PA of the Week: Shirley Purchese

Published on: 11 Dec 2015

Shirley Purchese

Shirley Purchese, On-Shore PA & Advisor at Rio Tinto. Shirley was a finalist in the SecsintheCity PA of the Year awards 2015.


Can you describe a typical day in your role at Rio Tinto

I work mostly in a virtual world!  We have 11 PAs and 1 Team Leader who are all based in our Hub in New Delhi.  The PAs has been employed to work for Leaders all over the world.  I am the On-shore PA and Advisor based at our Head Office in London and my duties involve assisting the PAs in New Delhi.   

I can be running around doing printing, ordering stationery, sourcing event space, greeting visitors, checking out a restaurant, scanning through expense receipts for the PA and/or I can be on line via Lync real-time discussing with the Team Leader any issues that have come up overnight that needs my input.  I assist in conjunction with the Team Leader in New Delhi with recruiting, interviewing, setting up Team meetings, projects  and training as well as mentoring, all done  via video conference or Lync, phone or email.  As well as this I keep in constant and daily contact with the PAs in New Delhi for any questions or assistance that they need.   

I also work for the Global Executive here in London when his PA in New Delhi is out of the office for holiday, illness etc.   So basically, I look after all the tangibles that are required and anything that the PAs in New Delhi are unable to do.  There is not a typical day or even a typical hour with my role it changes hour by hour according to the need.


What obstacles have you had to overcome in your career?

Embracing Technology. When I first started working it was an old manual typewriter. I had a break of 18 months from the workplace, having children. Returning to a word processor has got to be one of my worst nightmares!  Weeks and weeks I tried to adjust to this technology, it was dreadful, so when we came to emails what a revelation! What do you mean I did not have to rub out the mistake and type over it, all I had to do was backspace and type the correct letter - I loved it and still do!

Technology is one of those things you either embrace or sit in fear of it. My children moved abroad so now I am on Skype at the weekends - being able to talk to my children and grandchildren is amazing.  I am also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.  I was forced to learn the technology through wanting to keep in touch with my family mostly, but all this technology also works in the work environment, I find it invaluable to be able to text my boss, send him a message via WhatsApp etc. if urgent and need a real time response. For me Technology was definitely the obstacle I had to get used to in this modern and forever changing business world.


How did it feel to be a finalist for the 2015 Secs in the City Awards?

Ecstatic, shocked, thrilled, disbelief, I thought I was at the end of my career and the accolades had been and gone so when I found out I was a Finalist I ‘fluffed up my feathers’ and embraced the experience. It was wonderful. 


What do you enjoy most about being a PA?

To be trusted to get on with it, to make decisions on behalf of myself and the Leader, to have input into how things are going, making the job my own, being part of a Team that makes you feel valued and important and occasionally a little pat on the back to say you are doing well. 

The highlight of my present position was when setting up this new operation I had the opportunity to travel to our New Delhi office to meet people to help with the set-up, an unforgettable experience.


What advice would you give to other PAs?

Be your own person, have your own viewpoint, always be honest and truthful, learn to say No, stand up for yourself, be passionate and throw yourself into your job.  Go on every training session that is offered to you, but most of all Network in your job, the more you know the more you grow.  Finally if you don’t like your job, , it makes you unhappy then get out as soon as you can, you are a valued person and there are many companies out there that need your experience and will appreciate what you have to offer.   Be true to yourself.