Stuart has been an executive assistant for 12 years and worked across a
wide range of industries such as digital marketing, PR, Cosmetics,
Advertising and now music technology. He lives and breathes being an
EA. He has won a number of awards including SecsInThe Citys PA of the
year in 2014 and also Miss Jones EA of the year in 2018.
Miss Jones EA of The Year 2018
Describe your job in 3 words:
Unique, challenging, exciting
How did you first become a Personal Assistant?
I started working as a receptionist for a Digital Marketing agency when I
was 18. Shortly after joining, two senior directors were in desperate need
of support with the calendar and travel needs. I kind of just fell into it but
realised that I have problem solving skills that match really well and
making others happy makes me happy. It was a natural fit.
Was there one particular moment that you remember that this was the
career path for you?
I remember the first company I worked for was going through an
acquisition process by a big American company. It was an exciting time
and I remember senior management asking me to travel around getting
signatures from people in the run-up to the acquisition and assisting with
getting all the legal documentation ready. I felt like my role had a clear
importance and people were relying on me.
What’s the best part about your job?
Working for a company that encourages you to take risks, make mistakes
and most importantly learn from them. Our company culture is fantastic
at sharing those learnings and reminding you that you are in a safe
environment to do so.
And the worst?
I think being a PA/EA generally, you need to have the patience of a saint and be able to do that with a smile even if you are having a bad day.
Describe a typical day; what work does it entail, what hours do you work, what problems do you face?
At Spotify there is no typical day and that is genuinely what I love about
it. They live and breathe the agile working mentality and are great at
encouraging you to work from home when you need to. It’s a Swedish
company so family and work-life balance is incredibly important. I’m lucky
that I am able to work from home quite frequently. Nowadays it shouldn’t
matter where you physically are. Most of my meetings are Google
Hangouts with people that are in entirely different countries. I think its
super important to have actual face-time in the office with your boss
though and do so whenever he isn’t travelling.
As soon as I wake up I am checking my Slack messages and email. My
bosses team are split across Stockholm, London and New York so it’s
important to keep on top of all of the different ways of communicating
especially when multiple time zones are involved. They are however very
careful about emailing or pinging you out of hours and really respect that.
I commute into London from Brighton and am lucky enough to have a
fantastic team that consider my train time as working time so I start (at
my desk) at 10AM which makes my journey much more streamlined.
We have just moved into an incredible new office in Embankment so I
typically stay in the office for lunch. We have in-house caterers so there is
always food so I genuinely don’t know how I haven’t become the size of a
I try to get out off the office by 5.30PM so that I can beat the rush hour
to get back to Brighton. I continue to deal with emails and Slack
messages on my journey home and have no issue dealing with anything
in the evening if it’s a quick-win for someone in the US if I can help them
solve their problem.
If I wanted to be a PA, what experience would you suggest I get?
You just need someone to believe in you. I never went to university which
always surprises allot of people when I say it. I just packaged my
confidence and problem solving in a way that when interviewing, you are
offering the interviewer a solution; someone who makes things better.
The best piece of advice I can offer for those that lack confidence is get a
few temporary contracts under your belt. I temped at Skype, Universal Film, Adam&Eve and numerous others when I first moved to London to
give me the confidence and experience of looking after different
personality types and be exposed to different types of problems.
What’s one of the most difficult situations you’ve faced whilst working?
I think when I first started being a PA I found interviewing as a male PA
particularly challenging. 10 years ago there was still very much this view
that to be a PA/EA you must be a female. I interviewed at countless
companies over the years that always left me feeling that it was in some
way a disadvantage. I view it very differently now – Male PA’s are like
marmite and for every role where they second guess it, there will equally
be a role where it isn’t (and should never be) an issue.
I carved out a career of looking after challenging personalities and one of
my favourite roles that I learnt a great deal from was where the person I
looked after had a very challenging nature towards woman. She went
through a great many PA’s in a very short space of time so the recruiter
was keen to see if her personality type would be the same with a guy.
Surprisingly, we got on like a house on fire so it made me realise that the
gender dynamic can be a big factor with some of the difficult ones!
Without revealing too much detail, what is the wackiest request you’ve
ever been asked to do?
I had a boss who refused to drink tea from the office and would make me
go to Café Nero all day every day like a yoyo to get them a large tea with
two tea-bags and soya milk. They actually gave me a drawing on my first
day to show the proportion of tea to soy milk.
To this day I don’t understand how Café Nero teabags are any different
from the office teabags….!
How do you find a healthy work/life balance?
I think it’s important to remind yourself that you aren’t saving lives. I try
and not let my work-life bleed into my personal life too much. There have
been roles in the past where they have been all-consuming and that can
have a knock-on effect on your friendships/relationships and your own
I try to switch off in the evenings and not think about work until the
following morning. I do stay in the office later to finish things sometimes
if it needs pressing attention but if it can wait until tomorrow with no
impact on anyone’s deadlines, it tends to wait.
If money were no object, what career would you be in and why?
I think in another life I would have been a property developer and interior designer. I have been fortunate enough to dip my feet into this for a few projects recently and genuinely realised how much I love it.
What are your go to websites/resources that help you with your day to
Slack is incredible. Spotify’s Research and Development division use it a
great deal and I have learnt to love the collaborative way of working,
using channels, direct messaging and sharing documents.
Doodle is always a very handy website (and slack plugin!) for helping you
find workable dates when lots of people are invited. It allows everyone to
very simply select the dates that work for them and gives a live update
on everyone’s progress so you can swiftly get that calendar invite out.
I’m also a HUGE fan of Google Docs – Specifically I love a Google Form.
They have changed my life. You can use them to get people to RSVP to an
event, provide performance feedback, ask peoples dietary requirements –
It has so many uses and I love how versatile it is, even changing the
appearance from a user perspective.