Category: Training & Recruitment
Company: Greater London Authority
Five Words to describe Sally Russell
Reassuring,Punctilious, Approachable, Conscientious, Discreet
Please tell us the key demands of your role?
Excellent organisation skills, day to day with Mayoral seminars, away days, conferences and daily diary management.
Political awareness and acumen, in relation to both Mayoral team priorities and dynamics and day to day office political sensitivities, knowing how to react to different scenarios with both external and internal interface.
Flexibility and responding to change, especially regarding last minute requests from the Mayor’s office, Deputy Mayors and Directors and managing competing priorities, requiring astute awareness of corporate practices and working with politicians.
Excellent proofreading skills, both in respect to day to day communications, and more structured documentation, most recently in connection with the high profile London Plan and Towards a Better London seminars. I organised then proof-read and amended and uploaded the output from several seminars, ensuring accuracy and consistency throughout. Although this is not within my remit, this is an area in which I play a key role within my team.
Acting in an advisory capacity offering reassurance and guidance to managers with problems/issues and working as a springboard for ideas. Font of all knowledge.
Why do you believe that you should be shortlisted or, give us an example of when you have demonstrated the abilities attributed to your category?
The abilities highlighted in all five categories I have been nominated are intrinsic requirements for performing my role as a Senior PA within the GLA.
The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently at all levels, on behalf of your Director and as a key representative of the Mayor, is core to the role. Due to the nature of the department I currently work in, I can be speaking to Westminster one minute and sourcing a table at a local restaurant the next, whilst managing a series of diary appointments. I have positive daily interaction with my colleagues, the Mayor’s Office and Central Government. It’s integral to my role, in an ever changing political environment to be proactive and keep the lines of communication open and positive. I have worked for different Administrations, and have always maintained a highly professional and neutral approach ensuring a seamless continuity in my work.
A new Administration came into effect May 2016, bringing with it all the associated changes to personnel and corporate priorities and departmental implications. A few months later my line manager departed, leaving me to work for several months without direct line management support and juggling three inboxes - my own, my previous line manager’s and my current manager when she took over. I dealt with matters with great energy and enthusiam, sorting through several hundred emails and requests daily and taking ownership of issues as they arose or delegating appropriately as necessary. This included anything from arranging meetings, supporting colleagues, sourcing guest speakers for external and internal events and responding to requests from the Mayor’s Office for briefings and delegates for meetings etc. Although strictly beyond the scope of my role, I felt responsible for covering this additional workload and wanted to ensure the department continued to run smoothly and provide a seamless start for my new Assistant Director when she started. I put everything in place ready for my new manager, including a comprehensive briefing pack and key introductory meetings which enabled a smooth transition during an otherwise very challenging time.
In addition to my Senior PA role, I worked last year as Secretary to the POS (Planning Officers’ Society) President (my previous line manager was the President) for a year, ending with a two day conference for all key planners, architects, construction companies in London including London’s 33 boroughs. I negotiated a zero fee for the conference, arranged catering, overnight accommodation and site visits in addition to speakers over the two days. I had to balance his priorities both as London’s Chief Planner and POS President for a year. Whilst it was a very busy and difficult year, it was also incredibly interesting and worthwhile.
I have also taken on the role of department Champion for Office 365, working on a smooth transition for the department and exploring ways we can utilise this software to enable more effective use of time especially for those who are home working.
I am a member of several formal PA networks, including an ‘online network’ I established. This is of tremendous practical help to colleagues from a range of different departments and organisations enabling information and best practice to be readily shared in addition to assisting me in securing good venues, training providers and facilitators at great rates. Utilising the contacts I have made over the years through these professional networks have for instance allowed me to save my department over £30k last year. Knowing I have a great network of other PAs and providers around me makes my job easier, more effective, interesting and motivating.
Given my extensive experience, I enjoy mentoring young apprentices and junior members of the team and passing on my knowledge and 'tricks of the trade'. I find it so rewarding seeing younger colleagues flourish and grow in confidence and realise their potential. I have been mentoring for several years, and I think it is genuinely one of the most valuable things we can do to help organisational progress.
If you had one superpower for your role as a PA, what would it be?
If I had a supernatural power it would be telepathy – how much easier my role would be if I had the power to preempt what was required and be one step ahead. To be honest I sometimes think I really am telepathic given some of the situations I have managed!