Exceptional EA is pleased to feature Real Careers, in which EAs, Management Assistants, PAs and other administrators from around the globe generously share a bit of their lives and the benefit of their experience. We’ve made virtual trips to South Africa, the US and UK, and now return to England for a visit with Teely Pearson Webb.
Up and Out the Door
Alarm at 6.00 a.m., followed by a couple of snooze-button naps, up and out of the door before 6.50 a.m. Very minimalist routine as it is too early to apply full make-up or eat at that time. I used to rise at 5.30 a.m. and swim one mile before work but I have moved now and have an hour long commute that does not allow for pre-work swimming.
I now drive one hour to work – it is a tad over 40 miles (64 km), then back again in the evening, of course! I am usually ahead of the rush hour at both ends but it can be tricky if there are hold-ups enroute. I am always tuned in to Radio 4 as I have a need to keep up with everything going on. My manager and I often compare notes or comment on interviews or comments we have heard on our separate commutes in.
At the Office
Morning Routines: Firstly, and secondly, coffee! Strong, black and at least two mugs! I immediately check emails and then usually go through the diary with my boss, checking what is planned for the day, and adding in anything he wishes to do, so I can see how the day will take shape. Then it is on to the first task at hand. Something I may have been working on the day before, or something that is new and requires immediate attention.
Primary Responsibilities: I am PA to my boss, so all administrative work and extensive PA support, as normal. Plus, I am involved in report writing, creating strategies, and some research which is really interesting and challenging. In addition, I am the administrator for our research Centre and so I am involved in the staffing issues, ordering of chemicals and equipment, Health and Safety regulations/policies and all meetings and reports associated with the Centre.
Similar to many administrative professionals, there are a variety of meetings that have to be prepared for. It may be that I am writing up minutes from a previous meeting, and distributing them to Board members. I may be making complex multi-destination travel arrangements or overseeing regulations and policies for the laboratory.
I’ll take calls, gate-keep where necessary, and arrange for meetings, conversations, conference calls or email replies for my boss. I might annotate the leave and sickness files of the personnel in the team. There is the general diary and data management to attend to, attention to the usual office filing, records and systems and the liaising with external people and companies for their expertise or input. I am also involved with supporting some students who are in our team, so I have to consider the rules and regulations that apply to them during their time with us.
How long is your work day? Usually, I arrive at 8.00 a.m. and leave at 4:00 p.m. Sometimes I stay later, if there is a need to do so. In the first year in this post I was involved in a project that meant I worked additional hours most days for four months straight. I try to be flexible – it is a part of the job.
What might be a typical lunch? Where do you eat? Hmm … not very good at that. I nearly always have some fruit, more coffee, and sometimes a sandwich. I often eat in the office but occasionally if I can, I do like to get outside, even for a short time but that usually depends on the weather.
Do you work from home in your “off” hours, or during your commute? I do check emails through the evenings and weekends. I like to. I see it as staying on top of my work. If action needs taking, I decide if I have to do something about it then, or if it can wait until I am back in the office.
Dealing with Challenges
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? I work in an area of research. Sometimes I do not understand the “language” of the specialism. On my first week, I had to minute three days of a peer-assist conference, with thirty professionals from all around the world. I did not know them, or the subject on which they spoke. Afterwards, my manager said I had produced an impressive set of technical minutes and he was delighted. I did say that his colleagues could have been speaking in another language – as I had that little understanding of the subject!
Invest in yourself, and find the path that’s right for you
What do you most enjoy about your career? I like delivering the end product! A day that has seen much work achieved, giving the correct support to my manager and the chance to push myself to do more, and learn more. There are so many skills involved in the work we do, I am amazed at what can be accomplished!
On Saying “No”
I am pretty much alone in our team as far as administrative support is concerned so I usually do most things, unless I have to defer to a different department. Therefore, I am not usually asked to do additional work by anyone other than my manager. He and I work really well as a team, so I do not need to say no … we just work out the details like deadlines and resources and then I am free to manage my workload as I see fit.
Teely’s Two-Minute Rule
However, I do have two tips … if I am asked to do something, if it is small, and can be completed in under a couple of minutes, I do it straight away. By the time you make a note of it, or put it down, and return to it later, you are effectively doing it twice! Do it, move on and do not revisit the small things!
The other tip I have is “customer service” – I like to bring an element of pride to my work in being a “can-do” person. It is not always appropriate, especially if you are being put-upon, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of completing a request if I can possibly do so.
I was born in the South of England, I’m a Home Counties girl. In my younger years I travelled to over 54 countries and had a short stay in California. Later, I lived in Qatar for five years which was amazing. I have now relocated myself and family to a new home near the sea in the South East of England again, but this time with a completely different outlook – the sea as opposed to the countryside.
