A virtual assistant who speaks French, oui, c’est moi. Now you weren’t expecting that.
Let’s turn back the clock some 25 years. Those were the days, my year out in Paris, swigging wine out of plastic bottles, playing cards and surviving on takeaway from the local Chinese. Happy days indeed. So what has changed since then? Well, I swig wine out of large wine glasses now, play snap with my children and prefer Indian to Chinese. Though I have to say that since the horse meat scandal, no processed meals have been eaten in this house!
I digress. I studied French at Nottingham Uni (the proper one – those of a certain age will appreciate that ….!) and then realised I was never going to make it as a translator and really didn’t want to be a teacher. So what on earth was I going to do with my French degree? I know, I will let it fester away and will rely on my Collins dictionary to refresh my memory (now known as Google translate …).
My parents – desperate for me to get out there and earn money rather than return home (my dad had an amazing work ethic) – persuaded me to sign up to a secretarial course. I excelled – word-processing/excel/shorthand/book-keeping – and found work immediately. My first line manager was not amused when my salary rose to the same as her level within 3 months. Then I found love. Or at least I thought I did. So I moved back north.
The move north opened up lots of opportunities and I rapidly progressed from Junior Secretary, to Senior Secretary, to Personal Assistant through to Executive Assistant. I started out in a patent office, was secretary to finance director of a plumbing merchant, then into the NHS. Onwards and upwards to the madhouse that was Metnor, run by 3 brothers – a very interesting role to say the least but that’s another story ….. I smashed up my first and only company car on the roundabout by Peter Barratts (I still hate that roundabout). Then, spurred along by my love (a new one by the way) well I ditched the job, sold the house and went off around the world.
I returned 2 stone heavier (most people lose weight when they go back-packing, not us – we like to be different) and settled back into PA work. My first role was for a large global manufacturing company – here I did manage to ‘parlez francais un petit peu’! My counterpart was the lovely Lilianne, based in Paris, she practised her English on me and vice versa. Shame about the incompetent boss. I scarpered, not wanting to be part of his failure and managed to get myself back to an Awarding Body in Newcastle City Centre where I had temped before. I was PA to the Chief Exec and loved every (well almost every) minute. I organised her from 8am on a Monday to 6pm on a Friday, providing travel arrangements and documentation, correspondence, Board meeting facilitation, minuting, restaurant and hotel bookings – I relished the role.
Ah but then the travel bug returned and off we went once again (it has a tendency to reappear once you have caught it ….). That’s the beauty of my new business, should my other half have to work elsewhere – whether it be bonny Scotland or down under, I can take my business with me. After nearly 3 years in New Zealand where I had a cracking job at the local council working as an assistant to a lovely man who is now retired and spends his days playing golf on the North Shore, we returned home. We went to New Zealand as a couple and came back as a family of 3!
Upon returning, I landed on my feet with a great job at HP but sadly no career path. It was great for a while – I was Executive Assistant, progressing to Centre Operations Manager then finally a communications Manager. I’ve had fun along the way, worked in all sorts of different industries with different types of bosses. All roles have required different strengths (patience, flexibility, calm, assertiveness, project management, supervision) and I’d like to think I’ve mastered most of them. With such a colourful background, I’m really hoping to make big steps in the virtual world and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to use that rusty French!