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Work & life with Arup’s Anna Fiske

Anna Fiske is a PA to two senior Directors at professional services giant Arup. She talks to PA Life about her career to date, the challenges of her role and the importance of technology…

What inspired you to start a career as a PA/Assistant?

After my degree, I took a secretarial diploma, so I would never be out of work and I am still here! I have worked in various sectors and being a PA means you are adaptable, flexible and open to change. The variety of industry has been brilliant because I can bring my experience and exposure to my current role.

How did you get to your current job?

I worked in London for 16 years and moved back to Manchester just over four years ago. Arup was a great opportunity as it is a large company with a great reputation and lots of prospects. Although based in one office, there is quite a bit of travel around the region and to London. 

What’s the best thing about your job?

There are so many great things about my role, it’s hard to pinpoint anything specific. I work for two senior Directors. The key thing is communication which establishes trust and fluidity. The Directors are heavily involved in London projects, so I travel a lot and also liaise with the London office every day. This exposure is fantastic for my career and means I can really get stuck in and be a core part of the team. There is so much variety that no two days are the same. I have a great relationship with both Directors and they are fully supportive and are very encouraging of my role. So, I feel valued and very appreciated. 

And the most challenging?

Arup is a big international company; and that brings with it many challenges. It has been a huge learning curve. I deal with a broad range of very senior Directors on a day-to-day basis. The key is to take a step back and understand each individual’s remit and adjust your response and delivery accordingly to achieve the best outcome for the situation.   

What does the PA/EA community need to change, in your opinion?

The world of the assistant has changed dramatically over the last five years. Technology has played a huge role in this. As PAs and support staff, we need to be increasingly collaborative as a team and help each other grow and develop. Sharing knowledge helps us all to evolve and adapt. We are fundamental to helping our Directors achieve their objectives as well. Networking is invaluable – ideas from others are an integral part of how we move forward in the ever-advancing marketplace. 

What is having the biggest impact on your job or on PAs/EAs in general?

We are there to support and assist, to make the workplace and our Directors’ lives easier. Time management and effective organisation is key to all the juggling we have to do. Bite-sized chunks give us light at the end of the tunnel. Keeping on top of new technology and using it effectively to help problem solve is also very important. 

What five websites/apps are invaluable to your job?

Arup has great resources to help us develop and we use a lot of apps for our day-to-day roles. Concur, Condecco for travel and logistics, LinkedIn for researching, Microsoft One Note and Team Space for keeping track of day-to-day tasks and projects.