PA Diaries: Channel 4

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This week I would like to introduce to you all to the mega talented Beth, Executive Assistant to the Director of Consumer Insight at Channel 4. If you’re looking for some words of wisdom from anyone, Beth is the one. She is one of the most experienced admin professionals featured on the PA Diaries so far with a whopping 18 year’s experience as a Personal Assistant, and over 24 years in office administration so she really is an admin guru in every way! Not only is she someone to look up to experience wise but her spirit and continued enthusiasm for the role is something to be admired. Have a read, you will no doubt have a smile on your face throughout...

J: Hi Beth! I feel so excited to have you here at The Assistant Room for our PA Diaries series…I hope I haven’t caught you in the middle
of a crazy day!

B: Thank you! It’s pretty lively every day here at Channel 4, but in a good way!

J: So I think it would be great for us to start off with finding out a little bit more about your role at Channel 4…

B: The 1st of April marks 4 years for me here at C4 and I really have loved (nearly) every moment! It’s not without challenges, but a really warm, funny, diverse, fun place to work. In 4 years, my boss has had two maternity leaves and has just exited to join Google so I’ve really had to learn how to roll with the changes! There’s never a dull moment! We’re a department of 50 people (split into 4 areas) who are all super talented, and I look after the Director of Consumer Insight. We handle the data, research, viewer relations… all the smart kid stuff.

J: Working at Channel 4 could be described by some people as their dream job especially when it seems to be such a diverse EA role, what was it like when you got the phone call four years ago to say you had been successful in the interviewing stage?

B: I was over the moon! I didn’t think I had the confidence to actually land the roll, but 4 years working for Gill Whitehead who is one of the brightest, most respected women in media, has done wonders for me; I’ve learned so much from her. If I left Channel 4 now, I’d feel a lot more confident out there.

J: When you look back over your four years at Channel 4, what would you say is your biggest professional achievement?

B: I know it’s a cop out, but every time an award rolls in for C4 or acknowledgements for my boss or team, I consider it a personal achievement. Our collective achievements like raising money for Stand Up To Cancer, are far more important than anything I could ever do on my own.

J: Being a PA can be tough! What would you say are the three key skills for a successful admin professional and why?

B: 1) Drop any ego. Being an assistant and having a massive “me complex” aren’t going to mesh. 2) Embrace change! Freaking out every time something changes doesn’t do you or your boss any favours. 3) Learn how to be an effective “shock absorber”. Absorb and diffuse all the stress you can to ensure that your boss can get on with things without having to worry about minutiae.

J: What are your top tips for remaining calm under pressure when it comes to managing expectations and priorities of multiple senior Executives?

B: The Swan Method is always a good plan. You can be paddling like mad under the water, but as long as you adopt an air of calm, it rubs off on others and lets everyone know that things are under control. If you look like you’re in a panic, everyone else will panic as well. Plan well, manage time well. A lot of people have very strict rules about when they come in and when they leave (or turn off their work phones). I find that by checking my email a few times a night after I leave work, as well as when I wake up in the morning, it relieves my own stress levels because I know what’s going on and there aren’t any surprises when I get into the office. I generally work on the commute to the office so that I can hit the ground running when I get in, if needs be.

J: And finally, what piece of advice would you give someone wanting to break into the PA/EA profession?

B: Some people just get lucky and end up in a PA/EA roll. I had to really put in the time as I found that employers really concentrate, (most of the time), on how long you’ve been an assistant. It’s hard to land a PA role if you’ve never been a PA, so often people temp or find themselves in the role because someone’s assistant has gone and they really need help! When you go for an EA role, people want to know how long you’ve been a PA! My advice is to put in the time. If your career path is to be an assistant, you usually have to put in the time and work your way up to EA. Don’t get discouraged by job descriptions that look terrifying, just assess your own skills and go for it! I’d also say, don’t limit yourself by sector. If you say to yourself “I only want to work in the music industry” you’re going to miss out on a lot of great roles. I worked at an NHS arms length body for 4 years and loved the people and the job. Had I turned it down because it was a company owned by the NHS and not something in the entertainment field, I would have missed out on a great learning experience.


J: You have an important meeting/event sprung on you last minute and have to rush out for an emergency wardrobe change, where do you go?

B:  The filing cabinet behind me. There’s an emergency jacket and a new pair of tights.

J: What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

B: Football and beer. It’s not pretty; it’s not clever, but there it is. Come on AFC Croydon Athletic!

J: What are your top 5 handbag essentials to always be carrying?

B: Mac concealer, a brush, hairspray, Benedryl and a fine collection of pens.

J: You have a last minute private dining event to organise, where is your first point of call?

B: The other assistants to ask what places their bosses are currently loving.

J: If you were to suggest one app that all PAs should have what would it be?

B: Whatever taxi company your office uses. I have GLH on my phone as it’s the company we use. Bosses get stranded, and apps are a lot faster then sitting on hold.

J: You’ve had a long and difficult day at work, where is the first place that you go?

A: Home!

J: Who is your role model in the industry?

A: I’d say my previous boss, Gill Whitehead; now of Google! She never let being one of the only women at the boardroom table get her down, but actually used it as fuel to go farther. She got where she is from skill and knowledge, and didn’t have to knock anyone down on the climb up. She never sets anyone up for a fall to make herself look good (which trust me, people do!), but gains respect by hard work and determination, coupled with knowing television/media/digital/technology inside and out.

Fancy shopping Beths handbag essentials? Voila!

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Have a lovely weekend!

Lot’s of love,

Jess x