Sassy, driven and an explosion of positive energy is the only way I can possibly describe the amazing Carys, PA at Moet Hennessy and all around career inspiration. Take 10 minutes out of your Friday ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend and get to know Carys and absorb all of her wisdom as you go.
TAR: Firstly, thank you so SO much for joining me on this, we’ve had such an awesome group of people so far on the PA Diaries campaign and you are such an amazing addition!
CS: Thanks! It was an honour to be asked.
TAR: As I mentioned, this is all about celebrating you as a professional, not only as an Executive Assistant at Moet Hennessy but as an invaluable support in your office at all levels.
Give us a taster of what life is like for Carys Stacey on a daily basis…
CS: Well no two days are the same that’s for sure!
You could say my day starts at the end of the previous one. Before I leave the office, I check the agendas of both my bosses and the managing director to make sure everything is prepared physically in the office and any paperwork they might need for first thing the following day. You might plan on getting in early but then public transport has other ideas…
An average day starts by checking my phone in case anything urgent has come in overnight then it’s into the office.
I start with very basic tasks, opening the blinds, checking the meeting rooms and fetching water for my bosses desks. They’re such small tasks but they make a real difference to their days and I really like to show a can do attitude in that no task is too small. My computer is loading up as I do these things then it’s time to log in & get started on emails and agenda management.
I support the Finance and Legal Directors for MH Europe and they are two VERY busy women. There are meetings to book, meetings to reschedule, queries coming left, right and centre! In addition to managing their agendas and inboxes, I also have to manage my own. I sometimes look at the number of emails I receive each day and it blows my mind.
I not only support the two directors, but I’m a go to person in the office whenever someone has a question. I like to try to make things fun by telling people I will only answer their questions if they pose them in the form of a compliment, I’ve heard some lovely things and some rather unexpected ones too! I do not only all the usual tasks you would expect, calendar management, travel booking etc, but I have also been given the opportunity to really get involved in the business.
I work closely with the Legal Director on compliance matters such as Competition Law, making sure our employees are trained and have a proper understanding of the legal issues they could face in their jobs. It’s really fascinating to learn and working closely with the finance and legal teams I’ve learnt invaluable skills I can apply to my daily life.
‘I like to try to make things fun by telling people I will only answer their questions if they pose them in the form of a compliment, I’ve heard some lovely things and some rather unexpected ones too!’
A typical day ends by physically going to see both my bosses and asking them if there is anything else they need from me before I go. This way if there is anything urgent they need I can get it done for them before I go but it also alerts them to the fact I will be leaving the office so they do not suddenly look for me & wonder where I have gone. Then we’ve come full circle, the final check of the agendas then it’s time to log off and head home!
TAR: What an incredible over view of your general day-to-day! Of course, as you said the very start of your responsibility run down, no two days are the same. I think many people perceive the idea of being a PA as a very repetitive and a ‘samey samey’ job where you literally do the same things, in the same way, every single day.
They could not be more wrong!! How do you feel the perception of your role is within Moet? You mentioned people begin their emails to you in a unique way, what a fab idea…
CS: That’s a tricky one. Of course everyone has their own opinion of what the assistants in the company do and unfortunately, I have come across people who still view us as ‘just’ assistants, I doubt there are many of us in the profession who have not experienced this, when really they could not be more wrong. They think we do the same thing day in & day out and whilst yes, some of our tasks are repetitive they’re all integral to the business. Updating spreadsheets & checklists, I guarantee they would not want to do it but they want it to be right when they need the information.
We’re not just agenda monkeys – we have an understanding of the meetings our bosses are attending and because of that when they come to us with an urgent meeting request we need to know which meetings can be rescheduled to accommodate them.
Overall I think I am well-respected in my role. I have been here for 3 years now, people know who I am and that I can get them answers to their questions or meetings booked in agendas quicker than going to my bosses directly. Yes, there are occasions where I’ll need to get confirmation from them but 9 times out of 10 coming to me will still get you what you need AND you have not interrupted the boss. Everyone comes out happy!
