Interview with Helen Rees: Social Media PA of the Year winner

Helen ReesHelen Rees, PA to the Chief Executive at Marwell Wildlife


How does it feel to be awarded Social Media PA of the Year?

I am so thrilled and delighted to have won SecsInTheCity’s Social Media PA of the Year Award! There are so many fantastic PAs sharing their insights and experience through social media, so to be considered among these great ambassadors for the profession is a huge honour. Although I don’t have social media in my day to day remit, it’s something I am passionate about and helps me deliver a wide range of aspects of my job and my wider role as a PA professional. 

Tell us a bit about your role at Marwell Wildlife

I have been PA to the Chief Executive here at Marwell Wildlife for 4 and a half years. We had been regular visitors to Marwell as a family for several years so I already felt a very strong affinity for the place – and it genuinely is every bit as amazing a place to work for as you imagine it might be. To be part of such a committed dedicated team all working towards the same charitable goals is a huge privilege, and I have to remind myself regularly that it’s ‘work’. My role is to support the whole organisation and the strategic aspects of the business through the work of the Chief Executive and his Exec team, as well as being the welcoming face of the Executive office for meeting visitors and business partners.

Day to day, I support the Chief Executive, the Finance Director and also the Conservation Director with their regular commitments, meetings, events and travel. With conservation projects running in Africa, and international zoo industry collaborations and UK based business partnerships to be nurtured, it can be a complex picture but it’s hugely rewarding to be able to facilitate the team’s arrangements and keep everything running smoothly.

I also support the Board of Trustees with administrating their main Board meetings as well as 4 of its 7 subcommittees. I’m also involved in various organisation-wide projects including being part of the 5-strong team who instigated and now manage our staff intranet system.

And I founded Marwell Staff Choir, which is an ‘extra curricular’ benefit for staff, volunteers, Trustees, students and interns – mainly comprising previous non-singers, we come together weekly to sing fun material, learn new skills, build confidence and get to know each other better – many don’t see each other in their day to day working worlds, so it’s a great social opportunity too, and the real highlight of everyone’s week!

What has been your proudest moment of your career?

Not much can top being crowned Social Media PA of the Year Award (and enjoying dinner at The Ivy)!! It’s been an amazing year, having also been announced as a finalist in Executive PA Magazine’s PA of the Year Award last month, and the emerging success of the South Hampshire PA Network too.  I’ve also been invited to join the new Executive Personal Assistants Association (EPAA) as a non-executive on their regional board, when it launches in January, which is also a great honour, and a wonderful opportunity to represent the PA profession in a wider capacity.

Aside from all of that, I regularly remind myself how lucky I am to be in my current job – it really is a privilege to work at Marwell, for such a supportive boss and in such a rewarding environment doing such incredible and important charitable work. For it to be practically on my doorstep and my family to enjoy the zoo as guests too is an added bonus. It makes me proud just to be here every day.

What challenges have you overcome during your career?

I’ve been very lucky to secure some wonderful PA (and related) roles in the 20+ years I have been working in the industry. It’s true there is ‘never a dull moment’, so I would have to say that some of my biggest challenges have been balancing hectic schedules (both my own and those of the managers I support, often several at once!) and learning to say no. I am enthusiastic and love getting involved in all sorts of projects, so sometimes I do have to give myself a stern talking-to to ensure I don’t over-commit. Balancing a full time working job while managing a young family too is never without its challenges either. My husband works away from home quite a lot so the pressure isn’t off when I walk in the door at home, just smaller people to support!

I think the PA profession is at a very exciting point at the moment. It’s emerging as a business-critical role now, with PAs becoming more central to the strategic heart of organisations, and CEOs and executive teams really starting to recognise the contribution that PAs can make. It hasn’t always been that way for PAs though, and I know many admin professionals who have struggled to be heard or find it difficult to request (and have those requests met) funding or support for training and development. It has been all too often the case that admin staff have been left behind when it comes to training opportunities. I’m delighted to be seeing that picture change these days, and it’s very exciting to be part of the PA profession at this great time of growth and recognition.


Next week, Helen will share her experiences of launching her own PA Network...


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