; it’s my call as to whether he need involve himself in all matters
Advice for a new mother working to the workplace? It does get easier, and take every day as it comes – but most of all, don’t feel guilty for coming back to work.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: They need to set expectations and use their PA rather than leaving her/him to get bored. Communication is key to making it work.
Make the job your own, take on more work that is outside your remit
For those interested in promotion: Make the job your own, take on more work that is outside your remit. Also, it’s all about the little things! Get them right and you will go far.
… and now, a note from Shelagh. Readers not familiar with some of the people and resources Melanie 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.