I like living in smaller communities, but I love being in cities for the entertainment and experiences there.
What song or two are we likely to find you singing along to when driving, or if no one’s listening? You are just too good to be true by Burt Bacharach. It is so pretty. Anything by Sinatra, and I cannot sing along to, but I love, the Gypsy Kings for getting going!
How do you like to spend your time outside the office? With my lovely family, as much as I can. Otherwise I’m now enjoying my new passion of sailing, and all things on or by the water, with friends. I love reading and taking photographs. In the winter evenings I make hand-pieced and hand-sewn quilts.
A dream holiday or travel adventure? Dream Holiday – I would love to have a long relaxing Indian Ocean or South Seas paradise vacation so I can unwind.
Education and Professional Development
Education: Originally I studied Graphic Design at Art College, so please fast forward a few decades. After a time in my personal life where I needed to reflect, I chose this profession and set out to achieve the best career I could as I believe only YOU drive your career.
Push yourself; only you drive your career
I have worked my way up from pretty much nothing, to achieve this position. In my CPD (Continued Professional Development) portfolio I have 44 workshops and short courses, an administrative certification, an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) Level 3 and I am currently taking my ILM (Institute of Leadership Management) Level 3. If you do not push yourself, no-one will do it for you. I am still creative and bring it into all the work I do, in the office or at home.
Networking PAs/EAs are a force and an inspiration
Peer and Professional Associations: As we speak, I am in the ILM programme and hope to be awarded next month. My next step will be to join a professional association. However, I network with others and this has giving me so much – the energy, advice, support and opportunites from other PAs/EAs has been fantastic and enhanced my career no end.
Awards and Recognition
I was fortunate enough to win the category of PA of the Year – Newcomer 2013 – Hays and Executive Magazine awards. Also in 2014, I was a Pitman’s Super Achiever PA of the Year Finalist. Our Centre was awarded an industry Excellence in Technology Award in 2013 and I believe I had a role to play in supporting my manager’s performance in achieving this.
Technology: Reality and Wish List
Preferred form(s) of social media? I am on Twitter, which I like more than I thought I would, and LinkedIn for contacts and excellent articles. I am dipping a toe back into FB but we will see how it goes.
Your dream app, or software, to help you in your career? One that does my spreadsheets for me before I know what I want them to do.
Style and Substance
What is your go-to outfit to ensure confidence on an important day in the workplace? A plain black dress and black shoes, but with either some pearls or a lovely bracelet, and my gorgeous watch my daughters bought me.
What one or two cosmetics would your purse or travel bag be empty without? A great foundation for a smooth finish and lip gloss. Also, mascara and now I need brow mascara too!
Heels or flats? Heels – always heels, everywhere. Always. Even driving, it is still heels.
Favourite brands of shoes, whether you wear them or they’re on your wish list? I just love so many – anything with a heel. Are you seeing a trend here?
Preferred scent: Lovely by SJP or White Musk from Body Shop
What might we find in your desk drawer? I have a couple of favourite fountain pens, gorgeous stationery and cards, invisible tape and boxes of pencils with little erasures on them (I do almost everything in pencil).
How do you pamper or reward yourself after a tough day or week? A glass of wine, or two …
Inspirational reads? For achievement over adversity – Jo Gambi’s Seven Summits was an excellent read. Many authors writing on LinkedIn or in our dedicated websites and terrific magazines offer a quick fix of inspiration and instruction.
Role models? Not one individual in our industry, but networking with like-minded professionals has had a powerful influence on me. Networking PAs/EAs are a force and an inspiration – they are all aspiring to do better, and wanting you to achieve the same. Having said that, my mother was the most hard-working person I have known as she inspired me to achieve the best I can, work hard and never give up.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? I wish I had found this career sooner.
What advice might you offer a new mother returning to the workplace? Try and plan for home and work so things go as smoothly as possible for you. However young your children are, you are already an inspiration.
What is your most effective time management strategy? My two-minute rule. Do not touch a piece of work twice!
Make a point of being informed, and communicate with your boss
What insight or advice would you offer an assistant who is interested in career growth/promotion? Make a plan and look to find the right courses that will support your chosen career path. Look upon it as a project, have aims, invest in yourself and find the right path for you. Take control of your own career, do not wait for your employer to suggest CPD but ask for CPD opportunities yourself.
Advice for new executives on how to best work with an assistant: Let them support you, do not try to mirco-manage them. This is what THEY have chosen to do for THEIR career, so let them do just that.
… a note, now, from Shelagh. Readers unfamiliar with the book Teely mentioned, Seven Summits (also known as Holding On: A Story of Love and Survival), may wish to click here to learn more.
To explore a range of resources recommended by our readers, click here for Exceptional EA’s Resources Page.