Episode Ten: Fiona Shea, EA to the CEO at Legal and General

Episode Ten:

Fiona Shea, EA to the Group Chief Executive at Legal and General

Episode description

On this episode, we are joined by Fiona Shea, EA to the Group Chief Executive at Legal and General. Fiona has over twenty years of experience working with senior board-level Executives. Her knowledge shines through in this interview. We discuss the partnership with her current Executive and her techniques for remembering every request. Fiona shares her experience working at Enron in its last days and moving between industries as an Assistant.

Show notes

Transcript

Nicky Christmas 00:00
Do you want to know what it takes to work as a high performing executive assistant? You'll find out when you listen to the EA campus podcast. Join me Nicky Christmas, the founder of practically perfect PA, and the EA campus for a weekly interview with successful assistants, who all have first hand experience and lessons to share on what it takes to excel in the role of tune in, get inspired and learn how to create an assistant career where you are valued, motivated and ready to face every challenge head on whether you are an assistant just starting in your career, or prepared to move to the next level. Building a successful assistant career

00:40
just got a little easier with the EA campus podcast.

00:44
Welcome to Episode 10 of the EA campus Podcast. I'm so delighted that we are at episode 10. I just wanted to say thank you to everybody who has listened so far who has liked and subscribe to the podcast or left a review. I hope that you enjoy what we have coming up. On today's episode we are joined by Fiona Shea EA to the Group Chief Executive at Legal and General Fiona has over 20 years of experience working with senior board level executives for knowledge shines through in this interview, and we discussed the partnership with our current executive and her techniques for remembering every request. Fiona shares her experience working at Enron and its last days and moving between industries as an assistant. Hope you enjoy the next episode of the EA campus podcast.

Nicky Christmas 01:33
Hi, Fiona and welcome to the EA campus podcast. Hi, Nicky, thank

01:38
you for having me.

Nicky Christmas 01:40
Oh, it's a treat. As I said, I know that you've got a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge that you can share. So I'm really excited about today's conversation. But to start with, why don't you tell us a little bit about your career to date and where we can find you working now.

01:57
Okay, so my career to date started, really when I first started an office job in my very early 20s Or about 19 I think I worked for a market research company, I still didn't really know what I wanted to do quickly got promoted into the admin office and started running mail shop managing marketing campaigns and payroll, all sorts of General Office admin duties. And from there, it just progressed I started working in London at the age of 21 as an assistant and then just progressed from there. So I worked for Enron, which was quite interesting. I was there until the day they officially ended. And then I went into the big four. So I worked for Ernst and Young and PwC. And that's probably where I gained most of my knowledge and confidence as a PA got a lot of experience they're doing interviewing and training. And then after PwC I went to work for Betfair, which was a bit of a step out of financial services, which was interesting. It was a couple of years. That was my first experience working in the exec office. And then from there I worked for friend's life and short stint at Aviva when Aviva bought friend's life. And then eventually I came here and I now work for so Nigel Wilson, who's the Group Chief Executive of Legal and General.

Nicky Christmas 03:13
Wow. So that's a lot to cover. Like you said a lot of different industries and interesting things that happen. I think I'll have to come back and touch on a few of those for sure. But why don't you tell us what the main aspects of the role are there at legal in general.

03:29
So my role here is looking after as I said, Sir Nigel Wilson, who's the Group chief exec, but also I look after John Godfrey, who's our Director of levelling up, or corporate affairs, and he's like Nigel innerworkings, he will prepare Nigel speeches and any kind of press work that Nigel does. So they work very closely together. So there's a team of three of us mostly my day would be managing Outlook inbox, constantly rescheduling the diary fitting people in. If I'm in the exact sweet, there's lots of meeting and greeting of guests are quite like to have a bit of rapport with the guests wasn't bringing them in. So I've worked for Nigel for six and a half years. So we know each other quite well. Most of me, most of his guests are run AAA meetings with the exec assistants in the business of putting any gaps where I can arrange training for the team sharing knowledge at these meetings. Also for Nigel, I do his board reports, proofreading, editing, any kind of presentations for journalists, meetings, that kind of thing. So it's a very job. When I'm in the office, I'm on my feet on my toes all day. It's pretty constant. So those days are when my inbox tends to suffer. But thanks to COVID we are allowed to work from home twice a week at the moment. Those are the days where I get most of my email traffic cleared up and it's a proper catching up day.