One of the best compliments I received recently came from our IT Director. In passing, she came to my desk and said “I really do not know how you do your job. I tried to arrange a meeting with some people and it was JUST impossible!” That kind of recognition really made my day. Our jobs ARE tough, people do not always give us the credit we deserve but that could stem from the fact they just do not know.
Yes, the question posed as a compliment element has brought out some real gems. They vary from “You’re so good at agenda scheduling, do you think you could find some time for me in it?” to “Your hair looks nice today, could I meet with X today please?”
Of course telling me my hair looks nice isn’t really posing the question but it will butter me up and we all like to be told our hair looks good!
‘One of the best compliments I received recently came from our IT Director. In passing, she came to my desk and said “I really do not know how you do your job. I tried to arrange a meeting with some people and it was JUST impossible!” That kind of recognition really made my day…’
TAR: *giggles* I totally agree!! All of your points are so important, valid and I think relatable to everyone in this line of work.
I always go one step further and say that the role of a PA is not just a job anymore and that describing it as a lifestyle choice is just so much more accurate.
How would you say over your three-year period at MH that you have changed/grown as a person in both a professional and personal way?
CS: I agree about the lifestyle choice for sure! Nothing annoys me more than people who think they can just drop into being an assistant ‘because anybody can do it’. It’s simply not true. You need to have a certain attitude and demeanour to be an effective assistant and be willing to put in the hard work. It ties in again with people not really knowing what we do.
Myself personally, when I was first starting out my career after university I met with a careers adviser who I told of my ambition to be an EA. They looked at me as if I had suddenly sprouted 3 heads and asked my “But WHY would you want to do that, it would be such a waste.” Needless to say, I cut that meeting short and walked away even more determined to prove them wrong.
Since joining MH Europe I have learnt SO much. I really was thrown in at the deep end. Coming from a boutique recruitment company where I supported only one MD to supporting two senior level directors (and the MD for ad hoc requests) my workload tripled overnight!
‘You need to have a certain attitude and demeanour to be an effective assistant and be willing to put in the hard work…’
Given the size of the company alone the scope of people I deal with is immense and so I have had to improve my relationship building skills. I have taken on many more responsibilities in this role too and to an extent had to learn other jobs. My legal director will sometimes give me tasks and follow them with “This is work a paralegal would be doing.”, I’m an Office 365 Key User which basically means I have been given additional training on Office 365 so if anyone in the office is struggling, they can ask me.
I work closely with lots of the teams in the office so I’m seen as the first point of contact if anyone needs to know something and doesn’t know who to ask it’s a case of “Ask Carys”. I might not know the answer but I’ll likely know who you need to go to get it. I’ve found the bigger the company, the more hats you wear – I’m not only the Executive Assistant to the finance and legal directors, I’m the go to person in the office, I’m the fire warden, I’m the first aider, I’m the person you come to when you just need a friendly ear. Personally, I think I look great in hats so it suits me to a T.
I’m lucky enough to have been offered a variety of training both in the office and out of it. Internally there are lots of different types of training offered to employees to help them carry out their jobs (IT Specific, Concur expenses tools etc) but also specific for our company – we run a programme called the Wines and Spirits Learning Portfolio. It’s really great to be given the tools to learn about the brands we promote and sell even if we are not in a sales role.
Externally I attend training days that will help my day-to-day life in the business but also give me the opportunity to network with other people in the profession. The same way no two days are the same, no two roles are the same. It’s fascinating to hear about other assistants daily lives and the tasks they deal with.
My confidence has grown immensely. When I first started out I came in with the idea I was going to be amazing and I could help everyone with everything all the time. Looking back now, that would have been lovely but it’s just not realistic. I’m there to support my bosses and as much as I would want to help other people I have had to learn to push back and say no. I read recently “‘No’ is a complete sentence”, it’s true, it is. But as an assistant, the desire to help is always there. I have learnt to say no but also to manage people’s expectations. No is a complete sentence but if you qualify it with a justifiable reason the person you’re saying no to will not feel like their request has been flat-out rejected. Maybe I can still help but not right now, or maybe the answer really is no but I’ve given the reason why so they know.
My friends and family are really impressed with the work that I do. I’ll tell them about my day sometimes and they will be astonished. It gives me a real sense of achievement that I came out of that meeting feeling more determined than ever and now I’m here today with friends and family who are genuinely proud of me.
