Interview: Nicola Penny

Interview: Nicola Penny

Nicola Penny

Nicola works as Assistant to Martin Frizell, This Morning and Sally Shelford, Loose Women at ITV | London TV Studios

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

I started work in 1996... I've been a PA for 20 years!  I had always wanted to work in London and after completing my Pitmans course I applied to a handful of London recruitment agencies that specialised in secretarial roles.  One of the agencies was so impressed with my knowledge of the Microsoft packages (I scored in the top % of candidates in all tests) they offered me a temporary role reformatting CVs whilst I was looking for a permanent role.  I landed my first job not long after as a team secretary at KPMG, one of the big blue chip accountancy firms.  

Why did you want to be a PA?

I had no idea what I wanted to be when I left school.  I dropped out of college after 4 months and was utterly stuck as to what direction to go in, all I knew was that I wanted to work and I didn't want to do another year or two years of studying.  Fortunately we came across the Pitmans course and within 3 months I was fully skilled to be able to work as a secretary. 

Can you tell us a bit about your career path, how did you end up in your current job

I started my career as a junior/team secretary working for an accountancy firm, this was a fantastic position to start with as I was working with a team of experienced PAs and could learn from them.  From here I made the move into the media industry at Ogilvy and Mather and got a fantastic role working for the head of the strategic planning team.  O&M was exactly what I was looking for, the agency was fun, young and creative.  I got to use my PA skills along with being part of a team where I was able to use my creative side too. 

Throughout my early career I moved roles approximately every 2 years, I tried a different path in Sales (which I was terrible at) and then back to being a PA.  I have worked for The Mail on Sunday, The Express, The Guardian and the Financial Times plus a few others (yikes I'm old now), my role before the one I'm in now was at a fabulous PR company called Golin, I worked for the President of New York and EMEA operations.  We worked closely together for 8 years, whilst I was there the company grew from 30 people to 200 and I was an integral part of helping with the development of this.  I was promoted to be Executive Assistant and I worked as the 'right-hand-man' to the President. 

Finally, after 8 years, I made the move into television and I now have a fabulous job at ITV working as the assistant to the Editors of This Morning and Loose Women, I feel very lucky to have got this role, it's very busy managing two high profile people, lots of crazy diary management but a lot of fun too!  I was recommended for the current role at ITV due to my good reputation and networking.

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

Honestly... I had absolutely no idea what my career would look like, when someone says to me 'where do you see yourself in 5 years' I still don't know!  What I have done is always enjoyed what I do and that really makes the world of difference!

What surprised you about your job?

I was surprised at how open and welcoming everyone at ITV was, from the staff in the post room through to the celebrities.  When you walk down the corridors and get a hug from Rylan it really does make your day!

What has been the best perk of your job?

Working for ITV... do I have to say any more?!?!  I get to meet so many amazing people and have made some fabulous friendships

What does your role as a PA involve

I've always gone above and beyond in my roles, I wouldn't say I was a 'straight' PA.  My role does include general day-to-day diary management for my editors and making sure that when they have meetings they are fully prepped.  They are very busy so can't always stay on top of what they are doing so they need me to be able to answer any questions they have about their next meeting.

I also help to manage the office and I'm always looking to improve our working environment and team moral.  I've recently introduced a monthly massage, we have a company come into the office and people can have a chair massage for 30 minutes.  I organise monthly drinks, I theme them every month to make them different and exciting, our next ones are this Friday and we're heading to Rio for these ones, the office will be Olympic themed and we will have caipirinha's!

I also look for new ways to improve communication throughout the team and launched the first This Morning newsletter which goes out monthly.

In previous roles I've also organised big events from conference with 20 people through to taking the whole company away on an offsite to Palma for 2 days!

What is the hardest thing about your job?

I love my job therefore I don't find it difficult.  I like to be challenged.

How do you think PA’s are perceived by those in other careers in 2016?

PA's are well respected especially by their bosses, if you work hard and know your stuff you become indispensable to them!  

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