Interview: Maria Divilekova

Interview: Maria Divilekova

Maria Divilekova

Maria works as Group Assistant, Research and Learning UK, BBC and was also a Pitman Training student

Why did you want to be a PA?

After finishing college I wasn’t sure about my next steps.  I have always had an interested in events and organising other people’s lives so I decided to take a secretarial course to improve my IT skills and then started my search for PA work.

How long have you been a PA? How did you get your job?

I have been a PA for 4 years.  I was originally temping for 3 months and once my contract ended I was asked to come back and cover another role which then went permanent.  I was asked if I’d like to apply and I got the job.

Can you tell us a bit about your career path? 

I worked in retail while I studied with Pitman. I decided the best way to get experience would be to start on Reception so I applied for a Receptionist role working for a popular private clinic in Moorgate. 

From there I started moving up the ladder and a year later moved on to a Team Assistant role with Citi Bank in Canary Wharf where I worked for 9 months.  Unfortunately due to tough economic times Citi Bank was not recruiting permanent staff and my contract ended in December 2013.  While I was searching for my next role I was approached by Blue Arrow and asked if I would like to work for Airbus as a Junior PA supporting the CEO and his Executive Assistant.  I jumped at the chance and ended up working there for almost 2 years! 

After Airbus I worked for a smaller concessions company as PA supporting the MD and FD for a couple of months.  While I searched for jobs I registered with Handle Recruitment who informed me that BBC Media Action was recruiting for a temporary Office Assistant.  I accepted the role as I was in need of a job and thought this would be a great place while I’m searching for my next role.  I was hired on a 3 month contract and while I was here made some very good connections.  My contract ended in November 2015 and 2 weeks later BBC Media Action got in touch regarding another role that had become available in Research and Learning on a temporary basis.  I really enjoyed working at Media Action – the people are amazing and it feels more like a family rather than working with colleagues so I accepted.  I was then asked if I would like to apply for the permanent contract instead and was given the job after a successful interview.  I now support the Director of Research and Learning UK as well as a team of 25 researchers.

What did you imagine your career to look like when you were at school

I wasn’t really sure about what I wanted to do and didn’t want to spend thousands on University until I was sure about what I wanted to study and my career choice. 

What surprised you about your job?

How supportive and friendly the people at Media Action are and also how much progression the BBC offers.  There are multiple courses that you can take to build your skills or learn something new.  I am also allowed to get involved in projects within different departments/ teams which is awesome if you’re interested in research for example.  It’s also very easy to move within the BBC once you have your foot in the door and you work hard.

What has been the best perk of your job?

Aside from the awesome discounts with many stores in central London and Westfield you also get to attend useful courses and seminars and if you’re based in New Broadcasting House you may even take a selfie with a celebrity.  

What does your role as a PA involve?  

My role is split between being a PA and a Team Assistant.  My PA role consists of managing the Director’s diary, setting meetings, trips and events, processing expenses and making sure that the Director gets to all meetings on time and with correct paper work.  I make sure I manage her diary efficiently and also act as a gatekeeper.  I am also monitoring spending and do on-boarding of new staff members for our team.  My Team Assistant role is a bit more project based – helping out with international travel, booking trips and filling out travel risk assessments as well as the usual PowerPoint pressies.  Basically anything the team may need help with.

What advice could you give to anyone wanting to become a PA?

My advice would be to try a few different sectors if you don’t know which area you’d like to work in. It helped me decide which sector I wanted to work in.  I would also say that a good PA is an absolute asset to any company.  Your boss relies on you for most things and if you work hard you will be equally rewarded.  Many companies now offer progression for staff who started out as PA’s as they tend to know the inside outs of the business.

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