What do you love about the role?
I get to plan and organise and get paid. Amazing! Seriously, I feel assistants are so important to any business, and they add real value. I honestly feel that I make a difference and make things easier for others every day, which is a really nice feeling.
Tell us something unusual you have had to do as an assistant.
Having worked at a Zoo for 17 years, the list is endless, but not many I can share I’m afraid!! In 2019 Chester Zoo was heavily involved in introducing some Black Rhinos into the wild in Rwanda. It was a complex project with parties from various countries involved. I was fortunate to play a part in that, behind the scenes of course, but still very much involved. When talking about my job I always say I could be working in any sector, so the fact I get to be the EA at Chester Zoo is a real privilege.
Tell us a bit about your role and your responsibilities?
I’m the EA to the CEO, supporting him day to day but also involved in the bigger picture stuff, like delivering the Zoo’s Strategic Development Plan and our Conservation Masterplan. It’s an exciting time at Chester Zoo; we have lots planned. I also support our Chair and Board of Trustees, who govern Chester Zoo, as a registered Charity.
What are your strengths as an assistant?
I consider myself an empath, with emotional intelligence, which I feel is a vital skill. I’m very solution focused and like to get things done and ticked off. I also like to think I give balanced views and opinions on situations, which my boss appreciates (most of the time!).
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career as an assistant?
Network, network and network some more. Having people in similar roles who you can check in with and bounce things off is really helpful. The best way to create those contacts is by networking. It may sound scary, but just know everyone feels the same when starting out. Take the leap, you won’t regret it.
How do you stay on top of your deadlines and priorities?
I have reminders for pretty much everything. It’s basic but it works. We also use rolling business cycles for all our Board and Committee meetings, to ensure nothing is missed. I constantly update these, as things change and develop, which I feel really helps.
What strategies do you use for time management?
Honestly, I think we all struggle with this. Assistants are involved in so much, a lot of which is changeable at very short notice. My plan for the day very rarely pans out. I’ve made the decision not to give myself a hard time about it. Being adaptable is a key skill.
How important is the assistant and executive business relationship and how do you make that work?
Goes without saying that it is incredibly important. I’ve been exceptionally lucky and had excellent relationships with all the Exec’s I have supported, however not two relationships are the same, and they all need work.
When working with a new Exec, I always start by explaining that I can only add value if I know what’s going on, what the priorities are, what issues need to be dealt with. I need to know the short and longer term plans. It’s vital that information is shared. I feel if I have an insight in to the bigger picture and the goals, then I can help and support.
How did it feel to be nominated for PA of the Year?
I genuinely was over the moon. I was thankful to be recognised.
How does it feel to be the winner of Chester PA of the Year?
I guess the first word that comes to mind is proud! I take real pride in my work and like to feel that I go the extra mile a lot of the time (just like most assistants). I consider myself really privileged to work for Chester Zoo, representing the Charity Sector.
How did your colleagues and boss react when they found out you had won?
I’m fortunate to have an incredibly supportive team, so they were all delighted for me. Can’t wait to have my award sitting on a shelf in my office ☺.
You are an active member of The PA Hub – what do you enjoy about being a member?
That’s an easy one – the people! There are so many wonderful members in The PA Hub, so to be able to meet and chat with them at events and also on social media is great; they are a real support. There are also some real characters who make me laugh so much.
Finally – what is next for you?
We have a newly formed Business Support Team at the zoo, made up of some incredible PAs and Assistants which I now manage. I’m really looking forward us all working together to develop our skills.