Take 5 minutes to sit down with a cuppa and read our Q&A with Executive Assistant to the CEO at Human Made, Daisy McEachen-Bramwell… Daisy won Assistant of the Year at the 2021/2022 BBO PA Network awards and lives in Oxfordshire; she has been an assistant since July 2020.
Tell us about your current role.
I work at Human Made, a WordPress development agency providing consultancy, strategy and development services to enterprise clients. I’m the first assistant Human Made has had in its 12 years. My boss Tom is the CEO and at present he’s the only one with an assistant, although I do work across the whole Exec team on certain projects.
Human Made is a fully distributed company, which means we all work remotely, and have been doing so since long before the pandemic! Our 90+ employees are spread across 20+ countries spanning the whole globe so once a year we meet for a one week Company Retreat to make up for not seeing each other all year. Retreat planning was one of my responsibilities until this summer when we had our 2022 retreat in Greece, and now I’m handing it over to the People Team, freeing me up to focus on other areas.
Where do you live? What do you like about the area you live in?
I live in Witney, it’s a pretty little town near Oxford, and the Cotswolds are also really nearby, which is great for lovely weekend walks. I’ve been here less than a year though so I’m still exploring!
How important is networking to you? Do you enjoy it?
I love in-person networking events. They give you a great excuse to introduce yourself to peers and ask them questions about their jobs. It’s hard to find another situation that gives you that level of exposure to admin professionals from such varied backgrounds, and the knowledge pool that comes with that. Plus you already have the network or group that’s brought you together in common so that’s an easy icebreaker.
If you could give someone advice who’s never been to a networking event before, what would you suggest?
Firstly, go! Then remember that nobody there doesn’t want to be approached, they wouldn’t have turned up if so, so be brave and introduce yourself with a smile. If someone engages you in conversation, have an open mind, avoid any unconscious biases, and listen carefully to what they say; it’s much easier to think of things to talk about if you’ve been paying attention.
What were one of the challenges you faced with Covid-19 and how did you deal with the challenge?
The cancellation of the company retreat in Greece that I’d been planning for almost a year. It was booked for mid-April 2020 so at the start of March 2020, myself and two colleagues were spending some time at the venue doing the final preparations. During the course of that week, news about the global impact of COVID was unfolding quickly and we realised we had to postpone. We were at least able to negotiate new dates with the venue while we were there on site with them though!
It was a time when I had been about to transition into my EA role at the company but it wasn’t official yet so with the majority of my workload removed due to the retreat cancellation, I was furloughed and that was a very uncertain and challenging time. I stayed optimistic about the EA opportunity though and even though I wasn’t 100% sure it was going to happen, I used the time off work to prepare for it by reading articles and watching webinars. My furlough ended up lasting ten weeks and when I was recalled, I was ready to go with a list of ideas to kick off with.
As a BBO PA Network award winner, please elaborate on how proud you are to be involved with the 2021 awards?
Absolutely delighted! Especially as it was the first year of the awards. Sarah and Marianne have done a fantastic job shining a spotlight on the talent in this region and have a reputation for flawless events so any association with them and their network is an honour. The awards ceremony in October 2021 was the first time I had met any members of the network in person and I couldn’t believe how supportive and friendly they all were throughout the evening (and then on social media afterwards)! I can’t wait until this year’s awards to discover the new talent coming through.
What charities do you support?
At Human Made we donate a percentage of company profits every quarter to charities; I source suggestions from employees each time and over the past year for example, we’ve donated to the Uwani Hub building project and also a colleague’s foundation called Fruto Urbano which he set up to tackle deforestation in Brazil.
Any thought leaders/role models/assistants you recommend following on social media to learn from?
Lauren Bradley who runs The Officials; she’s great at sharing tips and advice, and her Slack group is incredibly active mainly because I think she’s so good at engaging the members with really high value content.
Best conference/event motivational speaker you’ve heard?
The most enlightening talk I’ve ever attended was probably the first talk on day one of The PA Show in February 2020 because as a first-time attendee, it opened my eyes to a world of resources I didn’t know existed! Aside from that, Lucy Chamberlain and Lucy Brazier are both incredibly engaging speakers and are generous with how many resources they make available for free; I try to never miss a webinar hosted by them or a conference talk they’re giving.
Best corporate gift you’ve ever sent or received?
For our company retreat in Sri Lanka in 2019 I sourced sand-proof beach towels with our company logo on, they went down pretty well! This year I’ve sent out a lot of Biscuiteers gifts, they’re my current go-to for thank yous and birthdays.
What tip would you give to a CEO/Leader to get the best out of their EA/PA?
Set aside time at regular intervals, whether that be monthly or quarterly, to take a step back from the day to day and do a Start, Stop, Continue exercise together. Have your assistant schedule it as a recurring event in your calendars so that you can both be keeping a list as you go along ready for the next one. Of course, don’t wait until then to share high impact/game-changing ideas, always be open to new suggestions on an ongoing basis, but having these dedicated 1:1s for that purpose is a great way to refine your workflows to be as slick and efficient as possible.
What advice would you tell your younger self just starting out in the world of work?
If you’re trying to get into a specific occupation or sector as you embark on your career and don’t succeed, that doesn’t mean you never will. In my final year at university I applied for PA jobs and never got anywhere so I followed a couple of different paths for a few years, but I’ve ended up being a PA/EA anyway. I actually even forgot about that ambition along the way and was only reminded of those failed applications a few months ago. I guess I wish I’d been less intimidated back then and persevered to save spending those years elsewhere but then again, I may not have ended up at a company like Human Made if I had!
Thank you so much for your time Daisy, for those who’d like to connect with Daisy – please do! Her LinkedIn details are HERE.