Nicky Christmas 04:47
How have you found the hybrid model that you have now because I think last time we spoke you were still pretty much full time at home. So how have you found that getting back into the office and how have you managed that into Most of your work loads,

05:01
I haven't. Since locked down, I haven't really been full time at home. Nigel's not great. He's quite old school. So he's not that great at working on technology and working remotely with meetings and things. So I have been in one day, a week, two days a week, and then it's currently dribbled back three days a week in the office for me is great, because like I say, I do need those couple of days at home to just clear down inbox traffic and catch up on my to do list. So I really like it, I do understand that people like Nigel really thrive on the face to face contact and the interaction in the office and need needs an assistant to be there. So I take advantage of the days when he's not around when he's travelling, or in an all day board and work from home. Or we have working at exec suite with three other assistants. So we work it out so that there's somebody sat in my, in my shoes, so to speak, when I am at home. So if he is in the office, there's somebody to do any running around for me. So we work really well as a team. And so far, so good. It's worth the hybrid for us. And it's best of both worlds. And we couldn't have asked for it. For better really.

Nicky Christmas 06:06
It's really interesting, isn't it? I think for a lot of assistants, it depends on the personality and working style of the executive, it might be that you work for an executive who is really tech savvy, is quite able to do a lot of stuff without the need for assistance to be outside the office. And then there's other executives who, as you said, similar to your executive who like that face to face interaction thrive off of that as well. So it's nice that you can mould your roll to how your executive likes to be. And actually that works in your favour.

06:35
Yeah, definitely. And those days that I'm in the office, I literally just see the inbox getting more and more blue with unread emails, and I just have to calm down, just go through the urgent ones just understand that when I get home, those are the those are the ones that will get responded to then. So it's good because I get that chance to miss being in the office as well. If I've had a few days at home, then I can really get my teeth into getting back in and enjoying the report and the banter that we have in the exec suite. So I quite like it, it gives me the best of both.

Nicky Christmas 07:04
It sounds like a nice balance, we'll come on a bit more to the role itself and some of the ways that you structure structure your work. But before we do that, I'd like to get a sense of really what your day is. So why don't we start with the morning and talk us through what your routine looks like when you're planning to go into London and into the office.

07:21
Okay, so I start the day getting ready, like everyone else shower makeup, tiptoeing around the house, so they don't wait, the husband trying to keep the dog calm. And they get to the station. And on the train. I'm either reading the news or checking through my inbox to see what's going on, depending on if I checked at the night before or not. And then when I'm in it's pretty much coffee, Nigel in and out catching up on things. Can you do this? Can you do that? It's just figuring out what's going on in the inbox, what's happened, what's what has sandboxes looking what's going to happen today, any changes to the shedule any papers that I know of that have come in that he's going to need a review of just getting all of that kind of stuff. It's just getting up to speed really. So that's the morning and then by afternoon, things are quite a bit more settled lots of meeting and greeting of guests. If we've got a trip coming up, I'm liaising with the US office about the agenda, the itinerary travel, hotel recommendations, restaurants, etc. The travel team will organise all of that for me. Yeah, so it's pretty typical pa role or don't get involved in major projects as such. But when we do have trips for the x, I have been involved in organising for some of those. But mostly it's just managing Nigel on a day to day.

Nicky Christmas 08:34
And what does that look like? Because I think again, when we spoke before you had said that you've been together working together for six years, it's been a long time. So obviously that partnership has blossomed over a long period of time. But when you first started working together, has it taken a while for it to get to a point now where you can work in sync and you are in partnership.

