Q&A with Sarah Kingdom: Office Manager of the Year Finalist 2019
Last year’s PA of the Year Awards saw us launch a brand new award category for the Office Manager of the Year. For the award - eventually won by Cat Mangan, Office Manager at Murphy Philipps - we received an abundance of nominations from and for exceptionally talented Office Managers up and down the UK.
One such nomination was for ghd Office Manager Sarah Kingdom, who was kind enough to speak with us about her career so far and her experience as a finalist at the PA of the Year Awards 2019.
Hi, Sarah. How did you become an Office Manager?
“It was completely organic and accidental. I studied English Studies at University but knew that I did not want to go into teaching or journalism, which was the main expectation of English students at the time. Thankfully, I had been in a workshop which highlighted the transferrable skills I had gained from my degree. This pointed me in the direction of administration as analysis, accuracy, speed reading and proof reading were transferable skills I had.”
“The job market was very tough at the time, so I worked in my local pub to keep me busy and get money to go to interviews. This turned out to be invaluable as I was able to learn how to mediate and deal with challenging customers. I started my first role as an Office Administration Intern in London. I was then offered a full-time role after six weeks and went on from there.”
What’s great about working at ghd?
“Most people think of ghd as being a very big company, but it isn’t. The benefit of this is that there is a real family feel to all the sites and everyone gets stuck in when needed. People are very amiable and friendly which makes you feel part of a great team all aiming for the same goal.”
“The company is very supportive of further development in your career and go out of their way to help you achieve your objectives and long-term goals.”
What do you love about being an Office Manager?
“The variety. No two days are the same and you get to be involved in several different sides to the business. You get to interact with people on all levels and this really helps build your skills professionally and personally.”
You moved from Cambridge to your company’s London office – how was that transition for you?
“In the initial stages it was very tough! Having been in Cambridge for around 6 years, the handover was challenging. It was hard to recall and transfer over things that had become second nature. I think my handover was more than 80 pages! It was also combined with learning on the spot in London as my handover from my predecessor was only around half a day.”
“The positive of this was that it highlighted how much knowledge I had amassed over the years and how valued I was in that department. This helped build my confidence moving to London where the pace was fast!”
Do you have any great stories from your time as an Office Manager so far?
“Something that I am rather proud of is when the team were going through a very busy period and everyone was flat out. I was worried about stress levels and the possibility of people getting fraught with each other so I decided to start ‘afternoon tea’ at the same time each day – about four teapots left out with some biscuits and milk, nice and easy. People could come in, sit for a while, take a break from their desk and have a chat. The one rule is that they weren’t allowed to talk about work – if they did, they took their tea to go and didn’t get a biscuit. It was a really good way for them to get to know each other as well!”
What’s your secret to being organised and juggling lots of priorities?
“I don’t think I have a secret per se, most of the time I feel like I’m winging it! It comes with experience and getting to know your office – sitting in on meetings is a great way to do this if you have time. You can get a feel for the hot project or topic of the time and divide up your time according to priority.”
“I’ve also found that getting routines and processes in place for the team can really help you out. Have a deadline for post, have a deadline for POs, etc.”
How did you find the application and interview process for PA of the Year?
“I didn’t apply – my colleague nominated me! The interview process was brilliant. It was more like a conversation than an interview. I was made to feel really relaxed and just asked lots of questions about my career and current role. It was the most fun I’ve had at an interview!”
Tell us about the night itself!
“The night was beautiful and felt very special. It’s not often Office Managers get a chance to celebrate their successes or take a step back to see what we have achieved or what our peers have achieved – we’re too busy getting stuck in! I would thoroughly recommend it to other Office Managers to apply – it’s a great opportunity not only to celebrate but to network with like-minded individuals.”
What piece of advice would you give others for achieving success as an Office Manager?
“Keeping a sense of humour is the best advice that I can give and, no matter where you work, there will always be people that leave things in the sink.”
Why do you think Office Managers are integral to the workplace?
“Office Managers tend to be the glue that hold everything together and are the most cross-functional worker – they are literally in touch with everyone in the office at some point and amass a huge amount of knowledge. Speaking from experience, you typically don’t notice how much they do until they aren’t there. Even being out for a dentist appointment for 2 hours can be too long on the wrong day!”
Do you know someone who deserves to be recognised as the Office Manager of the Year 2020? Submit a nomination for them today!