Meet Our Finalists for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards

Nominations have closed, interviews have been held and finalists have been shortlisted. With the 2020 PA of the Year Awards just a few weeks away, it’s time to meet this year’s finalists.

Finalists for the PA of the Year Award

Bethany Burns

Bethany Burns | PA to James Watt, Captain & Co-Founder of BrewDog plc

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“My career has been rich and interesting, starting as a flight attendant in Santa Barbara, California, then climbing the corporate ladder in Tampa, Florida. I moved to Scotland about 8 years ago, working for an oil & gas company, a wealth management firm and finally now at my dream job, First Mate to the Captain at BrewDog.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“It feels great to be recognised among an elite group of peers, all of whom are deserving of such an award, given the miracles we make happen with grace and fortitude each day!”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“What a fantastic honour it would be, to receive an award that celebrates the superheroes behind the scenes!”

Cathryn Smith

Cathryn Smith | EA to Philip Villars, Head of Planning Consultancy and EAM at WSP

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“I chose to become a PA immediately after university, after deciding my original choice of journalism wasn't my calling or passion. After 5 years in my first secretarial role, I moved to Indigo Planning (now WSP) where I have been since 2005. I’ve progressed my career from initially working for a Director in the Leeds office to working closely with the Chairman and MD and managing a national team.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?
“I have to admit my first reaction was one of disbelief. I don’t think you ever consider yourself good enough at your job, but as it’s sunk in it’s been a fantastic experience. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and how I’m viewed within the organisation and I feel it’s a real honour and privilege to have been nominated.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“Winning the PA of the Year Award would be an unbelievable achievement. It would give me a platform and voice to go out and try and change some of the stereotypes around PAs and the admin profession, particularly in the current climate where there seems to be a perception that admin is a disposable resource. Personally, the award would be recognition to myself that I am good at what I do, and I’ve survived and made it through some testing times and come out the other side stronger.”

Clare Vincent

Clare Vincent | EA to Monica Fan, Head of Global Consultants at UBS Asset Management

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“After studying Psychology with English Literary Studies at University, I joined the Civil Service. While working as a Diary Manager for the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in Private Office, I was headhunted to be a PA by a Department Head, and quickly realised a PA role was a natural fit for me as I love organising! During my career at UBS, I have worked as an EA in Market Data Services and a Project coordinator for the Chief of Staff in IT. I currently work in UBS Asset Management for the Head of Global Consultant Relations, EMEA as a PA / quasi chief of staff for consultants. I am constantly learning and advancing, and as a result I have recently transitioned into a new specialist role dedicated to clients. The work is extremely busy, fast paced and never dull, and I am incredibly lucky to work with a great bunch of people.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“My manager, Monica Fan, Global Head of Global Consultant Relations, EMEA, nominated me for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards which was a lovely surprise! I was initially nervous about the interview process, but there was no need to worry at all. The judges Susanna Tait and Sarah EL-Doori made me feel so at ease and comfortable. In fact, it did not feel like an interview at all, but an informal chat with friends.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“To win a PA of the Year Award would be a huge honour. PAs are a special breed; the job is not for everyone as it requires a unique skillset such as being organised, flexible and prepared for anything. To have an award which celebrates and recognises the hard work of PAs is really uplifting! I think most people would agree that 2020 has been a difficult year so far, and so to be recognised for all my hard work during these challenging circumstances has felt amazing.”

Claudine Martin

Claudine Martin | PA to the Director of Army Engagements and Communications at the Ministry of Defence

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“I have had some of the most amazing experiences and opportunities during my 14 years tenure in the Army. From travelling the world to meeting new people and inspiring others is a dream come true and I am proud to be a Soldier and PA.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“I am proud and humbled to be nominated and chuffed that my achievements have been recognised.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“This will mean a lot to me.  This will motivate me even more to continue the hard work of inspiring more Soldiers to consider the opportunities of being a PA and to empower other PAs in the industry to enhance their careers and achieve their full potential.”