08:56
Yeah, definitely. I think the first year for any role that I've been in has always been the Finding your Feet grasping what's yours, what's not yours, what you can do, what you can't do, what you're allowed to do. And I think for that first year, Nigel had also to build the trust and respect and me and understand what I'm going to be there for what I'm not going to achieve. And over that year. It was tough, it was stressful. And there was a lot of miscommunication and just really understanding each other and I think it was almost like a light switch within a year or at that year. From then on things just started to click. What I used to get a lot when I was new was larger would ask me to get me this presentation that so and so did yesterday at this meeting and I think God I don't even know who that person is, what is it? And one thing I learned from that and it was literally if not daily, then every other day occurrence. I just didn't have this kind of database to hand. So I've created on just on my explorer of my files a day folder for every single day. And when papers come in from Nigel that he's had for a meeting, or that been discussed that day, I will plop that paper into that folder, even if the meetings already happened. And I just see that there was a paper, I'll drag it in there anyway. So the in future, anything comes up like that, again, when he's asking for something that he'd seen previously, I've got it to hand. And I know that people who have covered for me have found that system really useful. So I swear by that now, on any paper, even if it's somebody else's presentation that he really liked, I'll save it in others presentations, because I know he might make bits from it, or copy it or reuse it. So it's really handy to have that there.

Nicky Christmas 10:37
That's a great piece of advice. Because I You said you get that all the time is having a second brain, isn't it? And you haven't then got to remember what document it was what presentation it was, it looked like where it was, it's all there and it's ready to go. So you're actually clearing out your brain as well, aren't you? It's there when you need it. Which is a great piece of advice. Because I think that's such a common question for assistants. Where's that presentation that I went already in a meeting two years ago? With everything else that's going on in a fast paced role? It's hard to remember that kind of level of detail. Yeah, but

11:11
yeah, I just go in and put something in the search. And it'll bring it up whether it was files from 2020, or 2021, or something. But we use diligent to upload Board Papers. So all of the confidential Board Papers are kept in there. So I have a folder for Nigel, which is like a day pack. And I'll do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and I'll put all of his meetings for each day in a pack there so that he literally has one space to look at each day for his papers. So that's what started me off creating this filing system. But it's been invaluable.

Nicky Christmas 11:41
And does he have access to that as well? Or is that solely for your use?

11:45
Or he doesn't know. So I have like administration access. And then what he sees is the user access, so it'll be tidier, and he can just see the papers with a with a hyperlink on the agendas to just take him to the right sections and things. So I would put them there, and he would be the end user that would see them. Yes.

Nicky Christmas 12:01
Sounds like it's a busy role, especially as there's other assistants involved in having to liaise with with the rest of the room there with all of the other assistants and people in it. So how do you manage that aspect of it just in terms of liaising the other assistants and ensuring that you're all in sync? as well.

12:20
I don't think I've actually worked in a team quite like this one, I have to say, we sit in a quadrant of for. And between us, we look after the chairman, the General Counsel, the head of HR, CFO, and the CEO. And between us we have such a system, we have complete access to everybody's inbox and diary. So when one of us is away, and we don't actually need to have a handover, because we can see what's coming up. We know where everything's files, we know what's going on. And we can really slip into each other's roles seamlessly. So it's really handy. We do sometimes update if there's a trip coming up or unfinished work that we need to hand over. But mostly, it's just quite, it's really seamless, it's really good. And we have a great relationship. We have a WhatsApp group, we send each other memes and jokes, and we'll lift each other up, if we're feeling down. And we have this since COVID, we've had a 1030 call every day, it used to be our cup of tea call. And we still have it now. So even though we're hybrid, we might have a couple of us in the office and a couple of Hope we'll still have that regular catch up just to ease the air, make sure we're all feeling tickety boo and share any challenges or any work related questions.

Nicky Christmas 13:28
That's lovely. That's, like, genuinely sounds lovely. And so many assistants, particularly who work at your level don't have that, oh, it's such such a siloed role role when it's that level that you're supporting. So it's lovely to hear that there's that team spirit there, which is nice, and that no one's holding information or making it difficult to access schedules and things like that, which I know there can be that experience as well. So that's really nice. That's really nice. Yeah. I would imagine that it helps your role a lot as well, just as you said, everybody knows what your role is like and knows the pressure that comes with it. And just having that soundboard must be very nice.

