2018 saw the introduction of the first Birmingham PA Awards, and what an evening it was, where five exceptional assistants were recognised for their efforts and achievements in the industry. Jade Burke chats to Chelsea Guerin, PA at Trowers & Hamlins who scooped the Innovation Award, where she reveals why networking is crucial to a PA’s role and how she has lead crucial changes in her office.
Congratulations on winning your award! How did it feel to be nominated and then to go on and win?
I never thought in a million years I would win. I had people shortlisted that I thought in my own head would win and comparing me to the others in the category I didn’t think I would actually win it. The response I’ve had since winning has been overwhelming and my company has been really proud.
It’s been brilliant and networking with people is amazing. It’s great to see how different people work and what their roles are. Although you’ve got the same job everyone is doing something completely different and it’s strange to see the work levels.
Can you tell me a bit about your role and responsibilities?
I currently work for Trowers & Hamlins and it’s super busy. I work in a legal firm in the mitigation department so everything is urgent. Here, I work for 12 people and manage two admin assistants and they’re workloads, so it’s crazy busy but it’s really good. But I started off as an admin assistant and then worked my way up to be a secretary and then became a PA.
I started out as an admin assistant on the basis that I had a place at university, but then going into the role and seeing the difference that you make, I had more of a passion for the support side so I then didn’t go to university and made my way up doing it that way.
Having won the innovation award, what kind of innovation would you like to see injected into the industry?
For me, in the law world it’s more about streamlining systems and the way people work. I think a few years ago you’d never be able to work to the number of things PAs are now working to so it’s changing the way that you work and the way that you think to make everything more efficient.
PAs are busier now then they have ever been but it’s all about utilising the time they’ve got and supporting them to make changes.
In our firm we have got male assistants, which we haven’t really had before, so it’s good to see a difference and everyone working equally. It would be good to see more males in the industry to be able to see thier perspective and what ideas for changes they have.
“The awards process has been amazing and I would tell anyone to either do a self-nomination or nominate somebody else because it’s been brilliant.”
Have you sparked any innovative changes within your career?
Since winning there are two protocols that are being released and I worked with the IT trainers to get some of our systems and protocols up and running, which are going live in September. Our Exeter office is looking at changing processes and working more efficiently so some of the changes I have made are being made there. It’ll be good to see how the changes and some of the stuff I have put in place makes a difference in the offices over the next few months.
What has been your proudest moment so far since kicking off your career?
Definitely winning the award because I’ve never really won any awards before and it’s good to be recognised. I don’t think traditionally PAs would have really been recognised so it’s good to see how, even though it’s spread across a number of different companies, that PAs are being recognised.
What are your thoughts on networking events? Why should PAs strive to attend as many as possible?
I think the way that the future is going in terms of PAs, everyone is making changes and being at networking events you get to see what others and PAs are doing. It makes a massive difference for your connections as well, because in the position as a PA where you’re organising stuff for events, the connections you would ordinarily have makes a massive difference.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The awards process has been amazing and I would tell anyone to either do a self-nomination or nominate somebody else because it’s been brilliant. I’d definitely recommend being in the process and going for it. Even if you don’t win, it’s good just to have that recognition and you can say you’ve done it and been nominated.
Photo credit: Edwin Ladd – Mr Ladd Media