Our third finalist for this years PA of the Year award is Erin Taheny, from Catalyst Corporate Finance.
I was never one of those people who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. I was envious of those that thought they had their lives mapped out, everything decided from the A-levels they would study to the career milestones they wanted to achieve. I struggled making decisions about dinner each evening, let alone more serious matters, and certainly didn’t know I wanted to be a PA in a corporate finance firm. It’s not exactly one of those classic childhood dreams – I doubt that in amongst the colourful paintings of astronauts, firemen and princesses you’d find a slightly misshapen Crayola woman in business attire loaded up with expenses, dry cleaning and a platter of Pret sandwiches!
Unsurprisingly, this lack of a sense of vocation meant I didn’t follow the direct route to end up in my current role. Originally from London, I started out working as a recruitment administrator for an independent firm before working in a similar role at Pinewood Television Studios. This was followed by a stint of restaurant work in Bulgaria, the position of cook at a French adventure camp and a season working my way around 11 music festivals. Although amazing experiences, none of these paid for the champagne city lifestyle to which I had become accustomed so I accepted contract roles in between as a PA, temping at various companies including Coca Cola.
Although slightly older, I was determined not to miss out on the whole university experience and applied to study for a BA in Events Management at University College Birmingham. Whilst studying (and participating in the obligatory fancy dress pub crawls) I worked part time as an assistant for an independent events manager and added a host of organisational skills to my CV.
When I was able to work full time, I interviewed for the role of Team Secretary at Catalyst Corporate Finance and haven’t looked back since. Over the three and a half years I have been with the company, I have quickly taken on more responsibility and currently work as the Birmingham Office Manager and PA to three of the firm’s partners. A busy role on an average day, this year has also seen a lot of change happen within the business: an IT upgrade, a company rebrand and an office move, all of which have meant my time management skills have been pushed to the limit. When I’m not supporting a busy office, I can be found testing new software, mocking up fresh templates for our PowerPoint presentations or sketching (ok, attempting to sketch) bespoke furniture designs.
But here I am and not only do I love the crazy, unpredictability of each day, it seems I’m pretty good at it. I think most of us walk around feeling like a fraud in our roles, worrying that at any moment our boss will realise that we don’t have everything under control and perhaps we did exaggerate our ability to multi-task, take dictation verbatim, type at 100 words per minute and speak Mandarin. But in the grand scheme of things, this is not what counts. If I have learnt anything in my many roles, it is that nothing will take you further in life than the right attitude. This pushes you to improve and learn new skills, ensures you communicate with those around you to get the best results and means you consistently work hard until tasks are completed to a standard you can be proud of.
Being nominated by so many of my team, both within my region and further afield, feels like a fantastic achievement. To know that however much I may beat myself up about the small things, to them I am not only a valued member of the business but also their PA of the Year. Being one of three finalists in the category already feels like a win but, ever competitive, I can’t pretend I haven’t daydreamed about my acceptance speech!
Next year looks set to be another hectic 12 months and I wouldn’t have it any other way. See how I get on by following me on Twitter @AlmostPerfectPA – a collection of my thoughts and observations whilst trying to be the perfect PA.
The winner of PA of the Year will be announced Wednesday 26th November at the ICC.