14:09
Yeah, I want I wanted to try and have a lunch with my fellow exec assistants when I could and there was one day recently when I was in the office on my own and it was only my boss's and so it was it must have been a Friday or something. And I invited one of my colleagues to come and have lunch with me in the office. I think she was sat in the room for 15 minutes while I was running in and out greeting guests getting a technical issue sorted, running in and out trying to sort the lunch trying to sort Nigel by the time I got there. The food was cold and I just Oh my god, I'm so supportive. And she just must have just seen exactly what a day in the life is like because it was literally you couldn't plan it. It was all happening at the same time.

Nicky Christmas 14:48
That sounds very familiar. So going back to other aspects of the role and parts of your day. What do you find the most challenging aspects of the role?

14:58
I don't find it that challenge. Jing anymore, because I've been in it for six and a half years, I can pretty much do anything that Nigel asks me to do that the hardest part for me is leaving on time for my train. Because I literally three days a week, and I don't know how many of those I actually managed to get the train I want to get and I'm literally sitting there going, Ah, that's another train wreck. So I'm really rubbish, I keep meaning to put a reminder in my diary to start winding down half an hour before I need to run out the door. But I need to get better at that because I'm moving to Somerset this month now and literally in a couple of weeks, and I'm going to need to like it for my train that many to get. So I need to get

Nicky Christmas 15:40
that just goes to show how busy the role is right? And then also how involved you are. Because quite often it's that winding down is really tough when you're in the work and you're focused, and you're the ploughing through things. But it's really great to hear that after six years. The role gets easier. I think that's again, how great is that for assistance? Okay, maybe maybe one year in two years in into the same role six years on, you're at a place where things aren't challenging anymore, which is good to hear.

16:09
Yeah, we've got a great relationship. And I'm not perfect. I'm not winning any awards right now for being 100% all the time. But he knows that, but he's very understanding. And if I've missed something, he's he just says, Don't worry, it doesn't matter. And when I do achieve great things, he always says well done, and it's and it's great that we've got that kind of relationship. It really helps.

Nicky Christmas 16:31
Yeah, it does. For sure. It's it does feel like a partnership, then doesn't it? And yeah, there's give and take with it. So what do you enjoy most about the human

16:38
contact, the interaction, the banter in the office, it is a bit like school checking out time when all the meetings end at the same time and the doors open, there's a whole room of people coming out different rooms, and there's quite often it's quite loud, there's a bit of banter. And it's just that kind of buzz, the buzzy atmosphere that it has the best, the best thing is that really the team and the team of people I work with, but also the fact that we're allowed to be hybrid. Now I really appreciate that.

Nicky Christmas 17:07
What a difference that's made for assistants, like you said it just remember thinking back to pre pandemic, and all of those emails stacking up and there being no time to clear them no quiet moments here or there. Because for a lot of assistants, you couldn't even go get a meeting room and go and just take yourself off for half an hour to go and do something without interruption. So I can only imagine what a difference that's made, particularly as you said, when you can see the email stack up and knowing I can pull that off until I've got some quiet time and clear all of that out. It must be incredibly helpful. So I'd like to go back on some of your previous roles. You mentioned that you worked for Enron and B that being an interesting time. So I wonder if you could just tell us what that was. I can see for people who didn't don't know the Okay, so we can use scandal around around the world. Yeah. But yeah, what that whole experience was like for you.

18:00
So that was my first London corporate experience. And I was it was amazing. I was 21 Probably 22 When I was working there and the building was just lovely. We had walkabout phones. We had a car in the lobby that was auctioned, or it was like a raffle that was given away every six months we had a free gym in the basement with the highest tech kit. We had a sauna, steam room Jacuzzi newsagents concierge, you can now wonder what that what was going wrong, really. But I didn't obviously know what was happening at the time. For those that don't know, Enron was the biggest corporate crash ever. And it could change things for the corporate world from then on. But it was a really strange environment. I worked in two teams while I was there, I think it was there about two years. And literally was there on the last day seeing my boss being called into a meeting with the auditors coming out in tears had basically given them a list of 10 people he needed to finish the business to close everything. And he came out with five names and he had to let us all go and it was just a really strange time because the part that you don't see maybe on the dramatisations is that we were walking out the building not me but people were walking out the building with it appointment servers, amazing, original artwork. And I think there was a voicemail left on everybody's phone from legal saying that there will be stopped spot checks by security on your way out for security weren't going to be getting paid. They didn't care. No one was no one cared. Everything was just a free for all. It was just bizarre. It was a really strange time when everybody went to the pub across the road on the last day and just got really upset had lots of hugs and drinks and then the think he was called the president of the business came over John Sheriff he made a big speech. It was just unreal. The meetings that ran up to that time, where we're going to be bought when we're not going to be bought And then literally for a few months afterwards, because it was, I think it was before Christmas, it was about November time. So I remember that was my first ever experience of being made redundant and unemployed, I had a three month gap where I didn't get any work because it was in the lead up to Christmas over Christmas. And then January, things were just really quiet. But also, everybody that I knew was following each other around and interviews. So I went to one company and my friend had been there just beforehand. So it was really strange times, but I don't regret anything. It was learned from these things. And it's definitely open up for interviews. after that.