Danielle Francis

Danielle Francis | EA to Simon Michaels, Chairman of EMEA & APAC at Ankura Consulting

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“I have over 15 years’ experience working in Financial and Professional Services supporting Senior Leaders and C-Suite. I am passionate about helping others and lead the Corporate Responsibility programme for the Ankura London Office. In addition, I speak regularly at industry events and mentor others in the PA and Business Support industry.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“I am beyond proud and excited to be nominated as I feel I work hard to be a role model within the industry, and I am grateful my hard work is being recognised.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“It would be so encouraging to win the award, to know that I am making a difference in the industry, and I feel this will help increase my platform to help even more people. It’s important that being a PA is a profession and not just a stop over to the next role. Awards like this help put the PA role on a much-needed pedestal. I hope awards like this encourage others to enter the industry and see how essential we are.”

Emma Wilkinson [square]

Emma Wilkinson | EA to Nina Pfifer, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Conduit Capital Partners

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.
“I started my career as Physiotherapy Assistant in a small practice after studying health science at university, however ended up moving into managing all aspects of the practice. I progressed from this role to seek out a role in a large consultancy firm which is when I was hired by Turner & Townsend for what was supposed to be a temporary position to support department heads and a large team, however I ended up staying for almost two years. I took a small career break to travel and then I started my search for a role within a business who were passionate about sustainability and social change. I found a business whose ethos I resonated with which is the business I work for now - Conduit Capital.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“I feel very honoured to be nominated, it is always wonderful to be recognised for what you do. There is a great buzz amongst PAs and EAs as the awards are a very well-established part of the business support scene.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“To win PA of the Year Award would be a wonderful professional and personal boost after what has been such a difficult year for everyone. Furthermore, it would show all the hard work I have put in is recognised beyond the four walls of my own organisation. Ultimately, winning would be a major milestone in my career.”

Esther Dawson

Esther Dawson | EA to Tamara Roberts, CEO of Ridgeview Wine Estate

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“I’m proud to have given the companies I’ve worked for loyalty and have remained in most of my jobs a long time, other than when out of my control. I’ve moved from the HR sector, being poached by the Board of Directors I was working for to work as their Executive Assistant, to create an Executive Office and then head hunted into the wine industry as EA to the current Sussex Businessperson of the Year and IWSC President.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“2020 has been a tough year for everyone and this nomination comes as a lovely surprise and wonderful boost.  I lost my mum and gran within three weeks of each other in the summer (neither COVID related) and I’ve received such amazing support from friends, colleagues and the wider PA community and it’s so nice to be able to share all this good news with them. I’m so chuffed and humbled to be selected among some other Assistants that I know of and respect hugely.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“I’m passionate about supporting, mentoring and developing PAs, EAs & VAs and being able to focus on the Sussex PA Network over the last few months has been vital to my mental health. This award would cap off a difficult year but would, hopefully, help promote the work I’m trying to do in raising the image of the professionalism of our roles and that Assistants are some of the most adaptable people in a business, in times of uncertainty. I like to try to fly the flag for Assistants in smaller businesses, where often we are the only Assistant and how important networking and continuing professional development is. Living in a more rural county, our network has provided both for so many and this award would be the icing on the cake and reassurance that not only the good we doing for them but also the support I give to Tamara in my day-to-day job. Especially after the year I’ve had, this would also propel my confidence knowing that I can cope with anything! Thank you again for the confidence that you have had in me!”

Gemma Hughes

Gemma Hughes | PA to Chris Leader, Vice Principal of Salford City Academy

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“Lucky enough to fall into a PA position by chance, I started my career as a Private PA to a high net worth couple who ran a finance company. After 11 years in that role, it was time for a new challenge, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to try my PA skills in a totally different industry: a high school. I have been at Salford City Academy for over 2 years now and can honestly say it's rewarding to be able to use my PA skills in an industry where I know that my strive for perfection and the willingness to do my job to the best of my ability really makes a difference.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“I am honored to have been nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards. It's in my nature to always want to do a job well and strive to go above and beyond. It's so rewarding to see that my hard work is appreciated by the Vice Principal who I support on a daily basis; a Vice Principal who had never had a PA before I started at the Academy and he will tell you that he couldn’t be without one now!”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“It's been a tough ride for me over the past year since being diagnosed with breast cancer just 7 months after starting at Salford City Academy. Even with my diagnosis, I powered through like a trojan and quickly returned to work just three weeks after my final treatment. It would solidify my determination and show that as long as you believe in yourself, you can go on to achieve good things no matter what life tries to throw at you!”

