MEMBER PROFILE, SEPTEMBER 2019
This month’s profile is all about IAM Fellow, Amy Russell.
1) Tell us a little about your career.
I’ve been working in administrative and secretarial roles for over 26 years now and I love the industry. It is an industry of its own – and I am big champion of this. Assistants, secretaries, PAs, EAs, VAs, Office Managers, etc. all play a vital role in any business. I have been lucky in that I have enjoyed every role I have ever undertaken, and have only moved on due to career progression or redundancy. I had a brief spell in HR (is 15 years brief?) but worked my way up from administration to manager, only leaving the HR field due to lack of part-time roles after I had my daughter. I set up my own VA business in 2018, which has gone from strength to strength, and I now have a team of 7 Associate VAs all helping to support over 20 clients.
I really can’t imagine doing anything else.
2) How did your career start and where have your career taken you?
I started as an apprentice on the old Youth Training Scheme in 1993. My course was Business Administration and I had no idea what this was! I had failed my A Levels – I wanted to be an interior designer, but of course couldn’t then go to university.
So my Grandad signed me up to this scheme and within the first week I was hooked! My first role was in the legal department of the local council – pretty exciting for an 18-year-old to be visiting court and working with barristers. Since then I have worked with a variety of industries including the NHS, but mainly private companies. I am very lucky to now have my own successful business, supporting a wide variety of clients. No two days or clients are the same.
3) What are the challenges you find in your workplace?
Working alone. Most of the time it’s great as there is nobody to disturb me, but it also means that I have nobody to ask a quick question of, or run something past.
4) What are the challenges you find in your role?
Explaining what I actually do! Even though there are a lot of Virtual Assistants out there these days, they are still a relatively unknown concept. And the type of work offered by a VA is very varied so it isn’t a case of one job title fits all. Juggling clients needs is also tough at times. But we rely on clear communication to our clients and, touch wood, have never missed a deadline or had a clash of deadlines.
5) What is the best advice you could give to someone in a similar role and how to progress?
Make sure you have learnt your skills within an office environment first. You can’t just do a course and then become a VA. You have to be extremely adaptable, I currently manage 10 LinkedIn Profiles and over 12 different in-boxes for example, and that’s not including what my team manage as well. Have a trial run of working alone – as this does not suit everyone.
6) What do you think the most important things are for people to develop in the current market?
Keeping up to date with technology. Software is being developed all the time and clients expect you to be up to speed with things. My team and I are constantly looking at and learning new tech.
7) What do you feel your best achievements are?
Being able to offer employment to other women who need a flexible working approach. My own life doesn’t fit in a 9-to-5 box anymore so it was important to me that I could offer that flexibility to others who need it.