Nicky Christmas 20:36
I can imagine and having to say the last place your work was Enron as well. Probably didn't help massively with the job search either. But for your first experience working in London, in the city, in a corporate environment, must have been talked about giving you some resilience going into the rest of your career. I think that would probably have helped enormously with hindsight.

20:59
Yeah, it definitely makes you more aware of what companies are spending out on and where budgets are tighter. And what are the things that have happened since then. It's definitely a fond memory of the past things when things were a bit more fluid. And when we were a bit more frivolous with budgets and cash.

Nicky Christmas 21:17
And as you said, the world has changed because of Enron. Now remember going into my first my first role at Deloitte, and it was just after Enron, and all of the paperwork that we had to now fill in, but all of the checks and balances you had to do with new clients. That was all at all just been introduced. Yeah, I remember it really well, too. It was it changed everything for everybody. It really did good stories. A few years as passed, what took you to Betfair? Because you said a bit of a kind of change in would that be fair to say it was almost a start up level at that point or had it

21:52
the better. They were no

21:54
they weren't. They were about 10 years in, I think, still kind of startup mentality. It was very buzzy. But the opportunity came up when I'd been at PWC. For six years, I think six, six and a half years and I was looking to leave, I couldn't really get any more experience I had so much on my plate, but just not progressing into the role that I wanted. And Betfair came up, it was half an hour down the road from where I lived. And the whole the way it was sold to me was it was very young, funky, there's lots of lads walking around in jeans as bean bags as balls being thrown across the office. It was a really cool environment. And I remember feeling when I went for the interview, I'm not gonna get it. This isn't me, this isn't what I'm about. Not in that sense. But I felt like I was financial stamped on me. And going somewhere that cool and funky, I'm just not going to get the opportunity and I got the job. And then I got promoted into the exec suite, which was a it was a whole floor. So it was much better than what I'm used to now. And it was just it was very, it was quite volatile, because there were teams there that were changing really quickly being replaced. And I think that's quite common in a tech company that things change really quickly. It was really buzzy and exciting, and the perks are great. But then that's that wasn't my role after Enron. But I was also made redundant from that role, because my boss was being relocated to Stevenage, and that the choice was either go with him. And that would have been coming into London going through it and out the other side every day, or take redundancy. And I think I was there about two and a half years. And I felt you know what, I think I need to go back to what I know best. And that was financial services. So I took the redundancy and felt absolutely fine about doing that and got a role. My next role was I believe at friend's life, which was lovely. And I love that experience of working there and made some great friends. So yeah, I dipped my toe out of the water again, don't regret it. It was a great time. And I've made some lifelong friends from there now. But it just it wasn't what I knew.

Nicky Christmas 23:58
It's interesting, isn't it because you do find with assistants, there's because the skills are so transferable, you are able to move in and out of different industries and try different things, which is fantastic. But from my experience, a lot of assistants do find their niche that they really enjoy working in, be it education, health, financial services, all startups. And then you get you enjoy that environment because it offers you different things. But it's interesting that you've tried a few different things and then realise actually, that is more where you fit and your skills probably Shine.

24:31
Yeah, it's definitely my comfort zone for sure.

Nicky Christmas 24:35
So haven't gone through your career a little bit there. What do you think you would do if you hadn't become an assistant?