Jade Shirt

Jade Shirt | PA to Mark Rogers, Executive Director of St James' place

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“Becoming a PA is something I unnaturally fell into, but given my love for organisation, helping others and being a people person in all aspects of my life, it has certainly become the perfect role for me. I’ve had some incredible opportunities that when offered, I have grabbed with both hands. From an early career at hectic health clubs, to high end fashion to now working with an Exec Director at a Wealth Management PLC – I have adapted and developed my skills to meet every situation head on and leave no stone unturned.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“It’s amazing and I’m so thrilled to be recognised! When you’re busy wrapped up in doing your every day job to the very best of your ability, it’s very rare, if at all, that you take a step back or take a moment to reflect on previous experiences, mistakes you’ve learnt from, your best achievements and the significant impact you have on others. When you do, it makes you realise how far you’ve come! After my interview with the judges I felt nothing but pride. It was a strong reminder to myself on how passionate I am about my job and how I always want to ensure I’m doing it well.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“To win a PA of the Year Award in 2020, the year where almost everything went virtual, and new chapters in how we operate are being written, would mean so much to me. It’s been challenging times for everyone, and we’ve all dealt with it in different ways, but I’ve remained focused and motivated with my job throughout. Being nominated amongst other high achievers in our profession is already an incredible achievement and one I am proud of but to actually win would be the cherry on top!”

Jennifer Wilkins [square]

Jennifer Wilkins | EA to Irene Sobowale, Chief Executive of The Disabilities Trust

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“I was a professional dancer for 10 years in Musical Theatre but took temp admin roles in between contracts. Eight years ago, I started to find a real passion and excitement for PA roles and found that the softer skills from my previous career were very valuable: communication, relationship building, quick thinking and emotional intelligence. Everyone always asks me if I miss theatre and I honestly answer that I love what I do now but it’s not vastly different - honing and using your own skills for the benefit of the team to achieve an outcome.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“Honestly, it’s overwhelming and emotional. I’ve been thrown in the deep end a lot during my career but with tenacity, self-belief and determination, you dig in and deliver. That’s empowering but sometimes it’s all on you. There hasn’t always been the proactive support, investment or recognition for PAs and EAs which is why this nomination is emotional; it shows you what is possible and makes you stop for just a moment to take a breath and acknowledge how far you have come.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“I would be immensely proud to win the PA of the Year Award, this year more than any other. With COVID-19, this year has been the most challenging in my whole career, often requiring real strength to keep all the plates spinning. Working in a national charity that provides rehabilitation, care and support to vulnerable individuals has brought never-ending, daily challenges, and we’ve all worked so hard just to keep the cogs turning whilst also keeping everyone safe and connected. The nomination from our Chief Executive was a huge thank you but winning the award with such high-calibre finalists would be something else!”

Karen Allen

Karen Allen | PA to Christian Toon, CISO at Pinsent Masons

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“My PA career started back in 2007 and it has gone from strength to strength. I can honestly say the last 2.5 years working at Pinsent Masons has been the highlight of my PA journey so far. I've been involved in being a Mental Health Champion, supporting the local Right to Read scheme, Family Network Support, supporting the Mentoring programme the firm have, helping build a team of Security Agents , project managing and running the roll out of virtual escape rooms worldwide, plus my daily PA work supporting the team. This has definitely not been your classic PA role and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“At first, if I am honest, I was a bit embarrassed being nominated as I've never had anything like this happen to me ever! After speaking to the judges last week, I came away feeling proud and honoured that people I work with took the time to nominate me for a this very special award.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“First of all, it would make me massively proud and to have this recognition as PA of the Year would mean so much for me. Before joining Pinsent Masons, I was massively underappreciated for the work and commitment I gave. I’ve had a number of representatives from around the business who have passed on praise and recognition for me in terms of our MH work, my role as a Security Agent or indeed just being a ‘great all-rounder’ within the team. I would continue to drive a sense of community amongst others in my role and help to build on a better 2021.”

