The millennial PA

“Being a PA was something I never really thought about doing until I found myself in a steady retail management job that I was too comfortable in.”

With no progression on the horizon I realised things needed to change, but to what? I had no idea. I had been told that I would make a great PA because of my organisational skills and so I pursued that career path and found an opportunity at UNILAD. Joining UNILAD as a start-up with just 30 people in London 18 months ago, my role was very different to how it is now with an office of 100. I joined the company in the role of Office Manager and PA to a CEO who’s diary at the time was really manageable and so the office management part of my job blossomed. Little did I know that nine months later I would also be supporting both the MD and the CEO…

Coming into a role as a PA my organisational skills were essential but that only gets you so far. Having a strong relationship and getting to know the ins and outs of my superiors is what laid the foundations of a great working relationship. My second stage interview was with Liam (CEO) and John (MD), and that was when I realised that they couldn’t be more different as two individuals; to the point where I came home feeling totally sold into one of them who was quite open and instantly easy to get on with, while wondering if I’d be able to work at all with the other who were very reserved and didn’t give much away (I hate not being able to read people!). When supporting more than one superior there’s no easy solution that will work for both. I had to learn from scratch how they both function, plan their days, utilise their time, their preferred meeting places, their schedules, their favourite restaurants, and the list goes on but only by knowing this information would I be able to do my job more efficiently and in turn allow them to spend more of their time focusing on the business. Now I can safely say I have a really great relationship with them both as individuals and as my bosses.

The importance of communication

It took me a long time to figure out the most effective way to communicate with them. I was used to sitting down and catching up with my bosses on a daily basis, however, millennial executives just don’t have time to catch up every day for 30 minutes to go through things, and this was new to me. Now communicating constantly either through Slack (our company messenger), Whatsapp or grabbing them for just a minute when I see them, I get more from them on a daily basis than I would sitting down with them for an hour. Our communication is constant throughout the day and sometimes rolls over into the evening and weekends, however, generally I get the most direction from them in the early hours of the morning when they’ve finally had time to sit down and think about the next day and what they need. The benefit of getting used to communicating this way is that when they are out of the country nothing really changes apart from the time difference, I already have the feedback and direction I need to complete my role making my life easier.

My day to day

People have this one-dimensional view that a PA simply organises meeting, sorts all travel arrangements, manages diaries, takes minutes in meetings, runs around after their boss getting lunch, ad hoc duties and that is pretty much it, but it’s far more than this, much of which doesn’t feature in the job description. For me, being a soundboard off which to bounce ideas and being there generally to listen are just as important as being able to knit together communication from multiple departments into one structured and brief stream of comms that works for both my bosses. By having all meeting requests run through myself it also reduces the time spent on admin for them both and again increases their time to focus on the business strategy.

No two days are ever the same and as someone who joined UNILAD during the start-up days, I’ve been able to grow organically as a person. My first experience with ‘jumping in at the deep end’ was moving our single-floor office into a six-floor office (I had never moved 40 people and their stuff from A – B before!) and then managing the process of redesigning our new said six-floor office. I wasn’t taught how to complete these tasks but John and Liam offering me their trust gave me the confidence to complete them effectively. This is one part of working for millennials that I love, you get to grow with them and gain skills that you may not ever have had the chance to do working somewhere else.

Our business has grown exponentially in the last 18 months and I put a lot of this down to the controlled freedom given by John and Liam to everyone in the team. By this I mean the opportunity to make mistakes but learn when we do, they’re there to support and coach us on what or how it went wrong. Being millennials I also believe that they’re far more adaptable to the quick changes we see in our industry. They’re more open to new ideas and are happy to embrace new direction for the business, which benefits the entire company.

Sophie Holmes

PA to CEO and Office Manager