24:41
I was thinking about this earlier. Actually, my mum was a social worker. She works in child protection, which probably isn't the career path she would have liked me to go down because it wasn't the easiest. And if you think being an assistant is a thankless task, working in social services definitely was thankless and it really appealed to me For a short period of time, but she put me off it and I thought about becoming a police officer. I actually thought, I don't know this was in my 20s. I don't know how long I can how many years of my career I can spend actually sat on my backside. But it turns out more than half my life, I didn't go for it. That's not quite comfortable being on them.

Nicky Christmas 25:19
I'm in 100% agreement with you there, one of my favourite things to do is sit. So again, for me, this job has worked out. I can't lie down then sitting next. So yeah, I completely get that. But I also thought about being a police officer as well, I ended up being an assistant. So maybe there's some kind of parallel that

25:37
we're not quite sure about. It's hard to come Sure.

Nicky Christmas 25:41
Of course, yeah, it's a tough job. And as you said, social services is the same, it's doubly rewarding, I would imagine, but very tough, very tough. So I'd like to dive in a little bit in into the role in some of the ways that maybe you've pushed the boundaries. And being an assistant, I wonder if you can give us again, a look at how you've worked within the different roles you have, where you have challenged the boundaries of being an assistant, and maybe pushed on some of the stereotypical stereotypical aspects of the role.

26:10
I think, when I was when I was at PwC, it's probably when I where I grew the most, and I was really hungry. For more, I worked across three divisions, or three roles I had there, in total. And the last role was working for a senior to senior partners, a couple of directors, a couple of senior managers, but also, I really wanted to get into the support staff management side of it. So I worked for the support staff manager for two divisions. And she was responsible for looking after 60 to 70 pas, and plus the relationship with the partners, their allocation and or their workload, absence training, all of that kind of stuff. And that's where I learned how to do that. She put me on an interview training course I turned up one day in a room full of managers and directors and recruiters wondering what the bloody hell am I doing? And she said, You're gonna start interviewing now. So you need the training. So I had that training, which was really scary. And because we actually had the back in the day, we had people come in off the street who were paid to be pretend applicants. So we actually were interviewing in this training with people sat there watching us criticising critiquing us. So it was really nerve racking and the woman who interviewed me for my job at PwC was sat there. She was the one that put me in the training. She was sat there watching me, so it was quite nerve wracking, but I like pushing the boundaries that I'm trying to get myself out of the typical box of a PA. We have here your question time, which is five minutes to question, Nigel Wilson and one other exco member and it goes on the intranet site. And I watched the first couple. And I thought, well, if I'm going to push myself out of my comfort zone, I could do it for five minutes. I've already got the relationship with Nigel. I'll put my hand up. So I interviewed Nigel, and one of his direct reports Bernie, who's a chief executive of our retail business for five minutes, but it was literally that there were about seven camera and sound crew. All male just stood around watching me with Nigel and Bernie. And it was really intimidating. But though nice. They made me really feel at ease. And I've ran through the script several times before Nigel and Bernie came down to get miked up, so it was really good. And it was the best way to do it. And I remember that years ago, I used to do amateur dramatics, and I really wanted to get a lead role. And I thought the only time I'm going to get the best opportunity, it would be Sarah Brown in Calamity Jane, because the first time they see her saying she's rubbish. So that's the best bit because your nerves will go by that time. So I just remember, when I did this, if I am going to step outside my comfort zone and appear on screen or do something scary, do it for five minutes. It's not long. So I did that. And I saw it back on the TV was on the bloomin big screen in reception for about three weeks. And it was really, it was a really proud moment because I was really prepared for Nigel to throw a question back at me. And I have my answer ready, but you didn't get a really good job. I was really proud of myself for that. Congratulations.

Nicky Christmas 29:16
That's brilliant. It's not easy is it? But the thing I take away from that story that you've just shared is how much preparation helps with confidence. And I always say that to assistants. So you really can push yourself forward to do anything. And then if you find the time to prepare for it, nine times out of 10 You'll be absolutely fine. And your confidence will help so much with that preparation done and you've used the time wisely for that. So yeah, well done. Did anything. Did you notice anything from having done it? I mean, in terms of colleagues, recognising you a bit more or any other opportunities coming your way?

29:55
No, I did receive a lot of feedback from people that were watching it around the business a lot have been Have commenting, but no, not as yet. Not yet.