Kelsea Lindsey

Kelsea Lindsey | EA at Intuit

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“I have had quite a colourful career, starting in leisure where I worked as a receptionist, gym instructor and then manager, to reading a degree in information systems, followed by a degree in midwifery! Most of my previous career though was in customer service, front of house and administrative management before I accidentally landed my dream role as an EA. I love it as I still get to manage, but I now manage up instead of down, and really feel my impact from behind the scenes.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“Quite surreal. Part of me feels that slight sense of ‘imposter syndrome’ but then I reflect and realise that I have in fact had a successful career, am well respected and enjoy what I do tremendously and have defied many odds when it has come to my health, and managing to work through all of my health issues. I am completely and utterly honoured.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“It would mean so much! It would help towards confirming that I am heading in the right direction regarding my goal of being a highly successful Assistant, helping lead in setting an example to new and existing Assistants in how to be confident, competent and generally successful. My aim is to be able to empower Assistants to be the best that they can be regardless of individual circumstance such as personal adversities.”

Lesley Young [square]

Lesley Young | PA to Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

Having completed Secretarial College in the East Midlands, I worked in London as a Secretary/PA in professional services before then moving back to the East Midlands and continuing to work in Higher Education and the private sector, as well as start a family. I joined Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce in 2006 as EA to the Chief Executive, moving to the East Midlands Chamber when Leicestershire merged with Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce in 2013. My role has changed substantially over the last seven years and I am now Executive Support Manager and Company Secretary with additional responsibility for Quality across the organisation.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“Exciting, exhilarating and honoured!It’s a tremendous recognition of what instinctively comes naturally to me – to be someone’s ‘right hand’ - anticipating their needs and effectively operationalising their strategies.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“I would be incredibly proud and excited to win the PA of the Year Award. It would be an opportunity to further champion our profession in highlighting the unique view and valuable contribution that EAs and PAs have within organisations and businesses as enablers.”

Melanie Handsley

Melanie Handsley | PA to Emma Murdock, Head of HR at MOTUS Commercials

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“I began my career at Motus Commercials as a driver within the parts department, quickly progressing to Parts East Midlands region Administrator. I then moved on to my PA role during April 2019. I am also currently doing a Level 3 apprenticeship in HR to be able to support the HR department alongside my PA role.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“I was extremely shocked but feel privileged to know that my colleagues feel I’m worthy of the award.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“I would of course be very happy to win the award, but to be entered in the first place, make it to the final and know my work is recognised is an award in itself.”

Finalists for the Legal PA of the Year Award

James Marrow

James Marrow | Legal PA to Ian Hunter, Partner & Co-Head of International Employment at Bird & Bird

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“For the last 7 years I have been lucky enough to work with, and for, Bird & Bird who have been an extremely supportive and encouraging employer. I joined Bird & Bird as an Administrative Assistant and have climbed the rankings and experienced both the expectations and challenges for PAs at each level. I am excited for what the future holds for the role of the Personal Assistant.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“Fantastic! It gives me great confidence and confirmation that I am fulfilling my role to the best of my ability.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“It would give me a great sense of personal achievement and give me the drive to continue to develop in my career.”

Rachael Newton

Rachael Newton | Legal PA to Lee Adams, Head of London Office at JMW Solicitors LLP

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“I started my career looking after friendly but high maintenance Barristers as a Clerk in Chambers, dealing with the fast paced and exciting world of criminal law. I then took the opportunity to broaden my work and life experience by working for different companies in various admin roles. Whilst studying for a degree in law I joined an international law firm where I experienced working for Solicitors in a highly pressurised environment, which I loved. I then took my first Legal PA role at my current firm. I absolutely adore it and have grown from being a PA to supervising a team of over 12 and playing an active role in assisting with the management of a growing office in the heart of London.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“It’s a massive honour to have been nominated for the award. Knowing that other people do notice everything I do is amazing and makes it all feel worthwhile. PAs are often overlooked despite everything they do in the background so knowing that Lee (who nominated me) completely supports me is the best feeling ever and has motivated me to work even harder than before.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“Winning would be the highlight of my career and be the highlight of what seems like a long and stressful journey. It would give me a huge confidence boost that would help me to develop and hopefully take my career to the next level. Winning the award would also give me the knowledge that all of my hard work and the sacrifices I’ve made have been worthwhile. Given the past few months, winning would give me and everyone around me a huge boost. More than anything, I’d love to be able to phone my dad and tell him I’d won. I can only imagine how proud he’d be and that’s the most important thing in the world for me!”

