A day in the life of a 21st-century secretary

The old fashioned secretary was stereotypically a lady who sat behind a desk in front of the bosses office guarding the door with their life, with most of their day spent taking minutes by shorthand, typing letters and running errands. This role sure has evolved! The 21st-century secretary is now a Business Administrator, PA or an Executive Assistant; they are a person who navigates logistics, solves problems and delivers results.

I’ve had a varied career across different industries. Starting as a Beauty Therapist, I realised very quickly it wasn’t the job for me, I decided to make use of my business qualifications and pursue something more office based. It’s been diverse – from Admin Manager within the Motor Trade to Sales Support, Showroom Management and Marketing in the Home Improvement Sector. This has given me the skill set to take on the challenges of an Executive Assistant.

Invotra is a fast-paced company, we work in an open, agile and collaborative environment with a unique culture, which is very important to us and something we are incredibly proud of. Each department has different responsibilities, goals and technical abilities but somehow we all slot together to create a well-oiled machine.

I work on Invotra’s Administration and Finance Team providing executive support for Alison Galvin, our Chief People Officer and Chief Finance Officer. As a team, we support the company, beavering away in the background like magic fairies. We make events happen, ensure everyone has the right tools for the job, resolve HR queries, organise corporate travel, arrange the birthday cakes, food deliveries and office jollies, provide reports from a commercial standpoint, process expenses, manage cash flow and most important of all, one of us runs the payroll!

For me, every day is different, literally anything can come in overnight, from a travel request to the air conditioning not working. When I arrived today the dishwasher was emptied and the fridge inspected. Then it’s on to my to-do list, but taking priority is arranging for some colleagues to go to our Newcastle Office on an overnight trip later in the week and arranging travel to Cardiff for one of our sales team next week. But first, someone tells me they had to loiter outside to gain entry on the back of their colleague. Their key card isn’t working and others start to appear with the same problem, so I down tools and try to sort the software backup issue with IT, then it’s back to the travel.

Throughout the course of the morning I receive many queries – can I have a new laptop? Do you know where the sellotape and scissors are? Can I have a new chair? A lunch order request for customers visiting tomorrow, Pizza all round is ordered for today’s lunch and learn session, I pass on details of the next Fire Drill to the Fire Wardens and liaise with a board member about a corporate matter. You see, an Executive Assistant wears many hats – Travel, Facilities, Office Manager, Corporate Administration, Catering, Procurement and Entertainment. Spinning plates is probably their best talent!

By now, Alison has arrived and reminds me that we need to prepare for a call with our Apprenticeship Learner Provider. I support Alison with our apprenticeship scheme with the intention of taking responsibility for the programme for the business. We also discuss a corporate insurance renewal quote and the onboarding for two work experience students starting next week. Phew!

Before I know it it’s lunchtime and as things are more settled, one of our apprentices has asked me to proofread a document with which I am glad to help. Feedback given, salad wolfed down, I start, what turned out to be a productive afternoon.

As another mad day ends, it inspires me to write this blog. Halfway through typing, my colleague asks “Lisa, can we order an extra bin for under our desk please?” As I wind up, I can’t resist taking a sneaky look at my emails in case something urgent has landed, I also remember that the frosting still needs to go on the CEO’s office window. I close everything down, put the dishwasher on and leave the office with absolutely no idea what tomorrow will bring, and it begs the question – do I like working in such organised chaos, as one of the magic fairies, disguised as an office Mum? The simple answer is yes. I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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