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PA Profile – Mei Suen, EA and Business Assistant at Integrella

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Our Editor met with an inspiring EA to interview her for our series of PA Profiles. Mei Suen is an EA and Business Assistant at Integrella, a digital integration company. She has a huge impact on the company as she single-handedly manages all the office and business admin to help the tasks of everyone, from the junior consultants to C-Level executives. She also recently won the much-coveted PA Life Star of the Year Award.

What in your opinion are the most important qualities of a successful Assistant?

The most important qualities of a successful Assistant is the flexibility to adapt to any situation, reliability to get things done and resourcefulness to resolve everything. Good relationships and communications are also important. Paying attention to detail too and being alert and aware of what is happening, to think and act quickly when necessary and to assimilate and share information and knowledge quickly.

What does your average day look like at Integrella?

It’s constantly changing especially with a growing business. To put it into perspective, I joined Integrella 11 years ago. There were three of us and 10 contractors. I assisted the CEO and Sales Director, providing business administrative support, replacing the CEO’s ex-business partner’s admin duties. Since  then we have further expanded to India and now have 79 employees and 14 contractors, recently our Indian office have employed their own admin assistants. As the business grew, I worked with the FD and COO, with more responsibilities, HR and payroll admin, employer visa sponsorships and office management. I also increased my workdays, to deal with the growth of the company.

The nature of my work means very long days and short breaks, as requests and meetings are back-to-back. My day could start with checking emails and Team messages, many arriving earlier in the mornings, due to the time difference in India, or requests from the evening before. I could receive requests as diverse as to coordinate an event for clients at Ascot, resolving a PCN for the company car, or source a Notary Public, to resolving a training expiry issue or an office move, there’s been 5 so far! At the end of the day, I could receive a last minute call to change a ticket for the following day or there are last minute travel plans for six persons, so I have to be flexible.

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What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love admin and I love to organise, especially events, but anything, really, to benefit my colleagues and the company. I enjoy sharing info and knowledge, and it’s satisfying when things come together. I feel that about solving problems too, and interacting with people at all levels. I often have conversations with colleagues to discuss better ways of working or how we can automate routine tasks that take uptime. I also enjoy finding ways to save the company and client money. Getting the best prices from suppliers has enabled me to use my negotiating skills. I am a very tenacious person.

What do you find most challenging in your role?

My biggest challenge was being asked to do the forecast for project management. I had no idea, knowledge or training on how to do it. There were no examples to follow and even asking for help was met with ‘it’s simple to do!’ (Obviously, everything is if you know how!)I face daily challenges that just go with the role. It’s frustrating but you just need to roll with it! These are obstacles that stop me doing my work in a timely fashion and meeting deadlines as information and actions are not forthcoming without constant following up.

What tool, technology or service could you not do without in your job?

Google! It provides information I need at my fingertips such as location maps, calculating mileage, information from Government websites, checking the news, or making office purchases. I have also embraced Zoom video calls due to hybrid working. We can ping each other to discuss a query, as if we were in the office! What’s the best advice you’ve been given? Speak up and be more vocal. This can certainly open opportunities and establish your personal brand. Communicating upwards helps to establish yourself, makes your position in the team much stronger, helps strengthen your influence at work, and you will gain a reputation for solving problems.

Are you involved in any special projects that you are particularly passionate about?

I am passionate about so many things, especially the environment and being eco-friendly. I do what I can to recycle and reuse if possible or give to charities. We are a paperless office and have auto lighting in our office, and I ensure all equipment is turned off as opposed to standby. I also love organising the most memorable events, fundraising and wellbeing activities. I’m proud to have been a top fundraiser in two events, and I continue to look for ways to help charities in any way I can.

During the pandemic, it was very important to do everything possible to keep in contact with the staff to improve their wellbeing. I made sure to send out small birthday gifts to show that the company remembers them, and also as we expanded into India, I wanted to make sure we got to meet our counterparts in India and had a weekly Zoom call to get to know each other. I was definitely very passionate about this.

Have you got any advice or experience of improving workplace wellbeing in your organisation that you would like to share?

Wellbeing in the workplace starts from having good relationships with each other. If you bond, then it helps you to work well as a team. To do this, I have introduced more social events, like celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries, Diwali and Chinese New Year, lunches and socials. During lockdown, I improvised and had a weekly Watercooler Chat Zoom session, where we shared our hidden talents and party tricks! I have created a channel on Teams for birthdays, a humour spot, social events, and wellbeing, where I post a weekly 60seconds read that is uplifting, inspiring and energising to build a positive mindset. These are from a set of books from Meee which I discovered at a recent PA Show and bought to share with my colleagues.

Danielle Francis is another exclusive PA Profile interviews, and you can find many more by searching ‘PA Profile’ on our site.