Why We Host the PA of the Year Awards

Written by: Imogen Hartley
Published on: 21 Jul 2021

Why We Host the PA of the Year Awards

Nominations are open 2021

There are people within your organization without whom the business could not run. Whilst some may think of CEOs or Directors – of course vital in their own right – it is less frequently that one thinks of those behind the scenes. The PA arranging the Managing Director’s diary, making sure important meetings don’t clash; the Office Manager quickly fixing the coffee machine before anyone notices it’s out; the Legal PA ensuring that key clients receive the right documents.

It is to highlight the crucial role that these key business support professionals play, and to reward their unrivalled dedication and work ethic, that we at SecsintheCity have hosted our annual PA of the Year Awards for the last 10 years.

The last decade of receiving nominations, whittling down finalists and interviewing winners has highlighted this; each year we have been overwhelmed with the calibre of the UK’s business support professionals.

We spoke to the 2020 PA of the Year Awards finalists to find out from them why business support professionals play such an important role.


One word used repeatedly by our finalists to describe business support was the word “backbone.” Without support staff keeping the show running seamlessly, the structure of the business would crumble.

Karen Allen, PA at Pinsent Masons, told us that “I always get told I am like a bottle of Castrol GTX oil as I keep the team running smoothly.” Business support professionals are often the “unsung heroes who stay behind the scenes, keeping the cogs turning”, said Kelsea Lindsay, EA at Intuit. Furthermore, James Marrow, EA at Bird & Bird, highlighted that “A lot of what happens in the forefront of a business happens only from the efforts of those in the background.”

Singing the praises of these otherwise unsung heroes is a crucial part of why we host the PA of the Year Awards.

Behind the scenes

Clare Vincent, EA at UBS Asset Management, told us that “PAs are a special breed,” adding that they “add so much value to their executive’s work-life by ensuing the smooth day to day running of the business."

Working behind the scenes, allowing their principal to carry out their role as calmly as possible, was a theme throughout many of our finalist’s answers. Gemma Hughes, PA to the Vice Principal at Salford City Academy, and winner of the 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award, went further; “PAs and EAs allow their boss to continue their work as they know that the tasks that need doing can be done by their PA. PAs are often a ‘mini me’ of their boss - understanding workloads, being privy to sensitive information. They are therefore able to support at all times.” 

Tanya Jennings, EA at Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer and Legal PA of the Year 2020, painted a strong picture – “Not only do we keep all of the plates spinning in the background, but we make it look easy in the foreground.”

A different perspective

Particularly highlighted by our Office Manager of the Year Award finalists was the benefit of having a fresh, overarching view of the business – something perhaps unique to the business support role.

Izzy Kitts, Office Manager at Principal Global Investors, told us that “Office managers are in a great position to have exposure to the goings on in the office. Unlike some employees, who mainly work with their immediate team, the office manager has to get to know and work with everyone in the office.”

Izzy went on to say that not only does this allow Office Managers to be proactive and flag any potential issues, but also to “treat everyone as an individual”, as they get “to know people’s likes, dislikes and routines.”

Jenna Brown, Office Manager at Ensurance, furthered this, telling us that “Not only does an Office Manager help create flow within a business, they keep the whole ship afloat and everyone on board happy.” Emma Wilkinson, EA at Conduit Capital Partners, noted that “We know everyone within the business and beyond. We know how to have pretty much any requested executed because we put in the time to know the right people for almost anything.”

The glue holding it all together

Sarah Kingdom – Office Manager at ghd and Office Manager of the Year 2020 – spoke about how Office Managers are the “invisible glue that holds a workplace together… Staff only start to notice how many things they cover when the Office Manager is not there.” Jenna Brown also used the term, stating that “In my view [they are] the glue to every business.”

Needless to say, then, that the introduction of the Office Manager of the Year category in 2019 was a welcome and worthy addition.

A unique set of skills

“The job is not for everyone as it requires a unique skillset, such as being organized, flexible and prepared for anything,” Clare Vincent told us. When your daily tasks can range so wildly from diary management to sourcing a very particular gift to attending a board meeting, a business support professional undoubtedly does need a unique set of skills.

Foremost among these are organization and efficiency. Claudine Martin, PA at the Ministry of Defense, stated that business support professionals were vital as they truly made “the best use of their time in order for the individual they work for to efficiently carry out their role”’

As illustrated above by our fantastic 2020 finalists, there are manifold reasons as to why SecsintheCity hosts the PA of the Year Awards each year, and why they have proved such a success over the last decade. The role of a business support professional can be oft overlooked. Our PA of the Year Awards are a celebration of these fantastic individuals, showcasing their achievements and giving them the recognition they deserve.

Do you know an outstanding business support professional? Nominate them for the 10 the anniversary of the PA of the Year Awards today.