Awards Q & A Spotlight – Meet Paula Harding

Tell us something unusual you have had to do as an assistant.

I don’t think I’ve ever had any unusual requests, however, I worked as a PA near to Lime Street Station and often there was a Costa coffee round being requested. I was always up for it as if you know me, you know I love a coffee and cake, ha ha. It was a nice 10 minute break from the office, I got to see the busyness of the station, see people going about their journeys and then be the hero on the way back bringing back the goodies. It always brought a smile to the office.

Tell us a bit about your role and your responsibilities?

I’ve recently started working for Sid Madge, the founder of Meee. About a year ago I decided I wanted to work for either a CEO or the founder of a business; to work with someone who had an idea and we ran with it. Someone who I could be the everything for. Well, I certainly got that with my new role. It’s a complete mix of the day-to-day detail to the vision and strategy and discussing ideas and looking at solutions. I’ve been to a couple of business fairs representing the company and I love being able to meet new people and share the message about the difference we are trying to make.

What are your strengths as an assistant?

As I said before, I love being the no.2 and if the partnership is right, I’ll do what it takes to make my executive the best that they can be.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career as an assistant?

You have to be happy being the no.2, reflect on that and see if that is something you could handle. It’s not easy, it’s not all happy days, you will be working with your executive in the good and bad times. You need to be a blend of everything, someone who can do the job but be able to think outside the box, be a friend, ally, counsellor, you have to keep secrets and your executive needs to be able to trust you implicitly. Because of this, you won’t always be liked in your organisation and that is hard because generally, assistants are people pleasers. Look into emotional intelligence and see if this is a quality that you have or could develop. You must be agile in both your mindset and in the work you take on, you must be ready for change at any moment. Make friends with everyone and build your influence.

How do you stay on top of your deadlines and priorities?

A combination of experience and methods. It’s about knowing the priorities of the business and aligning my day accordingly. I used to use Tasks in Microsoft Office, it was my bible. Now I’m using Google Workspace and so I’m still finding out what works best for me. At the moment I record and track larger tasks in a spreadsheet, throw ideas into Google Keeps, use the task function as a daily reminder and good old pen and paper for quick wins and questions to ask Sid. I’ve tried Trello, OneNote and Asana but there is something about them that I don’t like for work purposes (I love OneNote for my personal use). I can manipulate an Excel spreadsheet and it’s simple visual reassures me. Just because there are new tools doesn’t mean you have to use them, keep an eye on them for sure, the next one or the next version could be perfect.

What strategies do you use for time management?

Being new to this role means I’m doing a lot of trial and error at the moment. I’m still refining the best way to work with regards to my time. Due to our relationship and work style, Sid and I meet a lot and that means less time to get the details done. I’m currently using mornings to do reactive tasks and talking to Sid and then in the afternoon, work on more project type tasks. I’m quite flexible in my hours too and I’m always happy to work extra to get the job done. That’s because I love what I do, it makes me happy but I appreciate that this isn’t something everyone could do.

How important is the assistant and executive business relationship and how do you make that work?

It’s everything, it only really works if the relationship is right, it’s the partnership. I decided many years ago that if ever I was looking for a new job, I would have to meet the executive first for a coffee outside of the office. I needed to know how we felt about work and life and to see if the chemistry was there. I did that for my previous role at LSTM and if you know the story, I knew Sid before I started working for him. When I’m working with an executive, I have to be honest with them, even though sometimes it can be uncomfortable. I’m also authentic, I don’t try and be someone I’m not, I like a bit of banter, I am sensitive and I’m not scared to be vulnerable. If I’m not happy about something I will say, however, I will always be professional and suggest alternatives or solutions, a really great quality of an assistant.

How did it feel to be nominated for PA of the Year?

I was a bit apprehensive to be honest, I don’t believe that any PA is better than another, however, I was amazed to have been nominated by the person who did. They are an inspiration to me, someone I aspire to be as good an assistant as and so that meant such a lot to me.

How does it feel to be the winner of Merseyside PA of the Year?

Again, I know I’m not better than any other assistant but what this means is that it allays some of my self-doubt, the worry about whether I am good enough and that I’m making a difference. The wording on the nomination meant such a lot to me as it gave thanks to the efforts I had made in trying to raise the profile of our profession and to bring about opportunities for assistants in Merseyside.

How did your colleagues and boss react when they found out you had won?

I was in transition from my previous employer around that time and both executives were really pleased for me. I had lots of lovely messages from my peers too.

You are an active member of The PA Hub – what do you enjoy about being a member?

Connection. It’s an amazing feeling to spend time with people who understand your role, there is no other job like it. I love the friendships that have been made and the encouragement and support of each other. It’s like a burst of energy every time we meet.

Finally Paula – what is next for you?

Keeping up with Sid Madge, he is something else, ideas, energy and passion to make a difference. I want to always #NeverStopLearning and growing and promoting our wonderful profession.

Thanks so much Paula – some great advice there – best wishes from all of us at The PA Hub and congratulations again!

 

 

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