As the inaugural Birmingham PA Awards approaches, Jade burke chats with Daniel Skermer, founder of the Birmingham PA Forum and the Awards, about his inspiration behind the ceremony and why the night will be ‘full of surprises’.
What inspired you to launch the first PA awards in Birmingham?
Having moved from a rural location into the city in November 2016, I went to visit a number of corporate customers in and around the region, most of which were personal or executive assistants. We had such great conversations and I could see the general feeling was that there wasn’t anything in and around the city to help build contacts, learn, develop both personally and professionally and be able to share ideas and best practice.
I had organised a number of the networking events in the past to connect local businesses and could see that there was something needed to bring together PAs, EAs, VAs and support teams after work to brainstorm ideas, as such the Birmingham PA Forum was created.
Offering a number of social and educational events, it soon became clear that to feel valued and recognised within many businesses was something that was missing from the city. Manchester, London and Scotland offer such fantastic opportunities to bring the talent of their cities to the forefront and as such the first ever Birmingham PA Awards was born.
What has response been like so far?
At first, we felt there was a reluctance to enter, however a comment by an individual on a social media post encouraging applications soon revealed a strong opinion towards the awards. It read: “What an awards ceremony for people that order stationary and book appointments in other people’s diaries!”
This was a turning point for us and we would like to thank the person that posted this comment, as this insight into what they think the role entails is completely not true, non-reflective and in turn we saw an influx of applications into the awards inbox.
“We can reveal 250 guests are confirmed to attend and the support for each of our finalists has been truly overwhelming. This will be a night of celebration from start to finish and we cannot wait to reveal the winners on the evening.”
Who can enter the awards? How does the judging process work?
Nominees came to our attention either by submitting a self-nomination, management nomination or nomination by a colleague or peer. We received a great response in our first year and the awards committee and I locked ourselves away individually scoring each of the applications. The combined scores then revealed who our shortlisted candidates were going to be, the candidates then experienced a ten-minute telephone interview with the committee and later met the judges face-to-face for the final scoring.
What can guests expect to see on the night?
The night is absolutely jam-packed full of surprises and will continue into the early hours. As it is our first year we are keeping everything close to our chests, we can reveal 250 guests are confirmed to attend and the support for each of our finalists has been truly overwhelming. This will be a night of celebration from start to finish and we cannot wait to reveal the winners on the evening.
Why do you think it’s so important to give assistants some recognition?
Since starting the Forum, the committees, members and finalists have supported all we have done since day one. It is overwhelming to see the relationships, friendships and support for each other. For many years I used to send industry award nomination forms to a previous boss I had and never saw a submission, acknowledgement or even a response.
I moved to another Job and my boss put me forward for two awards and I was completely overwhelmed to have won Networker of the Year twice last year. This gave me the confidence and platform to be able to share my experience and excitement with the members, encourage entries and see just how appreciated the candidates are with all the positive feedback from their companies and colleagues.
The awards committee has worked so hard to design and deliver all we have done and for that I am eternally grateful for the hard work, commitment and dedication they have shown. Thank you, Tracey Paton, Dignity UK, Narinder Sira, GVA and Jas Gardiner, Squire Patton Boggs.
Do you think more needs to be done in other areas outside of London?
I do think that there are many regional groups across the nation that are already established. I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the leaders of these groups and members and can only see the positivity surrounding them all. I would encourage you that if you aren’t already part of one please go along, everyone is there to support you, offer a friendly face and helping hand should you need it.
The Manchester PA Awards has embraced regional groups and are leading the way by offering an external category and I am delighted that the Birmingham PA Forum, along with other regional groups, has been nominated for this category.
“The awards committee has worked so hard to design and deliver all we have done and for that I am eternally grateful for the hard work, commitment and dedication they have shown.”
What are your hopes for the future for the awards? What’s next for you guys?
The awards committee and I are already bouncing ideas off of each other for next year’s and we are so excited as the Birmingham PA Awards are here to stay. As long as we can encourage entries and the excitement is still there, we will run the awards.
The Birmingham PA Forum Education committee is already planning its first Learning and Development Conference in March 2019, with many more announcements to follow – watch this space. We run monthly events already and constantly engage with our members for feedback.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to thank the judges, committees, partners, sponsors, finalists and members for all their support. I am so grateful to have the chance to share this journey with you all and look forward to seeing what the future holds.
Good luck to our finalists and we can’t wait to see you on the night. A special thanks to my full-time employer Resorts World, who have supported me along our journey allowing me to build the Forum and Awards while representing them.