Career Profile 2019.6


This month’s profile is all about IAM Fellow, Emma Powell.

Emma tells us all where her career started and why she is a huge supporter of networks.

1) Tell us a little about your career, how it started and where has it taken you? 

Upon leaving college with an NVQ in Business Administration, I started out as an office junior/ receptionist at a family run Security firm, where I was promoted through the ranks up to Office Administrator. I then held various Senior Administrator/Office Manager roles, before starting my first PA role in 2001. I’ve been fortunate to have been promoted within each company I have worked for.

I joined Chester zoo back in 2004 as a Divisional Secretary. I then progressed to Finance Directorate PA, then Senior PA, then into my current role as Executive Assistant.

I’m really passionate about Chester Zoo and the Conservation & Education work undertaken in Chester, the UK and across the world as part of Regional Field Programmes to support their mission of “Preventing Extinction”.

Chester Zoo is a registered Charity and I feel that by working in the not-for-profit sector, I am, in some way, making a difference (even if just a small one).

2) What are the challenges you find in your role? 

Competing priorities is always a challenge for me. I support the CEO, COO, the Executive Directors and the Board of Trustees. However, I try to understand the areas of focus within the business at any particular time and like to think that I understand the bigger picture of what we are all aiming for. Armed with that knowledge I feel that I am able to prioritise requests and work load.

3) What is the best advice you could give to someone in a similar role and how to progress?

I am hugely proud of the Assistant profession. Hearing the words “just a PA” drives me crazy. EAs, PAs & VAs are awesome. We get things done, we advise, we support, we contribute, and our roles shouldn’t be underestimated.

To anyone just starting out, I would say build your network. Having other PAs you can turn to after a rubbish day or go to for advice is invaluable. I also think a LinkedIn profile is important; just add and accept fellow PAs as connections and you’ll find the articles they share will be super helpful.

Finally, look up your regional PA Network and join. The PAs who are part of these networks are all likeminded and engaged with lots of knowledge to share and support to offer.        

4) What do you think the most important things are for people to develop in the current market? 

Emotional intelligence is vital in any role, but especially in an Assistant role. Being able to read and understand other people’s emotions is most definitely a huge asset to any EA/PA.

I find this area absolutely fascinating.

Project Management is being talked about more and more. I believe this is something EA/PAs do day to day, but we don’t recognise it ourselves.

Finally keeping up to speed with new and upcoming technology is imperative. Things are changing and developing so quickly, it’s important that we are in the know!

5) What do you feel your best achievements are? 

I’m really proud to be the EA at Chester Zoo. When the PA to the CEO & COO left the role, it was reviewed and developed into an EA position. The role was advertised internally and externally with a vast number of applications. I went through the thorough interview process and was delighted to be offered the position. However, I still haven’t forgiven my boss for giving me such a grilling at interview!

6) Have you found networking as a PA important and why?

Absolutely! When I started in my EA role, I quickly realised that although I had lots of admin contacts in the area, I didn’t really have any EA contacts, so I made the effort to attend events to meet local EA & PAs to build my own personal network.

I am lucky that the zoo have allowed me to do this and I feel I have benefited both personally and professionally.

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