TAR: Carys, I think I speak on behalf of everyone reading this but you are INSANELY brilliant, MH would be completely lost without you!!
So for those people who may have had the same experience as you with the careers advisor, should they find that they encounter the same reaction, what advice would you give to them?
‘I read recently “‘No’ is a complete sentence”, it’s true, it is. But as an assistant, the desire to help is always there. I have learnt to say no but also to manage people’s expectations.’
CS: Seriously, I do think a lot of work assistants do flies under the radar. You don’t notice we’re doing it because we’re so efficient at doing it. As soon as we stop, THAT is when it’s noticed!
If you want to be an assistant you should right out go for it! It doesn’t matter what other people think. In my experience, it is people who themselves do not have assistants that try and belittle the position. They do not know all the things that we can do when you utilise us properly. At the end of the day, if you are happy with your job, your boss is happy with the work that you do for them – really, who else matters?!
As you said, being an assistant is a lifestyle choice, not just a job.
TAR: Well said! I think there is too much focus from so many people in this industry on seeking the approval or proving to everyone who you do not directly deal with on a daily basis or who are not the people who you support in recognising that you are important. The fact is, not everyone will ever understand what the role of an assistant truly means and that’s OK!
There is a culture within the industry of feeling undermined and undervalued as soon as you enter it which has been bred by those who champion the industry. Let’s focus our attention on the positives, we are amazing professionals and if people don’t know that then don’t waste your time on them!
CS: Exactly right!
TAR: So looking back at your career so far, what would you say has been your biggest and most exciting achievement?
CS: You mean aside from being interviewed by The Assistant Room?
I would say honestly it was landing my job with MH Europe.
Moet Hennessy is part of LVMH which is a global powerhouse! Everybody knows it and it’s brands even if they are not aware they are all owned by the same company. It is a French company and so I am able to use my degree (I studied Modern Languages with French at Swansea University) in my job which isn’t something everyone can do! I work closely with two of the most inspirational and hardworking women I have ever met & they have taught me so much.
TAR: I absolutely love the idea that you work so closely with two amazing women, it is incredible to think about the levels of girl power in the room when you all join forces. So as women working together in very important roles, how do you all support each other in ways which do not fall within the normal remit of ‘work life’…
CS: I work directly for the Finance and Legal Directors but our IT, Supply Chain and Marketing Directors are all women too! There’s a lot of powerful women in our office and they are all inspirational in their own way. I love that I can look around my office and see such high power women doing business but in the same day I can go to the kitchen and have a gossip about our husbands. They’re just regular people at the end of the day, they like to have a glass of champagne and a gossip. Not that, that is exclusively something women enjoy – I’ve seen the guys in the office enjoying that too! I’d say outside of the normal work remit, because I have proven myself trustworthy to them they feel they can open up to me more than if it were simply a work relationship. It’s a two-way street, they can open up to me & I can open up to them too. I feel very lucky to have the bosses I do.
‘I think with the creation of industry organisations we really are bringing attention to the fact we do not just make coffee and do the photocopying – we’ve found a voice and we are championing ourselves and our profession.’
TAR: It sounds absolutely amazing and I am very jealous of what seems like a dream company, role and group of people to be involved so directly in!
So touching on something I think is unspoken about in the industry, how do you feel things have changed and can you continue to see them change in a positive way at all?
CS: I don’t want it to sound like I’m bragging – like every role there are good days and bad days. It can be very pressurised in the office and tensions can get high at times but we all work together towards common goals so it works out in the end.
For me personally, I think networking has really opened my eyes to the profession. When I first started out as an assistant I didn’t go to any networking event, I didn’t know about any of the amazing resources that are available for us or the awards that are held for the profession at all. The more events I go to the more I learn and I can see recognition for assistants is really growing. I was lucky enough to win the Communications Award in the London PA Awards in 2016 but before I drew people’s attention to it, none of my colleagues even knew there were awards! I think with the creation of industry organisations we really are bringing attention to the fact we do not just make coffee and do the photocopying – we’ve found a voice and we are championing ourselves and our profession.
TAR: I couldn’t agree more!