Last month I was thrilled to win the #Inspiration – Lead by Example category at the 2018 Birmingham PA Awards.  This was the first award ceremony to recognise and celebrate the work of assistants in the Birmingham area, and I was delighted to be a part of it. The awards involved a rigorous process of telephone and face-to-face interviews, so being announced a winner on the night was absolutely fantastic – and the icing on the cake for my first year at Designated PA.Hannah Smith Leading by Example

Leading by Example

Initially I was in two minds whether to apply for the award – self promotion has never been my strong point. But then I saw a comment on the Birmingham PA Awards social media forum reading “What? An awards ceremony for people that order stationery and book appointments in other people’s diaries?!”. This reminded me of a blog post I had written a few weeks previously, The Unsung Heroes of Business, inspired by Churchill’s PA in The Darkest Hour. The blog reflected on how a PA’s commitment is so often underestimated, and here it was – being proven true yet again.

While I was infuriated that someone had the nerve to share this kind of antiquated, ignorant opinion (who are they to judge which jobs deserve recognition?) their comment ended up having a positive outcome, as suddenly the awards body had an overwhelming number of entries submitted – including mine.

All too often we are viewed as expendable admin staff (“someone who faffs around with a piece of paper” is a description I’ve had in the past), but the reality is that we are often the oil that keeps the different components of business moving together – and absolutely crucial to its smooth running. Again and again, a PA will go above and beyond the call of duty to keep those wheels in motion. Surely that’s worth recognising?

Not all bad

I have been a PA for 15 years and have worked for some fantastic bosses – including two particularly inspirational and empowering women who have really supported me through my career as I have juggled a full time job with the complexities of being a mum.

When you get that PA relationship right, it all clicks: the connection, the spark, always being one step ahead of the game and pre-empting what is to come – ensuring the files for the meetings are prepared, the emails up to date, the train tickets downloaded, and the coffee hot.

I was once described as a swan and I think this is the perfect metaphor – serenely gliding up the river while my legs frantically paddle underneath. To be a good PA you need to look confident and composed on the outside, what ever crisis might be happening behind the scenes.

You also need to be a good listener and even offer advice at times. Leading a business can be a lonely role, and a PA is often that trustworthy individual whom the CEO can rely on. In return, a good PA demonstrates confidentiality, emotional intelligence and absolute integrity.

So let’s celebrate

Celebrating these PA attributes and the contribution they make to business is a hugely positive step. Daniel Skermer and the volunteer committee at the Birmingham PA Forum have done an exceptional job of creating an impressive awards platform with great potential for growth – and I feel honoured to be a part of it. Not just for my own success, but also for the credibility it gives my profession. Being able to support and celebrate with other PAs has been really inspiring – and boy, do they know how to party!Hannah Smith Leading by Example

What it means to me

The last year has been a journey for me. Moving from a traditional PA role to a virtual one was a risk for a number of both emotional and practical reasons. But I always knew that if it worked, it would really work – and give me the opportunity to be both a committed PA and a hands-on mum.

And it worked. It really worked.

And so I could not be more thrilled to have won the #Inspiration – Lead by Example award as a virtual PA. Being recognised for my hard work, dedication and unique strengths as a PA would always be an amazing achievement, but to earn this recognition in the relatively untested world of virtual support is truly awesome.

My legacy

From traditional PAs in my region to colleagues at Designated PA, I hope to use my experience and pride in our industry to inspire and motivate others to believe in themselves and the work they do. We are a unique breed of individuals who do everything we can to help businesses be successful. And that deserves recognition – from our bosses and colleagues as well as from the wider industry. And one day, maybe even from society at large.

Congratulations to all the award winners and finalists at the Birmingham PA Awards. I’m already looking forward to next year!


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