It’s not unusual for women to look for a new career path when they’ve had a baby. A switch from kids to camouflage isn’t something you hear about every day, though. But that’s exactly what happened to Claudine Martin – or Colour Sergeant Martin to give Claudine her official title. Lisa Carter visited the Ministry of Defence to talk to her about her amazing career to date…
Originally from Jamaica, Claudine Martin emigrated to the UK in 2002 and enrolled onto an IT course at a college in East London. Once she’d had her son, she began looking for a new career, spoke to a friend who was enjoying her life in the Army – and joined up herself. Despite the fact that her son was just a year old.
After completing 14 weeks’ basic soldiering training and eight weeks of trade training (HR training), she was assigned to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards in Aldershot, a foot guards Regiment responsible for guarding the Queen and conducting ceremonial duties. Two weeks after her assignment she was deployed to Iraq for six months’ operations. She spent two years with the Irish Guards and then a year with the Coldstream Guards.
Since then, she has worked at the Military Working Dogs Unit in Leicestershire, the 22 Engineer Regiment in Andover and the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. During this time, she also worked as a Military Steward at Wimbledon and the London Olympics (“the best thing I’ve done with the Army”), carried out Duty in Cyprus, courses in Northern Ireland, and attended adventure training in Germany, Italy, Wales, France and Austria. Incredibly, she also had another child – her daughter – during this time.
After 11 years’ service, she wanted to broaden her horizons and asked for a PA post at the Ministry of Defence. She aced the interview and is now PA Director of Engagement and Communications.
Was being a PA something you had wanted to do for some time?
Definitely. All my previous assignments in the military have been in general HR support. Even though I enjoy doing the payroll and looking after the soldier’s documents, being a PA was one of my long-term aspirations.
What advice would you give to someone looking to forge a career as a PA or EA?
If that’s your ambition, go for it. Being a PA can be challenging but also very motivating. The networking opportunities are great. Your role as the PA is to be the ‘right hand man’ and be able to think ahead of your boss. Be prepared for all circumstances and you will be a fantastic PA.
What do you think are the peculiarities of working as a PA for an organisation like the Ministry of Defence?
Being a PA to the Director of Engagement and Communications has given me a better understanding of the top-level structure in the Army. This has given me a wider knowledge of Defence and given me the skills to prepare for civilian employment when my military career finishes.
Describe a typical day for you.
I start my day by preparing the boss’s office before he gets in. I check the diary as soon I log on to the computer and brief the General about his meetings for the day. A typical day depends on the General’s whereabouts. When he is out of office or overseas, the tempo and the workload is more relaxed.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
Working as the PA to an Army General means that the diary can change as easily as the flick of a switch and sometimes at short notice you must get things done quickly. The working hours can be long depending on the day’s events. Whenever there is a big meeting and the technology fails, it can be very frustrating.
And what are the most enjoyable aspects?
I enjoy the networking opportunities that come with the job. I like attending PA events for various PA networks. With this job, you get to meet key personalities with high ranking stature and attend prestigious events.
What piece of technology, or service, could you not live without?
I would miss my mobile phone the most. I use it like a computer and it’s my main source of communication.
If you weren’t a PA, what would you be?
Growing up my dream was to be a TV broadcaster or journalist. When I had my first child I decided to do something more challenging and adventurous. An Army Soldier!
Are you a member of the PA Life Club and/or any other PA groups? And if so, what are the benefits, in your opinion?
Yes, I am member of PA Life, LCCI, Mayfair PA and the London PA Club. I enjoy the networking opportunities such as visiting venues, making new friends, building awareness and developing skills through training, and widening my understanding of different sector policies.
Do you attend networking events?
Yes, attending events are an opportunity to meet new people, learn from each other by sharing our experience and knowledge in order to develop new skills and techniques.
How do you relax after a busy day in the office?
I browse social media to catch up on news and other entertainments. I speak to family and friends then go to bed.
In the future when my eldest finishes high school, my aspiration is to do an overseas assignment in preferably USA or Canada.
This issue’s PA Life Profile comes in association wtih Uber, which provided the luxury car featured in the photo shoot. Find out more at www.uber.com.
Photography: Dave Willis