Sandra Wainwright is the EA to the chief fire officer at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, who recently won the award for ‘not-for-profit PA of the year at the 2018 North West PA of the Year Awards’ and with over 21 years experience, we decided that it’s time we find out a little more about her.
How did you come across your current role?
A friend mentioned she had seen an advert in the Liverpool Echo – 21 years ago. Over 500 people applied for the post and I was lucky enough to be selected.
What have you found most enjoyable about your job?
Although I have been with the Service for 21 years I have worked for five different chief fire officers. Each chief has been extremely different and it has been like starting a new job each time. I enjoy change and have been very fortunate that each chief has recognised my ambition and has allowed me to stretch myself and move out of my comfort zone with new and exciting challenges. I think the challenge of a new project has been the most rewarding and enjoyable part of my job. I have had many! It is important to me that I feel I have made a difference.
What have you found most challenging about your job?
The Service has had to deal with significant cuts in the last few years, and this has been difficult. We have reduced in size and good people have left the organisation. The Service work really hard to minimise the impact on us all but it’s difficult at times when people move on. EA to the chief fire officer is an extremely busy post and prioritising is my main challenge on a day to day basis to maintain a work-life balance.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
I have had many achievements in my career, but in the last week I was nominated, shortlisted and won the North West PA of the Year Award 2018 (not-for-profit, Merseyside). I have not had an interview in 21 years and the opportunity to reflect on my career was one of the most rewarding things I have done in a long time. I was interviewed by a fantastic panel at Robert Walters who were passionate and interested to hear my story.
Most interesting moment at work?
I have had so many, but I think the one that will always stick in my mind will be when the Service hosted the World Firefighter Games. The Games attracted in excess of 3,000 competitors from 30 countries. As well as my PA role, I undertook the role of relationships manager to the sponsors. The two years leading up to the Games were extremely challenging and hard work, but so very rewarding. It gave me the confidence to have a go at anything!
What has been your greatest highlight outside of your career?
I know people say that their family are their greatest highlight, but I can honestly say that I am extremely proud to have been married for 30 years to a lovely man and have two amazing children. We have our crazy days, but I have managed to hold down a responsible career and bring up a family, which I am extremely proud of.
Best moment working with your boss?
I have only worked directly with my new chief, Phil Garrigan for 3 months but in that time we have built a strong working relationship. It has been an extremely busy period – I have played a key role in assisting with the restructuring of the senior management team and implementing changes to the governance, but throughout this time we have recognised each other’s strengths and weaknesses and been able to compliment them effectively. Phil is keen for me to continue to grow as a leader and has already encouraged me to manage an innovative project. I know there are going to be many ‘best moments’ in the future.
Who have been the PAs/EAs that have helped you most?
I have worked with the most amazing EA, Lin Morrison (EA to deputy chief fire officer, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service) for the past 21 years. Lin is a professional, hardworking individual but is also the kindest, most genuine person you could wish to meet and someone I am extremely lucky to call my greatest friend. I also have to mention Jennifer McNab who I recently met through the PA Hub, Liverpool. We have only known each other for a very short time but I know it is a relationship which will last for a very long time.
Have you found networking as a PA important and why?
I have found networking extremely important as a PA and understand how much this can assist your Executive in so many ways. I am a member of the PA Hub, Liverpool and cannot recommend them highly enough. I have met the most incredible, professional and talented people over the past year. The Hub not only recognises the importance of networking but also offers development opportunities.
Through networking opportunities, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Adam Fidler, the UK’s leading trainer of EAs, which led to me attending his two-day strategic Executive Assistant course. Truly inspiring.
I consider networking and learning very important in the role of today’s EA.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Oh this is an easy question! It’s Mary Berry… I can’t get enough of the lady’s recipe books. I’ve never made anything that doesn’t work out. Long live Mary!
What are you binge-watching?
I love a drama, and we have been treated of late to some really good ones; Killing Eve, Bodyguard, and Bake Off. Yes, Bake Off!! Appreciate the latter is not a drama, unless you have seen the final episode in which case you may wish to agree!
Three words to describe yourself?
Passionate, Committed, Hardworking.
Perfect way to spend a weekend?
A long walk in the Lake District, followed by good food, good wine and great company.
Would have to be a good Chinese.
I can make a gin and tonic disappear!!