Paula Gibson, a PA at JLT Group plc, was one of our finalists at the PA of the Year Awards 2018.
In addition to her outstanding career background, the judges were highly impressed by an enthusiasm and desire to help others that led Paula to set up the JLT PA Network in 2017.
In our exclusive Q&A, Paula tells all about the PA of the Year Awards and discusses more about her career so far.
How did you become a PA?
I was in a contract role supporting a team at Zurich when my colleague went on maternity leave. I was asked to cover her role and she happened to be the PA to the CEO. That was my first ever experience of supporting someone 1:1 and it happened by default. There were aspects of the role that I really liked so I decided to pursue it further and find a full time PA role in the City. I spent years working as an actress beforehand, so this was my first “corporate” job.
What’s great about your job at JLT Group plc?
I think the best part about it is the autonomy. I catch up with my boss every morning but then I have the rest of the day to work on my various tasks, usually at my own pace. I get to meet with lots of hotels and restaurants we partner with and plan for exciting events with them. I am heavily involved in our Group’s charity committee, organising events and workshops with the charity we support as well as fundraising and promoting our charity partner internally. I also set up the JLT PA Network in May 2017 and that keeps me very busy.
What’s your secret to being organised and juggling lots of priorities?
I think the key is in prioritising the most important tasks and getting them completed first. This may sound obvious but so many people do their favourite tasks first and put off the ones they don’t enjoy doing until last. Getting the most important tasks out of the way first will always lead to a less stressful day.
The Judges were impressed with your enthusiasm and desire to put in real world help for those around you, alongside the excellent quality content on themes in and around the industry. Can you tell us more?
I have always had a passion for helping others which was instilled in me at my school in Singapore (United World College of South East Asia). Setting up the PA Network seemed like the ideal platform in which to offer self-development for fellow PAs as well as form a collective voice and create key networking opportunities. I have seen lots of PAs thrive and gain confidence from being part of the Network. Leading a Network of influential, intelligent and driven PAs has also been great for my self-development and many times I have been forced to leave my comfort zone through public speaking and leading both meetings and events.
How did you find the application and interview process for PA of the Year?
I was nominated by a colleague, so I didn’t see the application myself, but the interview stage, although nerve-wracking, was great fun. The judges Susanna (Tay Associates) and Sarah (SecsintheCity) who interviewed me were really welcoming and put me at ease straight away. It was nice to be able to reflect on all I’d achieved through speaking with them – I came away feeling proud and excited to learn if I’d made it to the next stage.
Tell me about the night itself?
The night itself was held in the private dining room at the prestigious restaurant The Ivy. It added to the excitement that Helena Bonham-Carter was dining there that same evening! The event was black tie and we arrived to a lovely champagne reception where we could mingle with fellow nominees and their managers. I sat on a great table with ambitious and enthusiastic PAs and we sampled a beautiful three course meal with lots of wine. The awards were towards the end of the night where we got to hear about some of the incredible achievements of all the nominees. We all received plaques whether we were finalists or winners and we had our photographs taken. It was a fabulous evening all round!
How did your colleagues react?
I found it strange telling my colleagues about it as even when I am asked to be a speaker at events, I keep it low key. The colleagues I did tell were all really pleased and very excited for me!
What piece of advice would you give others for achieving success as a PA or EA?
If you are an ambitious PA who wants to do more than what it says on your job spec, then I would advise that you make sure you are working for someone that gives you a certain amount of freedom to achieve your goals. There is always opportunity to achieve success as a PA or EA if you go above and beyond, create tangible goals and are unafraid to stand out from the crowd.
Nominations for the PA of the Year Awards 2019 close on Friday 13 September – submit yours now, for yourself or a colleague, to avoid missing out.