PA Profile: Ashley Archer, Personal Assistant at Standard Chartered

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We asked Ashley Archer, Personal Assistant to a Finance Director at Standard Chartered, about her career journey, the challenges, highlights and why she loves her PA role 14 years in.

“My name is Ashley, I’m from Essex and have worked as a PA in London for approximately 14 years. I’m a regular gym goer and like to try new activities and classes – like everyone in lockdown I tried many new hobbies but unfortunately none seem to have stuck! I have a beautiful 6 year old niece whom I absolutely adore and am very close to immediate family who all live local to me.

I always knew I wanted to put my organising skills to good use, but the path to where I am today was challenging to get off the mark. I knew I wanted to be a PA and I had my sights set on working in the big city, but fell victim to recruiters telling me I didn’t have enough experience – it felt like a never ending circle!

Gaining PA Experience

I had left sixth form with A-Levels and was working locally as a Site Secretary. It was a really interesting role working in the reception office (or cabin!) of a building site, where we were building a brand new secondary school. The role was extremely varied – from registering drawings, liaising with architects to making cups of tea! I certainly gained a lot of experience both personally and professionally in this role. On my search to find a role in the “big smoke” I’d take holiday from this role to have interviews for junior secretarial/admin roles across London.

I struggled to land a role as most employers wanted several years of experience, but at 19 years old I was only just starting my career so unfortunately this was something I just didn’t have. My feedback from interviews was always really positive but unfortunately for me, the more experienced candidate always seemed to make the cut.

Until one day I got the phone call I’d been waiting for, a consulting company had a temporary role for a few months and would like me to start as soon as possible. This was just the break I was looking for, it was based in Canary Wharf where I was employed as a Junior Team assistant and the experience I gained here was immense. The first thing that became very apparent from day one was that construction and professional services industries were extremely different! I thrived in this role and stayed with this particular company for over 10 years, I progressed through the ranks gaining more experience, skills and naturally moved into more senior positions.

Finding the Perfect PA Role

In 2017 I felt I’d achieved everything I felt I could within this company and was looking to start a new challenge. I accepted a role as a Personal Assistant at a major international bank. It was a scary prospect and totally outside of my comfort zone – a new boss, a new train journey, new friends. But I was confident, determined to succeed and excited to take on a new challenge.

I’ve been in my current role for almost 5 years as a Personal Assistant to a Finance Director and I still love it. I love that every day is something different and that I have the opportunity to get involved in projects outside of my “day job”. I love the culture within the company, the positive attitude and genuinely feel that I’m making a difference. I’m a big believer in you get out what you put in!

I feel lucky to have an incredibly supportive boss that is aiding my personal development, I’m always looking to learn and develop new skills.

The Effect of the Covid Pandemic

The past few years have been extremely challenging, it’s affected 100% of people in some way or form, whether that be personally or professionally. We’ve all had to adapt to a “new normal” – I think we’ll be constantly adapting as time goes on and we learn to live with Covid. My role during lockdown changed instantly, I needed to learn to be effective and efficient in my role working remotely. Sometimes there were positives (such as less physical trips to IT) but there were many challenges – not being able to physically see my boss was one – what he was doing? Was he running late? It made it difficult to manage meetings when I had no idea what he was doing! We’re now back in the office two days a week and a sense of normality has returned but it has also brought new challenges.

Working with the Hybrid format has many advantages – flexibility, less travel time to name a few, but it it is now more difficult to get people physically together as we need to consider everyone’s personal arrangements.

Working Outside of the PA Role

I signed up to become an NHS volunteer during lockdown, it was one of the most rewarding and enlightening experiences I’ve ever had. I was a vaccine marshal and helped register patients for their COVID jabs, direct traffic and generally be on hand to assist with any help required at vaccination sites. It was quite humbling to work side by side with NHS staff plus many other trained professionals that had come together for the good of the nation.

I’m currently working on different projects outside of my day role which is challenging me in new ways as I’m having to develop and use new skills which can be quite daunting. I’m managing projects, drafting communications, problem solving and more. It’s always difficult at first to learn new skills, but with the help of my incredibly supportive colleagues I hope to build on my skills day by day, after all you never know where the next role will take you!

You can connect with Ashley on LinkedIn

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  • AUTHOR

    Marja Toseland

    All stories by: Marja Toseland