Vicky Beattie wanted to be a meteorologist. She has always been fascinated by “extreme weather”, she says and thought it would make for an interesting career. So, how has she ended up forging a twenty-four-year long career as an executive assistant?
“I fell into it,” she laughs, “Like any good career, I had no intention of getting into it. I started off in a bank, aged sixteen, doing every kind of job I could get. I was a bank cashier; I was a production manager; I did customer service.
“Then, one of my bosses got promoted and she needed an EA. She seemed to think I was the person for the job, so I really had to hit the ground running and learn everything on the job.”
Sadly, Vicky was made redundant from the as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and found herself looking for work. But she knew that the EA role was something that proved to be a perfect fit for her strengths and personality.
“It took me a while to find the right role. I ended up in Marsh for several years, which was much more corporate and professional than the bank, so I now like to think of myself as an all-rounder, having been both customer and client facing.
“When HRC came calling in 2018, I knew I wanted to work for Hilary. She’s an entrepreneur and a decision maker and I knew I wanted to work for someone like that. She thinks differently to anyone else I’ve ever worked with.
“More than that, in a big company you often don’t get to see the outcomes of the work you do. In a company of HRC’s size, I would be able to get involved in a lot more tasks and actually get to see the impact they made.”
So, what does Vicky think are the attributes of a successful EA? Especially in a busy, growing workplace like HRC?
“Obviously, you have to be obsessively organised. Loyalty is quite a big one, as you’re working so closely with the one person. Confidentiality and discretion are also so, so important. You can be friendly and approachable, but you need to be professional about the work you’re doing in.
“You also need to anticipate your boss’s needs before they realise them so it can be tricky to navigate at times! But you get a knack for it the longer you work with someone.”
Communicating with everyone in the business – at all levels and across all sites – is a big part of the job for Vicky. She has enjoyed getting to know the different teams within HRC and says that being part of the support function is something that she relishes.
“I think that’s why an EA job suits me – I like to help people and solve things. I get satisfaction out of making other people’s lives better.
“That being said, it is a tough job and is more than just a 9 to 5. Although it hasn’t happened to me in my current role, there have been times where I’ve been needed out of hours on a regular basis. You can become the ‘go to’ person for everything because your colleagues maybe don’t understand that the level of work involved in being an EA is most definitely a full-time job!”
So, what does a 9 to 5 look like at HRC?
“I do so many things, I don’t know where to start! There’s no such thing as a typical day but I do start by checking up on emails – sometimes just one email can throw your whole day out if you need to act on it urgently.
“I’d urge every EA to have a daily to-do list. I live by mine. I get involved in everything from board meetings to offer letters; managing Hilary’s diary to assisting with events. You need to know exactly where you need to be – and where your boss needs to be – at all times.”
If anyone is looking to become an EA, Vicky advised a varied administrative background. She stresses as much office and systems-based experience as possible.
“I don’t think it matters whether you get your experience in a big global or an SME, but you need to get as wide a portfolio of experience as you can.
“You also need to prove yourself as someone who is trustworthy and discreet as well as confident – you can’t feel nervous talking to directors or clients.
“Your communication has to be perfect. And you’ve got to get into the mindset of your boss.”
If you’re an experienced Executive Assistant and are looking to make a career move, or are looking to hire a high calibre EA for your business, get in touch with Jackie MacGregor on 0141 375 1034 / firstname.lastname@example.org