Tanya Jennings

Tanya Jennings | Legal PA to Piers Reynolds, Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“This is such a great question because it allows me to recall how I started at the bottom of the food chain as an Administrative Assistant at a local law firm, doing the very basic jobs that every Admin Assistant has to do. However, from that point onwards, I only had one direction that I planned to go in, and that was up. Through a variety of jobs, both in and out of the legal profession, I have found myself back in the industry which I love, and which drives, challenges and inspires me the most and which very much keeps me on my toes on a daily basis and I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“I was absolutely made up to be nominated. To find out that the people who you work for, who you hold in such high esteem and feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with and learn from, value you to such an extent that they go so far as to nominate you for such an awesome award, is honestly the absolutely best feeling in the world.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“Aside from giving me the opportunity to remind my boss that I knew he liked me after all - despite the dark looks which he gives me on a very regular basis - winning a PA of the Year Award would mean that despite the long hours, the questionable asks, the challenges and the ‘are you kidding me’ moments, that the efforts of not just me but all of the Assistants out there are noticed, valued and appreciated.”

Finalists for the Office Manager of the Year Award

Izzy Kitts

Izzy Kitts | Office Manager at Principal Global Investors

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“In the last 8 years I have gone from Nursery Nurse to Receptionist to Building Manager to Office Manager and each one of those roles has given me opportunities to take on new challenges and allow me to develop as a person. The various skills I gained from each of these were building blocks to becoming highly effective in my role as Office Manager, it turns out there are a lot of transferable skills from looking after children to looking after adults! It is an everchanging role and that is one of the many reasons why I love it, there aren’t many jobs as varied as ours!”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“Honestly, a complete surprise! I have never been one for doing a job for a physical reward, so just to have been nominated makes me feel very much appreciated and valued and for that I am grateful.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“To win any year would be an amazing career achievement, but to win in 2020 with all the challenges we have faced this year would be extra special. I, along with so many others, have had a very challenging year this year so to win would make me even more grateful for the position I am in.”

Jenna Brown

Jenna Brown | Office Manager at Ensurance

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“An emotional and exciting rollercoaster ride. 13 years ago I thought I would end up on the stage after following my hobby of Ballroom and Latin Dancing, but as Mum always said from up above “If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters” so my skill set led me to the PA, EA, Office Manager journey, and I will never look back - although give me a pair of dancing shoes and I will still hit the dancefloor. I love my role as Office Manager at Ensurance. No two days are the same, no 9-5, and multitasking heads the top of my CV. So many achievements and life stories I will never forget as I continue my career.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“Amazing, a fantastic feeling. Total shock when the notification arrived in my inbox, after reading the email a few times and a couple of double checks that the email was sent to the correct person. I finally realised I had been shortlisted for the awards and what an incredible feeling not only for me but for our business. When the interview took place I was extremely nervous, but the Judges made me feel at complete ease and I felt quite emotional to reach the shortlist stage. I began to think ‘the moment I got stuck to the flooring whilst completing our office fit out was all worthwhile to experience this award process.’ All nominees are winners to reach this stage and good luck to each and every one of us.”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“It would be an absolute honour. I believe it shows recognition and appreciation in what I have achieved in my career to date. However big or small winning awards can mean so much to an individual such as building self-esteem, confidence and drive to continue to keep our businesses achieving their goals. There is something very special about being recognised as being ‘the best at something you can do.’”

Sarah Kingdom

Sarah Kingdom | Office Manager at ghd

In two or three sentences, tell us about your career so far.

“It is hard to believe that when I graduated from university, I had no plan on what I was going to do for a living. Not even a tangible idea. But here I am, 10 years later, working for an amazing brand and doing a job I love. I am very lucky to be in this position and could never have imagined it all those years ago.”

How does it feel to be nominated for the 2020 PA of the Year Awards?

“Honestly, it feels overwhelming. I do not think I am over the shock of being shortlisted last year, let alone it being nominated again! It is not something I would have ever expected, and certainly not twice!”

What would it mean to you to win a PA of the Year Award?

“Full disclosure, if I ever got over the shock, I would feel very humbled. EAs, PAs and Office Managers tend to be the glue in their environments that make everything flow together and work. They are integral but invisible. They are often people that shy away from praise as they see it as ‘just part of the job’. So, there would be a mixture of emotions.”

The PA of the Year Awards takes place virtually on Thursday 12 November 2020. Join us on Twitter from 20:00 where we will be live tweeting the event!

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