An interview with Julia Tolkaciova - Winner of the PA of the Year Award 2018
Julia Tolkaciova was selected as the winner of the 2018 PA of the Year Award for her outstanding commitment to her role as a PA over the years, in addition to excelling in her current Executive Assistant position. Julia’s career has spanned areas such as travel, legal, online gaming and the art world. She has also been a Private PA role to several HNWIs.
The judges were impressed by Julia’s excellent work ethic, energy and drive to go above and beyond to deliver the very best. Her current role as EA to the President of AMC Europe and Odeon Cinemas has developed into that of a trusted business partner, demonstrating that the sky is the limit when you are a talented and enthusiastic PA.
Find out more about Julia’s career and her experience of the PA of the Year Awards in this interview.
How did you become a PA?
I started working as a Private PA during my university years. It worked well around my studies, as it wasn’t your usual 9 to 5 job. And I have not looked back since then. I think you must really love organising someone’s life and schedule to be a great PA, and I most certainly do.
What’s great about your job at ODEON Cinemas?
My role is supporting Mark Way, President of AMC Europe & MD of ODEON Cinemas Group. And in this role, no day is the same. Apart from the very traditional tasks of diary managing, logistics, board meetings, expenses and so on - which I absolutely enjoy doing - I also play an important part in keeping the information flow between Mark and all of functions and all of the departments. I am a facilitator, not a gatekeeper.
By building strong relationships - not just with key stakeholders, but with everyone - I make sure that I am a step ahead and am able to navigate through anything that lands on my desk. ODEON Cinemas Group an amazing company with great values and an incredibly inspiring management team. It’s also a super fun industry to work in.
One of your famous quotes from the interviews is “when you’re organising turtle soup to be delivered to a helicopter, there isn’t much you haven’t seen.” Can you tell us a bit more?
That’s actually just one of the many examples from the insane world of a Private PA! Many years ago I supported a UHNWI and he would only have one type of soup – turtle, every day. It made no difference to him where he was in the UK, he needed to have it. Normally, we had a chef travel with him. But when that was not possible, the chef would pack his soup in a thermal food container in the morning and I would have it with me, for emergencies.
Do you have any other great stories from your days as a Private PA?
Another funny story was when my boss went to Alaska and bought a life-size bear taxidermy - wrong on so many levels! For obvious reasons he was not allowed to take it on his private jet, and we had to have it shipped back to the UK. The Russian post office lost the bear! It took me over two months to track it and find it sitting in the back office of a small delivery company in the middle of Russia. I am pleased to say that the bear made it to the UK eventually.
With a career spanning across various industries (the art world, online gaming, travel and legal), as well as working as a Private PA, where do you get your job satisfaction?
It’s being part of something big and exciting. ODEON is going through a massive change, we are re-opening our iconic cinema on Leicester Square this Christmas. We were part of opening a first cinema in Saudi Arabia. These are true historic moments, that I am very proud to be a part of.
And it’s also the little things, like a perfectly aligned diary weeks in advance, meticulously planned trip across a number of time zones, filled emails.
What’s your secret to being organised and juggling lots of priorities?
I work very hard in keeping a great work-life balance. My daughter and my family will always come first. So I need to work extra hard in managing my time efficiently, at work and outside work. I am a strong believer in writing lists and creating reminders for yourself in the calendar. I know I will not remember everything that’s going on – there is just too much. So I make a note - whether it’s board minutes that need to be circulated, or a school bake sale.
How did you find the interview for PA of the Year?
Really fun! I met with Susanna Tait and Sarah El-Doori, and they were wonderful. I really had no idea what to expect and just went in keen to share my experiences and passion for the role.
Tell me about the night itself.
It was beyond amazing! Such a stunning venue, beautifully organised and really made everyone feel special and appreciated. It was an event full of joy for each other. Everyone was genuinely happy for the winners and the runners up. A tiny bit of competition, of course – but that’s just good fun, and keep everyone on their toes.
How did your colleagues react, and have you seen any everlasting effects from what is a tough award to win?
To be honest, I did not expect this much attention! My colleagues were very congratulatory and supportive, which is beyond inspiring. I think we all need a moment for someone else to say – “Well done, you are going great.”
Winning the award has opened a number of doors for me personally. I have been invited to speak at conferences, take part in a panel, as well as individual mentoring sessions. It has also allowed to me bring value to the business, as companies are keen to hear how they can partner with ODEON on Business to Business bases. And that’s fantastic!
What piece of advice would you give others for achieving success as a PA or EA?
Be honest. Listen and observe. Build strong relationships. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and move on from them. Just go for it. Everything is possible if you really want it.
If you know a PA or EA who deserves recognition, why not nominate them for this year’s PA of the Year Awards?
Nominations close on 13th September 2019, and the winners will be announced at the Ivy, London on Thursday 7th November.