If you’re looking to break into the seemingly ‘glam’ lifestyle of being a PA in the hospitality industry, our latest interview is the perfect opportunity to get the inside track on what life is really like. Is it really as glitzy as it sounds or are you expected to work 24/7 to cover every aspect of an industry which really is non-stop?
I had the pleasure of getting to know the incredible Charlotte Fowler earlier this week, a teacher turned PA who has become a force to be reckoned with across an industry only the best of the best survive in.
J: Hey Charlotte, great to have you featured with us on the PA Diaries! How are you?
C: Amazing! It’s Monday and pay day tomorrow so very happy!
J: Awesome! Let’s get stuck in and find out a bit more about the role you have. You’re currently the PA at an upscale modern Chinese restaurant in the West End, it sounds like a lot of fun…
C: We are a Chinese and Japanese restaurant company who have establishments across North America, Middle East and Asia with Michelin star restaurants. I look after the Executive Director of Operations in the UK.
J: Wow, it sounds amazing! What would you say is the best part of being involved in a global brand from a PA perspective?
C: Working on so many different projects and openings. I get to work with people across the world and just love it. It’s so interesting to open a Chinese restaurant in India and have to learn how to keep the food on brand and up to standard but overcome the fact that certain foods cannot be let into the country. I’m very passionate about food and service but love to be super organised and so with this one I have fallen on my feet.
”Work hard, meet deadlines, be flexible and happy to change anything planned at the drop of a hat”
J: It sounds like a perfect fit for you. Your role previous to your current position was at a well known hotel in Shoreditch. How did you find your way into the hospitality industry and what would you say to any newbie PA’s wanting to follow the same path?
C: I became a PA having left my role as a teacher in wonderful Hackney. I applied for a role as a PA for a beautiful hotel brand and then grew from there. I like working for restaurants which have a lot of structure and good food. Becoming a PA you need to be happy working behind the scenes of somebody else life. I would say be approachable to all staff within the business and with the responsibility given, don’t let it go to your head. Work hard, meet deadlines, be flexible and happy to change anything planned at the drop of a hat. Being a people person helps you get things achieved when needed.
J: Fantastic advice! It’s clear how much you have a passion for the industry which I personally think is so important to making it work! So looking back on your career and the amazing leap you made from being a teacher to a PA, what would you say has been your biggest achievement over the past 3 years?
C: The opening of a very fashionable hotel, I worked with some amazing people and even though it was stressful we managed to make it fun. Another is working with my new manager, she is a total legend. She is a fantastic business women who has made me see my role in a totally different light. And creating a work life balance. I work hard and have a life outside of work and that is an achievement in itself.
J: I completely agree that trying to strike a good balance between work and life is absolutely essential and not something that we can always stick to. What would you say are your top three ways of ‘switching off’?
C: Firstly the gym….exercise is the best way to forget about daily tasks, it also focuses the mind. Also, meeting with friends and trying to steer the situation away from work…talk about boys instead. And finally cooking!!! With a big glass of wine, best night ever!
”I work hard and have a life outside of work and that is an achievement in itself”
J: Woman after my own heart! Looking at the industry as a whole, it’s not unusual for people looking from the outside in to misunderstand what our role exactly is. Do you see this perception changing any time soon?
C: I would like to say yes because I want to be a positive however when you leave one company for the next you have to rebuild your work reputation and that takes a good year for fellow colleagues to see what you’re capable of. I am hoping my skills do get noticed and appreciated. I may be good at organising a calendar but I have many other skills and that is the point of a PA…being a good all rounder who is resilient when needed to be.
J: 100%. Being able to step up to the expectation others have of you to be a PA which is actually 10 jobs rolled into one can be a big adjustment, especially if you haven’t had to go to that level before! As you took the plunge to go from teacher to PA, if you were to give anyone any advice on how to change their career path, what would that be?
C: Be prepared to work hard, start from the bottom and earn very little money. However the challenge is worth it because you will finally get to where you wanted to be.
J: Most trusted venue for a last minute private dining event?
C: I had to throw a baby shower a couple of weeks ago for two wonderful women and even thow it was short notice The Wolseley was so helpful and we had the best service possible. They rock!
J: The number 1 app you couldnt live without?
C: I really love Instagram…I follow some amazing restaurants and food critiques on it. I find out new openings to go and check out and then my friends think I am am totally cool and know everything about the hospitality world…little do they know
J: Your biggest inspiration?
C: Audrey Hepburn…a total sweetheart with a good work ethic great style and very humble
J: Your ultimate power dressing outfit for a corporate event?
C: I’m a big fan of French Connection for a smart dress with red lip stick of course and some amazing heels.
J: And finally…your favourite go to quote that picks you up when things get tough?
C: It is what it is…have some wine!