Q&A with Natalie Richardson: PA of the Year Finalist

Published on: 24 May 2022

Last year, the PA of the Year Awards judges caught up with South Bank University PA, Natalie Richardson, one of the PA of the Year finalists in 2021. Natalie stood out to our judges due to the fantastic work she gets involved with on a daily basis. Natalie highlighted the importance of voting for yourself to recognise the individual work you do, as well as the pride she felt by being nominated by her peers.

The judges were extremely impressed with her take on the importance of PA’s, and how these roles are key in keeping company activities running smoothly. Natalie passed the interview process with flying colours, ensuring her spot on PA of the Year shortlist.

Q&A Headshot Natalie Richardson

How did you become a PA?

I wasn’t looking to work in office administration, but after leaving school, I started my career as a receptionist in 1997, then secretarial and office administration positions during 1998 – 2008. From 2009 to the present day, I moved into PA work, with varying titles, but all meaning the same role and within the last few years, I worked in a senior capacity as Management/Board Secretary/Executive Assistant. It’s taken me that long to realise it’s a career and not just a job!

What can you tell us about your role at London South Bank University?

I joined LSBU in 2018 as PA to the HR Directorate, on an initial 6-month contract and was made permanent following that FTC. In 2019, my manager changed, and I became an Executive PA and in 2020, the role changed again to Executive Assistant, to reflect the senior level work we undertake.

I currently support the Chief People Officer and the four HR Directors. It’s a very busy role as well as being a Wellbeing Champion and mentoring new staff in the job. I work across two teams (Executive Administration Team and the People & Organisational Development Team (HR)) so I am always switching hats!

Although I am not student facing and work in the professional services group, I like to think I am contributing to making student uni life a happier experience in some small way.

What do you love about being a PA?

I enjoy helping people and making their life easier, so this is my way of doing that and I like being on networks, to get involved in other projects across the University.

I am actually one of the few PA’s out there who enjoys taking minutes as I like to be involved in everything so that I can get firsthand knowledge of what’s going on.

It’s also the little things I like to do that make people smile every day, whether that’s sending a happy email out to the team or promoting the good work of administrators on a daily basis.

You were nominated by multiple people at your organisation. How does it feel to receive recognition so widely?

I feel extremely appreciated and valued by both my teams and the senior Executive across the university. It validates that I am doing a good job and that people respect my position.

How did you find the PA of the Year Awards interview process?

It was a nice informal zoom call, although I did feel a bit like I was being interviewed for a new position, which I am a bit rusty at!

The judges were very nice and it was great to chat through my work and career as I don’t often get to relive it.

Do you have any interesting or funny stories from your time as a PA?

We have a resident squirrel who likes to come and say hello and eat our chocolates when no-one is looking. Numerous occasions have been spent shooing him back out the door, however recently I was on a webinar in control of the powerpoint slides with my headset on and the squirrel came into the office to visit. My colleague was videoing him and both of us trying to guide him to the door whilst I am moving slides on the webinar and trying not to strangle myself with him running under the desks. It was a ‘you had to be there moment!’ but we found it funny!

It would be amazing if you could tell us in your own words why PAs are so essential to the organisations and individuals they work for.

The administration profession is so important as they are the lynchpin of any company. PA’s are an integral part of any senior management team and are the invisible force that keeps meetings running smoothly, papers updated and ready, travel booked, diaries easy to read and countless other tasks. For me, this role is just as important today as it was 50 years ago, even more so, as Executives are so busy they don’t have time to do all this firefighting for themselves.

What advice would you give to other Personal Assistants hoping to enter the 2022 PA of the Year Awards?

I would definitely say that you should nominate yourself as it’s important for you to recognise as an individual that you value yourself and the work you do.

I would then send it out on numerous occasions to everyone you know as you never know who your champions might be and who will nominate you. I was surprised I got more than one nomination myself!

And share it for others to nominate any other PA’s in your company and likewise, nominate others yourself if you believe there is an excellent PA out there that you look up to. I would also pick and choose which awards to enter and not sign up for all of them, at least not in the same year anyway

If you are a Personal Assistant who deserves recognition, or if you know someone who is exceptional, please submit a nomination for this year's awards here.