Nicky Christmas 30:04
But more videos, more videos to come, I'm sure you've done this for us and you've appeared at an event. So hopefully confidence from doing the original recording has meant that you've agreed to do this. So I agree, definitely. Go for it. So with assistants that you've worked with that you see coming into the profession, and for those that are listening today, is there any advice that you would give to assistants who are just starting out in the role that want to get to where you've got in your career,

30:33
I think the best piece of advice I could give would be to be confident, the role is there for you to get out what you want, not just for you to give to somebody else and make sure you get what you want. You're you're an integral part of the team, and you deserve to be at that table. So act like it. I think the first time I was ever involved at a leadership team meeting, I felt like a bit of an imposter. And my boss went around the table, everybody gave their update into the meeting. And then they came to me and he said Fiona, and everybody looked at me, and I thought, what, what, nothing for me, and I thought, Oh, God, I'm gonna have to have something to say at the next month's meeting then. So I made it my job to go around and make sure that I was updated before that meeting with how the assistants are feeling in the team, whether we've got targets to hit KPIs, anything like that in the team, because I just couldn't stand them all looking at me thinking what you're going to say. So I had to make sure I was prepared. And from then on, I thought, no, actually, I shouldn't be here, because I'm representing a team too.

Nicky Christmas 31:31
And you're bringing skills and insight that the rest of the executives don't have and would appreciate. So it's so important, isn't it? The support staff in a large organisation like Legal and General, creating so much work and adding so much value, but yet often, in those kinds of meetings, that value isn't recognised or talked about? So it's really important when assistants in the room that they give that side of the business? Yeah,

31:57
you deserve to be at that table. So make sure you've got something to say. And I really hate the phrase, and I've heard it so much through my career, and I'm sure you have, I'm just a PA, I'm just an assistant. Nope, you're not. There's no such thing. Like we do such a big job, we cover so many different tasks, and we make so many people's lives easier, they wouldn't be able to do the job they're doing without us. So we deserve to be spoken up to be at the table, speak up.

Nicky Christmas 32:23
Absolutely, absolutely bring insights that nobody in that room has. So it's so important. And as you said, it's, we often hear assistants say not just in a system, but I don't want to use up the time or there's more valuable things to be said. But it's just not the case. It's really not so is that it comes with confidence, doesn't it? But I like that you said there the next time you thought to yourself, I can't not say something, and then leave that space of silence, which is quite often even, you know, makes you feel worse about yourself and less confidence. So if you've got some prepare something, then it will really help. So yeah, I completely agree. Are there any changes that you'd like to see in the assistant industry going forward? That would make a difference to your role or other assistance coming up to a C suite level?

33:09
I don't know. I don't know about what would benefit my role in that sense. But I am a bit bored of the lack of men in the profession. And I'm really fascinated as to why and when I think could my husband do my job? I don't think he could. And I don't I don't know if I can actually get across the reason why. But I think we need more men in the industry. I think it would be great. It's a very female, heavy profession.

Nicky Christmas 33:40
Do you think it's lack of representation or the stereotype that still exists?

33:45
I think it's evolved from the word secretary, which has generally been a woman with a pearl necklace and glasses sitting at a typewriter and what it needs to be as a recognised profession. We evolve into things like business manager, Chief of Staff, all kinds of things. So it leads to other areas as well. It's a great access into the industry and learning what your your understanding what your boss's needs are for what your boss is doing in the business. So why wouldn't a man want to do the job? Whether they could put up with it? I don't know. I think we have a certain skill set, not wanting to quote that man from taken. We've got a certain set set of skill, but I don't know.

Nicky Christmas 34:26
Yeah, it's something that we need to work on. It's almost starting that at school isn't going into schools and showing that it's a profession that there are there's a lot of value in the profession of the positives that come out of working as an assistant needs to really start from a young age for sure. It's it's work that needs to be done in terms of the role that you're in now. Where is it gonna go for you? What's the plan for the next few years working in legal in general?

