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Interview: Birmingham PA Awards winner: Jayne Forgham, PwC UK

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 catches up with Jayne Forgham, PA at PwC UK, who took home the Motivation Award on the night, to find out how winning has boosted her confidence and why she’s keen to grow her network.

Congratulations on winning your award! How did it feel to be nominated and then to go on and win?
To be nominated itself is a big endorsement on the work that you do and how people see you – it really is a big pat on the back. I find it a little hard to talk about myself and I found that I had to step outside my comfort zone to answer questions such as why I should win the award. In my mind, all the other ladies that were in my category were all exceptional as well, and any one of us could have won. I was just lucky enough to.

To win the overall award was absolutely fantastic and the whole process has made me evaluate myself. It’s increased my network as I know a lot more people now because I’ve come to social events with people congratulating me. I think it’s increased my confidence as well with how I see myself. Somebody else saw me as a winner and I’m not usually a competitive person, but somebody else saw something in me to make me win so it’s been a really rewarding experience.

Can you tell me a bit about your role and responsibilities?
I’ve worked at PwC for almost 15 years and in October I was made PA to the midlands region chairman. He was the person who nominated me for the Motivation Award, and that’s a great endorsement for the work that he finds that I do for him and how I support him. I was reading an article recently about Barrack Obama and he was quoted saying that he had assistants that look after his food and clothes, so he could get on with the role of being President. Obviously, I’m not working on that scale, but for me, to support somebody where I look after the small stuff so he can get on with his role, I think that makes all the difference.

Having that work relationship where we have each other’s backs works well. But also, I agreed with this article where Obama said that a PA is often the second brain and often gives the first impressions – we’re the first point of call for many clients.

“Assistants handle a lot of supportive work, so it’s great that somebody is recognising that and recognising the experience that we have got in the greater Birmingham region and how many great PAs we’ve got.”

What has always motivated you in this industry to get to where you are now?
I’ve always been the type of person who likes to put other people’s needs first. At PwC for the secretarial team we have what’s called ‘huddles’, where we all get together and make sure that everyone is feeling okay with the systems that we use, whether morale is okay and if we can we deal with any issues that may arise to nip them in the bud. It’s just keeping the momentum going with everyone and then ensuring everyone is okay.

It’s also sharing new experiences, sharing your knowledge and making sure that if you’ve got anything you can share with others to do so.

Why do you think it is important to have awards such as these to recognise the role of a PA?
I think going back to the point I said about the second brain and first impressions, we’re often in the background doing a lot of the work and making sure that everything is ticking along nicely. Assistants handle a lot of supportive work, so it’s great that somebody is recognising that and recognising the experience that we have got in the greater Birmingham region and how many great PAs we’ve got. Whether it’s an office manager, PA, EA or receptionist – they all play a part.

Does more need to be done in the Northern Region of the UK for PAs?
I know that in London there is an awards ceremony, and Manchester has got one, so perhaps it would need to go further than Manchester to cover the Northern Regions. The PA Birmingham Awards covers the greater Birmingham area, so hopefully in the future it might increase to the East Midlands, because it’s going to grow and become more successful. The ceremony itself a few weeks ago (The Birmingham PA Awards took place July 20, 2018) was a really exciting night where everybody was so happy for each other and congratulating one another.

What are your plans now that you have won this award?
I’ve increased my network on social media, so I’m hopefully going to reach out to more people through that avenue and keep in touch with the other winners and the finalists as well. There are quite a few PA social events within the Birmingham region, so I’ll attend more of those and then also do whatever I can at PwC, because it’s really an inclusive and diverse company to work for.


Photo credit: Edwin Ladd – Mr Ladd Media