Zoe Rana, PA to an EVP at Warner Bros. and PA of the Year 2019 finalist, wowed our judges last year with her illustrious career to date and the dedication she has to her current role. We caught up with Zoe to find out more about her professional history and what it was like to be nominated for the PA of the Year Awards.
Hi, Zoe. How did you become a PA?
“I started my career as a Team Assistant in a recruitment company and moved up within that firm to become a PA to two directors. Following that I became a Marketing Assistant at a global branding agency and studied for my CIMA. I was headhunted into a PA role at MTV and worked there for 3 years before trying my hand as a Private EA to a high net worth individual. I joined Warner Bros. in October 2009 as PA to the EVP, which is still my current role.”
What’s great about your job at Warner Bros.?
“I have developed the role from the beginning. The EVP I work for was new to the business, as was the department he was setting up, so I have been lucky enough to sculpt the role to exactly how I want it to be. The role is varied and keeps me interested. I get to interact with all divisions across Warner Bros. and we are worldwide so it’s interesting to see how the business works in the different markets in which we operate.”
“I have been very fortunate to continue in my role to the full capacity since starting a family. Many women working at a senior PA level may not have been able to continue and balance a family life with a full-on role like mine but with the support of my boss this has been more than achievable.”
What do you love about being a PA?
“All of the above! I like the sense of achievement I feel when I know what I’ve done has made Ronald’s life easier. It’s great when I’ve pre-empted a situation or answer and it’s already done before being asked.”
You mentioned in your PA of the Year Awards interview that you previously worked in the Private PA world – how does your current role differ?
“The Private PA world I found isolating. Working 1:1 but being based in an office environment is very different to working 1:1 in a home office with no other adult interaction other than by phone or email. There were household staff to manage, and English was not their first language which itself throws up hurdles. The gentleman I worked for was also non-domicile so visited the UK only a few days in the months that I worked for him. Spending most of his time in Asia, the time difference made doing a good job incredibly hard.”
Do you have any great stories from your time as a PA?
“I recall dashing around Munich to find a pharmacy at the MTV EMA Music awards as one of our guests didn’t bring hairspray or deodorant with her!”
“Organising events is always great fun. A lot of stress and long hours in the run up but when everything falls into place and you see a group, big or small, enjoying themselves and then get great feedback it makes it all worthwhile.”
“Trying to get 60+ colleagues’ home from Nice, France in April 2010 was eventful. Trains, coaches, shared hire cars were all called upon when the volcanic eruptions at Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland happened. I recall some even begged local farmers to take them to nearby train stations on tractors and wagons! Everyone pulled together though and it made for good pub chats when they eventually got back to London!”
What’s your secret to being organised and juggling multiple priorities?
“Lists! I make lists and have an update to date task list and inbox. Filing anything that is done or is just FYI. I can’t have clutter.”
“I find it easier to get the quick things done and dusted and filed away in my mind. Never leave making a restaurant reservation to last… you probably won’t get the table they want! Then you have time to focus on the longer, harder tasks.”
“I keep my contacts up to date. Nothing worse than needing to reach someone only to discover that they or their assistant has moved on as it makes reaching them twice as long. I listen to my colleagues and to what’s happening in the office around me so I can inform Ronald of things he should be aware of before things need his attention. He travels a lot and it means a lot to him that he has me on the ground to be his eyes and ears.”
How did you find the application and interview process for PA of the Year?
“Ronald nominated me so I didn’t know! The interview was very informal and relaxed.”
Tell us about the night itself?
“It was a good night. Good venue to choose. It would have been useful to know in advance how many candidates were shortlisted from the original applications, just so you know a bit more about who is there on the night. Perhaps share a short biography of people ahead of the night so you can talk to people with some knowledge when you arrive on the night? Aside from those on my immediate table there wasn’t much opportunity to speak with other people there. Perhaps the reception could have been longer than 30 minutes. Most people seemed to leave immediately or very shortly after the awards had been given.”
What piece of advice would you give others for achieving success as a PA or EA?
“Ask questions during your initial interview, it’s as much about it being the right role for you and not just are you the right candidate for the role. What are the expectations they have of what they will expect from their assistant? Who was their previous assistant, what worked and what didn’t?
Be prepared to keep learning, no PA/EA role is always the same, the strategy of the business might change, which in turn could alter your role. Be adaptable. Enjoy what you are doing. How you approach your role every day will reflect on how you are perceived within the business and with your direct boss.”
“It isn’t a role for everyone. And no one should think being a PA is ‘easy’ because if you are doing it right it shouldn’t be!”
Would you recommend entering the PA of the Year Awards to others?
“Yes! It’s a lovely recognition to have and be proud of.”
If you would like to nominate your PA, EA or Office Manager for a PA of the Year Award - or are thinking of nominating yourself - click here to find out more and submit your nomination today.