As the 10th anniversary of the PA of the Year Awards draws closer, we wanted to catch up with winners from years gone by to find out what they are up to these days and how winning one of our awards has impacted their careers.
Over the 10 years that we have been holding the PA of the Year Awards, we have awarded winning prizes to some of the brightest talent in the world of business support. From Legal PAs at global law firms and Personal Assistants to ultra-high net worth individuals to Office Managers and EAs at some of the world’s biggest businesses, our awards celebrate the successes of business support professionals of every description.
As the 10th anniversary of the PA of the Year Awards approaches, we wanted to catch up with winning Assistants from years gone by to find out what they are up to in 2021 and how winning a PA of the Year Award has impacted their working lives.
At last year’s PA of the Year Awards – which was held via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Bethany Burns was crowned the PA of the Year.
Although her role as PA at BrewDog has not changed, Bethany says her win has opened new doors for personal and professional development.
“My trajectory has changed. It’s amazing what something like this can do to bolster opportunities and forge new paths for the journey,” Bethany says. “For example, I finished my mini-MBA course, and am looking at other ways to continually increase my knowledge and personal value.”
Meanwhile, another of last year’s winners says her responsibilities at work have continued to expand following her win. Gemma Hughes, PA to the Vice Principal of Salford City Academy and winner of the 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award, said:
“I already felt like a valued member of the Academy staff, but my role continues to develop more and more. Line Management now forms part of my daily role with the responsibility for our Student Services department, ensuring that we meet the needs of the students at all times. It’s lovely to be part of this team and have the responsibility and ownership to be able to develop the department.”
And it is not just line management that Gemma is now involved in; she has also implemented COVID testing and tracing at the Academy, taken a lead in planning a students reward day, and led a team of Student Counsel members to interview for recent posts at the Academy.
“I continue to feel valued at the Academy and I love every day. I can honestly say there has never been a day since working at the Academy that I haven’t wanted to go into work. It’s fab!”
Similarly, ghd Office Manager Sarah Kingdom has seen her responsibilities evolve since taking home the Office Manager of the Year Award in 2020.
“I have been given more responsibilities since the awards, especially during the pandemic. I have also noticed that there has been an increase in those asking for my guidance and support with projects – especially from those new to the company or the Office Manager and EA career paths.”
The working lives of some winners from several years ago have changed even more significantly. For example, Joyce Adewale was working as an Executive Assistant at alternative legal services provider Axiom when she won the Outstanding Achievement Award in 2018.
In 2021, we find Joyce in a role providing support to the Head of Global Talent at a large financial institution.
“It is a role in which I wear many hats from being a gatekeeper, to project manager, to an event organiser. No two days are ever the same and the tasks vary between diary and email management, expense management, event coordination and meeting facilitation.”
Joyce has also used her platform as a PA of the Year Award winner to improve the daily working lives of her fellow business support professionals.
“Winning this award has made me want to be an advocate for EAs and PAs,” Joyce tells us, “It gave me the confidence to join the UK PA Committee at work. Using this platform with two other EAs, I ensure knowledge is shared amongst the 65+ Assistants, admin and support staff in the network, supporting with performance reviews and goal setting across departments, being ambassadors of new technology as well as ensuring that any process changes have EA insight and support as we are the demographic most affected by such things.”
Sheila Lyburn, who won the PA of the Year Award back in 2015 for her work as Personal Assistant to CEO and businessman Peter Vardy, now works as an EA to the CEO of healthcare computer software company Craneware.
“I work one-on-one with the CEO and function as the primary contact in all matters related to the CEO,” Sheila told us. “I provide high level and confidential support to the administration of the CEO's office and serve as a mediator for the board of directors and senior management teams. With various offices and many of our colleagues based in different states within the USA, I am usually working across multiple time zones.”
However, these days Sheila’s duties are not just administrative in nature.
“I am an active member of our charity and social committee,” she adds. “I am heavily involved in the organisation of fundraising events which support our charity initiatives. I also take much enjoyment in arranging extracurricular activities for the office, with the ultimate goal being to create a sense of togetherness and wellbeing amongst our employees.”
2020 Legal PA of the Year Tanya Jennings has continued to excel and evolve in her role as a Legal PA at Freshfields since her win last year.
“In the few months since winning the Legal PA of the Year Award, I went on to win a BOOM Award at Freshfields in recognition for being a team player and going above and beyond in my contribution to the firm,” Tanya said. “I am also currently on a part-time client secondment in a project management capacity to one of our T300 financial institution clients and really enjoying the experience. I am also very much looking forward to seeing what new challenges Freshfields have in store for me next!”
Since winning 2019’s Legal PA of the Year Award, Joanne Wilson has seen her role continue to grow and it now “encompasses pretty much every aspect of the firm.”
“I am a line manager for the team of admin support, I am the Senior Office Manager for all offices and the General Office Manager for our main Manchester office (and all that entails) and the line manager to the satellite Office Managers in our London and newly opened Sheffield office.
“I was instrumental in physically setting up the original firm five years ago together with creating the working processes and have since set up two further offices, one in London in 2019 and one Sheffield in 2020. I was also heavily involved when we moved our Manchester office twice and refurbished the offices.”
In addition to running the administration arm of Hall Brown, setting up new offices and overseeing her own PA duties, Joanne also finds time to work on marketing, advertising, IT, HR and inducting new hires.
Regardless of whether they have gone on to take on a new challenge or have continued to broaden the scope of their current role, the career trajectory of each of our winners has been positively impacted by winning a PA of the Year Award. Where could a PA of the Year Award take you?
Nominate yourself or a colleague for the 10th anniversary of the PA of the Year Awards today.