From PA to PM

By February 13, 2020 Latest News No Comments

I’ll be 27 this year and I’ve been at Agent for almost seven years – wow!

I started my time at Agent doing work experience and through this, secured my first job as a Personal Assistant (PA) to Paul Corcoran – our CEO. To say I was shy at first was an understatement! The opportunity helped me grow massively, both professionally and personally, in ability and in confidence.

Developing my skills in my role as PA in my early 20’s has been fundamental to my career progression. After five fantastic years as PA to Paul, I was promoted to project co-ordinator, then again to project manager and as of September last year, I am the agency’s senior project manager – it’s been quite a journey.

The skills I learned as a PA are crucial for any role in almost any role in any business;

  • People skills – liaising and meeting with a range of different stakeholders
  • Preparation – preparing meeting briefs and getting to know the different clients we work with and how they operate.
  • Management/multitasking – organising a busy diary in tandem with many other elements of running an office is no easy task.
  • Organisation – co-ordination of Agent’s team diaries
  • Being reactive – adapting to last minute changes of circumstances
  • Being challenged – pushing myself to find solutions to difficult situations
  • Being that go to person and point of contact for the agency – the gatekeeper to the top!

 

My first interest in projects came into play whilst assisting the wider team with client projects. I was tasked with sourcing collateral and negotiating costs and timescales with suppliers and facilitating the project meetings for larger projects within Agent. All of this triggered my curiosity and helped build an appetite to do more!

Following success in supporting various client projects, I was given the responsibility to manage our ERDF New Markets 2 programme, which allows us to offer free marketing support to help growing SME’s across the Liverpool City Region.

It was my responsibility to ensure the whole process ran smoothly by supporting clients with completing registration forms, completing claims forms, progress reports, scoping out and communicating with potential clients for the programme. I learned very quickly that this was the only project within the agency that had its own dedicated project manager.

Through my annual appraisal, I was given the opportunity to voice my opinion on what the agency was missing and what I could provide from my skillset, and it was project coordination – a role which had never before existed at Agent, a role which didn’t even have a job description, but an important role that was much-needed within a rapidly growing agency.

I was given this massive opportunity to grow a new service within the agency and create my own job description, have a say in how we work, how we grow, what tools we should use to do this and how we should be using them. It gave me real autonomy and responsibility to take the lead on how we work.

I have successfully managed a range of clients, working with prestigious organisations such as the National Cyber Security Centre, Payment System Regulator, Forestry Commission, NHS, Cabinet Office and National Crime Agency to name but a few in this short space of time.

 

Confession: Since understanding the importance and benefits of a robust project plan, I am never without one! Even in my personal life. Recently purchasing my first house with my partner, I developed a complete ‘house’ project plan to assist with the move. Everything was included, from the selection of our plot to the purchasing process timescale and even when we needed to order our couch and carpets!

 

Fact: My first ever project was with a client based in Romania, which included a number of challenges with regards to culture, processes and also involved a lot of travel to and from Romania during the project – it was a brilliant experience and certainly threw me in at the deep end!

 

As a young woman progressing into a senior role in this short timeframe, I have no shame in admitting I have suffered with elements of ‘imposter syndrome’! Regularly questioning myself; am I good enough? Did I deserve this promotion? Do the rest of the team regard me as senior?

Through support from my colleagues and some of the many benefits offered by Agent, including mindfulness training, those doubts didn’t last very long and were quickly eradicated.

Looking back on my journey, I’m extremely proud of where I am today through hard work, dedication and learning from challenges that have shaped who I am and how I work.

In an effort to share my learning to others interested in this type of role, I’ve recently delivered a number of ‘project management masterclass’ sessions to our Agent Academy students, to teach them the fundamentals of project management but also to inspire them. My advice always to them is never underestimate the power of an entry level role, those skills not taught in a classroom and challenges and the overcoming of them that set you up for life!

I’m looking forward to what the future holds both for my role and the future roles that will be created here at Agent!

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