34:53
I have no idea. I don't know. I would like probably for this to be my I lost London based role, whether I would just either I really don't know whether I would be changed change business or leave LNG and become completely home based or whether I would become self employed or stay with legal in general, do something different take a step back. I don't know, every CEO has a certain time limit. So I is always at the back of my mind. But also, if Nigel does go, where does he go? Where does he What does he want? Does he want to take me with him? There's so many opportunities, I just can't even think about it. Because I just don't know what's gonna happen at the time. So it's just a waiting game at the moment seeing what, what happens. It's exciting. But it's, it'll happen at the right time. And I just don't know what it's going to be,

Nicky Christmas 35:48
I think probably pre pandemic, you would have been thinking in a five year period. But now so much has changed. It feels like whenever I talk to any assistant and ask that question, it's I don't know, because the last few years, anything is proven to us that our fast technology changes how fast office culture is changing. And for assistance. It's a really exciting time, because there's a lot of options and a lot of choice. And I think the role is expanding, as you said to include chief of staff roles and things that are maybe we hadn't thought of before. So I think having an open mind is probably the best place to be at the moment.

36:23
Yeah, I'm completely open to whatever happens next, I'm not closing any options off, so long as I'm employed in some way or another unhealthy and unhappy.

Nicky Christmas 36:34
That's a great way to think. So we like to share that share the love before we finish off the podcast. And I just wonder if there are any pieces of technology or apps or websites or books or publications that you can recommend for our listeners, this is going to

36:49
be the most boring answer. And we don't have any specific apps, or I don't have any specific apps for my role. I use my reminders on the phone a lot. I use my alarm clock when I've got to get someone out of a meeting at a certain time because I will never remember to do it because I get so stuck into what I'm concentrating on. So I use that I use Google Maps every day I'm trying to embrace OneNote just feels like another dumping ground for me. So I'm really struggling with it. But I like the look of it. And I like what it's used for. But yeah, I'm a little bit old school I'm struggling with that one. I have started listening to podcasts while I'm working from home on those days when I'm bashing out emails and things and I really love listening to PA VA related podcasts just to give me that mental boost in my career three are easy to just stick on your smart speaker. So anything like the assistant lab, the assistant room, the EA campus, the leader assistant, in the ultimate assistance, the EAP, a Chataway. There's loads on there. There's so much stuff that's on the podcasts on Spotify for free on the internet, that it's I'll just recommend having a listen,

Nicky Christmas 37:56
we started at a similar time working as assistance. And if you went back to then compared to now the amount of resources that are available for assistance is so different. And it's I think a lot of us could have accelerated our career quite quickly if that hadn't been available back then. So yeah, as you said, most of it is free or low entrance point. Yeah. What a difference it makes for assistance today.

38:22
Yeah, even things like tick tock. I had to get that in somewhere even things like tick tock, there is a tick tock lady who is a virtual assistant and she is self employed. And she's all of our tech talks are like teaching people how to become a self employed virtual assistant. There's so many people working virtually and remotely and for themselves now. It's just a fast load of information to your fingertips.

Nicky Christmas 38:46
I'm just really impressed that you had a that you use tick tock

38:53
I'm not sure you'd be impressed with the algorithm though. It's all foraging, gardening, cooking and finding stuff that is occasional VA stuff that pops up which is absolutely brilliant.

Nicky Christmas 39:01
Fiona has been such a pleasure talking to you today. And it's always lovely to get a real overview of an assistants career, particularly when you have moved around and done different things and and then built your confidence that way as well. So I so appreciate the time that you've spent with us today and for sharing sharing your knowledge with us. It's been great. Thank you.

39:22
Thank you so much for listening to the EA campus podcast and today's episode, we would love for you to take a minute to subscribe to the EA Canvas podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your podcasts. You could give us a review we would so appreciate that as well. If you want to check out the show notes. You can do that by going over to the AI campus.com forward slash podcast forward slash episode 10 Pinochet and take a look at everything we discussed. You can also find all the links to the resources, articles and tech that we mentioned during the show. If you want to join the conversation inside the EA campus community, you will also We'll find all of the information on the EA Campus website. The community continues to grow and we have an amazing group of assistants sharing their careers. We have ongoing events and training for members and we would love to see more of you inside the campus. Thank you for your time and I hope you tune in again to the next episode of the EA campus.

Next Episode

2022-10-27T16:59:45+02:00
Go to Top