There?s an old adage that you shouldn?t judge a book by its cover, but one look at Stuart Martin reveals an out-going person who loves his job. His passion becomes even more obvious once he?s engaged in conversation ? this is one happy management assistant.
It would be difficult for Stuart to feel otherwise; he was recently head hunted for his current role as EA to Leigh Thomas, the CEO of digital creative agency Dare. He has previously worked at big-name companies such as Saatchi & Saatchi and L?Or?al, where he supported the general manager of Yves Saint Laurent and Armani Beauty. With an impressive CV like that, it?s no wonder Stuart is in such high demand.
Yet he remains humble. He?s the first male winner of SecsintheCity?s PA of the Year award, but he says it was totally unexpected. ?I was shocked when they announced my name,? he comments. ?There was so much talent in the room on the night of the ceremony and I was one of two men up for recognition. I was literally speechless and stumbled my way through my thanks.?
What?s more remarkable about Stuart?s career is that he left school with the aim of studying computing at university. He decided to take a job as a receptionist at digital marketing agency iCrossing in the meantime and ended up loving the job so much he dropped the idea of becoming a technology specialist. ?After a short time at the company, my bosses recognised that I always go out of my way to help people and approached me about taking a role as a PA to two of the directors.?
He has almost always taken jobs at marketing agencies and he believes the creative atmosphere is what he enjoys the most about the industry. ?One of my criteria for a new role is that I must be able to sit at a company meeting and be fascinated by what my colleagues are producing. After all, you spend most of your time at work, so you need to be passionate about what your employer does.?
Stuart believes his knack for knowing exactly what his executives need is what makes him so successful. ?I really enjoy making my boss?s life easier,? he explains. ?It?s so rewarding to know that I?ve taken some of the pressure off their busy day so they can focus on more important tasks and even leave the office on time to see their family.?
The common conception of a PA used to be a female secretary who made tea and took minutes at meetings, but Stuart believes that has changed considerably over the past 10 years. ?Admittedly, I think I got my first job because I?m male and my company wanted to be a bit different to other offices,? he comments. ?Now I think personality has a lot to do with how employers choose their management assistants.
?PAs have evolved to become the gate keepers for their bosses. We have in-depth knowledge of business, we organise schedules and events and communicate with large networks of people, so new acquaintances aren?t taken aback when I introduce myself as an EA any more.?
Working for such big international companies has allowed Stuart to experience the stress that is shared by top-level executives. ?Supporting them gives you a look through their eyes,? he says. ?I cope by trying to stay one step ahead of them. If they?ve got consecutive meetings at multiple locations, I?ll book their transportation before they even ask. When they have a meal with friends scheduled for the weekend, I?ll make suggestions for restaurants because I know they don?t have the time to think about it during the week.?
Stuart?s advice is simple: ?You just have to breathe. People are most productive when they?re calm and it?s easy to make mistakes if you don?t approach tasks in a methodical manner. I try to remind myself that I?m not saving lives and nobody is going to die if I mess up.?
These are true words of wisdom from one PA who has made the decision to own his role.
A day in the life
7.30am As soon as I open my eyes, I look at my inbox. I try not to reply to anything until I reach the office unless it?s something that can be done via email. I use my commute to prepare myself and catch up on social media.
9am I turn on my computer and look at the diary for the day and week ahead. I deal with any scheduling clashes that have occurred overnight and take advantage of the free breakfast offered by the company.
9.15am I use my inbox as an active to-do list, so I mark some emails as read and file those that are complete, then prioritise the rest. I try to catch up with my boss in the morning too, in case there is anything additional she needs me to deal with.
10am I begin to set up any new meeting requests and send out calendar invites. I arrange rooms for internal meetings and ensure that the refreshments have been requested. If the meetings are external I tend to book one of the handful of places my boss likes, which are often informal spots where she can have a decent conversation with her clients.
1pm After organising my boss?s lunch, I try to get out of the office for a break. It?s healthy to get away and just switch off, even if it?s only for 15 minutes ? although I am guilty of eating at my desk to catch up on BBC News.
2.30pm I go through my inbox again and deal with any new requests. These are usually a range of questions regarding my boss?s availability, which involves consulting the diary and moving anything where necessary.
5.30pm It?s rare for me to actually leave on time. I tie up a few last loose ends and ask my boss if she needs anything else. I try to make sure she leaves before me so she can get home to her family.