And The Winner is: Introducing Inspiring PA Award Winner Sherri Eckworth
Posted: 8th Mar 2016 | Share this Article:
Hot on the heels of the Oscars! It is currently film and TV awards season. Cornerstone42 felt it was only right to honour our talent in the PA and EA profession.
This is a great opportunity to read and learn from former PA award winners about their PA journeys past, present and future and the defining moment when they decided to enter for ‘that’ award.
I am delighted to introduce Sherri Eckworth, Senior Executive Assistant at TMW Unlimited. In 2013 Sherri won the SecsInTheCity PA of the Year award, an opportunity which she has used to help build her professional brand and to inspire and educate Assistants throughout the profession.
Tell us about your journey on becoming a PA?
I left school just after taking my O’Levels (now GCSEs) – I didn’t have the opportunity to stay on for any further education and needed to get an income as soon as possible. I took on low paid cleaning jobs both in private houses and offices and always looked on the job boards in the offices I worked in. I secured a local job as a receptionist thanks to an amazing Admin manager taking a chance on me, I totally loved it! The role was diverse, interesting and a lot of fun but I did always have a hankering to be more ‘part of’ office life – I wanted to be where I put the calls through to! I was determined to work in the City of London so I registered with some recruitment agencies, and soon after a receptionist role came up at BZW Private Equity. I loved the job, the people I worked with and threw myself into helping the teams wherever I could, always showing willing with additional tasks, whilst maintaining reception to the highest standard. I also asked my boss if he would fund a Pitman typing course so I could help the teams with overflow typing. One of the regional Directors rang one day to let me know he was looking for an assistant. He was setting up a brand new division of Barclays and wanted someone to help out from the start. This was a fantastic opportunity and when he suggested I made the move with him, I jumped at the chance. After he retired some eight years later, I took a job in the accountancy sector which I loved. When my boss there left, he asked me to go with him and I was thrown into the world of telecommunications where Amsterdam was a regular commute! What I’ve loved most about the profession I chose is that I’ve been able to transfer my skills into several different sectors and have learned quite a lot about the business world and the people in it!
What are you main responsibilities?
I am SEA to the CEO, Managing Partner and Group Chairman I am always on hand to assist the wider Board. I’m also a ‘go to’ person in the Agency for anyone that needs help with anything! I look after or involved with emails, diaries, travel, event planning and HR admin. I also have responsibility for TMW Academy, which is our in-house school of learning. Today, as an example, I’m responsible for signing up 260 staff to a training course! I’m also part of the Internal Comms team here at TMW Unlimited which is a great opportunity to get involved in what’s going on within the business.
Tell us about this particular award and why you were nominated?
SecsInTheCity run a PA of the Year award which recognises the professionalism of PAs and acknowledges their contribution to the organisations they work for. I didn’t know I’d been nominated until I got a phone call from SecsInTheCity telling me that I had been put forward by our HR team.
Describe to us the process what did it entail?
I had been shortlisted based on what TMW’s HR team had submitted, so the next part of the process was a telephone interview followed by a face to face interview with three panellists. From there I was shortlisted to the final 6 in my category. All finalists were invited to The Ivy for the awards evening.
Did you tell anyone you had entered, in particular any of your work colleagues, what was their reaction? – if your answer is no, why not?
I didn’t tell many people even when I found out I was in the final six. The whole thing felt a bit surreal and when I look back at it now, I wish I’d been more vocal about it. I’ve certainly aimed to be a champion for our profession ever since!
And the winner is: talk us through those exciting moments when you heard your name being announced?
At the beginning of the event, the hosts called out the names of everyone nominated and we all got a round of applause. After the dinner they announced the winners – my category was the final one. I remember thinking I’d heard my name, but it didn’t really sink in until my boss (who’d joined me at The Ivy), gave me a sharp nudge and told me to go and collect my award!
Do you think winning this award has impacted on your career as a PA?
Yes I do. I believe it gave me a great step up in terms of value and raised my profile within the business. A year after winning the award, I was promoted. Most importantly, it helped me believe a lot more in myself.
What do you enjoy most about being a PA?
I love that no two days are the same and that I’m constantly learning. I enjoy the diversity of the role and the value I can add in supporting others. I’m a natural organiser and that definitely helps. I’m also a dog with a bone when it comes to projects!
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Managing people’s time and expectations! Things just don’t happen – we’re here to help make them happen but it often involves a lot more than people imagine. When you work for more than one boss, prioritisation is always key!
What gets you out of bed in the morning what motivates you?
The fact that I’m still learning new things every day, 25 years after setting out on this path. I love seeing new technologies emerge and make a difference to the way we work. I like to think I make a difference and that someone, somewhere will be grateful I was in!
You really are a champion and a voice of the PA industry, what do you see that others perhaps do not?
That there is still so much to do! The PA role is taken far more seriously than ever before, but more needs to be done for this to be understood. We are a vital part of the business world and we are not ‘just support staff’. I was incensed to overhear a recent conversation where somebody mentioned they were a PA and the resulting response was ‘why would you want to be someone’s dogsbody, it’s not exactly a career is it?’ Thankfully, a good PA also has to be controlled, consistent, discreet and unflappable – traits that prevented me pouring my water over his head!
The PA awards industry seems to be booming, what advice would you give to a fellow PA who is considering entering for an award?
I would say ‘Go For It!’ Put yourself forward and encourage others to do the same. From my own experience I have been amazed by the support I’ve received from other PAs. As far as I’m concerned, every single PA in The Ivy that night was a winner, as were the shortlisted individuals, as was every single nominated PA for that award.
How relevant is networking in our industry?
Extremely relevant and absolutely vital! From Social Media to face to face meetings, from your oldest contact to the most important person you haven’t yet met. Shared knowledge is empowering particularly as the role of a PA can be isolated. With networking comes confidence and when you believe in yourself, others will believe in you.
What’s next for you?
Having talked to a group of PAs recently about the value of the role and my experiences, I’d love to speak at events more often as I’m so passionate about the job and the people in it. Having also taken advantage of coaching during my career, I’d love to eventually become a coach and mentor. I have many other interests outside of work including blogging particularly about my love of food, an urge to write and generally creative ‘stuff’. Oh and retirement at some point, so I have the time to do all of these other things I’m so passionate about!
Thank you Sherri!
Keep in touch and follow us: You can follow Sherrie on twitter @sherrid555 and her blogs https://www.tumblr.com/blog/foodgloriousfood-sherri and http://www.sherri.life
Cornerstone42 is a boutique Executive Assistant Talent Match Agency launching 1st April 2016. Founded by Executive Assistant Vivien Edwards further details at https://www.cornerstone42.com, email contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter: @cornerstone42_
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