London’s Top PA: Paul Marsh

This month’s London’s Top PA goes to the massively talented Paul Marsh...

While Paul didn’t originally start out as a PA, he has become hugely successful and talented within the PA industry. Winning the Private Individual PA Award in 2016, he has had a wonderful journey and career as a PA, along with some incredible experiences. Have a read of his story…

 

1. How did you get your career started as a PA? 

On leaving university, where I studied Broadcasting, I moved to London and got a job as a ‘runner’ in a Post-Production house.  Within a few weeks I’d been promoted to Front of House, where I spent a year, before landing a job at the BBC in an edit suite, looking after the voice-over artists, actors,  PA’s and editors.  I was soon promoted to Production Co-Ordinator after making the right noises and showing an interest in what went into setting up production shoots and it was from there that I began honing my PA skills.  I spent some time volunteering on film shoots at weekends, which really got me noticed.

 

2. What was your experience of finding your first PA role?

My first proper PA role came about from being made redundant from the BBC, when UKTV was bought out, way back in the early 00’s.  A friend of mine was an Architect’s office manager and they were looking for a PA for him.  I went in for an informal chat with him on the morning they were moving to a new office, so I rolled my sleeves up, got stuck in and he’d offered me the job by the end of the day.

 

3. What has been your most challenging PA role to date and why?

My current PA role is the most challenging as no two days are the same and I have a large team of people I look after.  I have 7 people all needing travel booking, meetings arranging (and rearranging), deal meetings organising, events to plan and execute as well as a whole host of other ad-hoc duties that come in on a day to day basis.  Being the longest standing PA in the London branch of the company, I’m the go-to person for pretty much everything these days

 

4. What has been the strangest request from a boss you have ever had?

Booking (and diarising) a vasectomy.

 

5. How does it differ from previous jobs? 

It’s all I really know, to be honest.  The majority of my friends are bankers or lawyers, or work in the media and as far as I’m aware they all have roles that, like mine, can be incredibly busy and varied, and also slightly monotonous – depending on the time of year and what’s going on.  I seem to be on call more than they are though! 

 

6. Who has been your most inspirational boss and why?

My current boss, Shani, is an amazing woman.  She’s taught me a lot of valuable life-lessons and helped shape me into the PA I am today.  Shani knows what she wants and she trusts me to make it happen, giving me complete ownership of her diary.  After 9 years of working together, she is someone I continue to respect and admire.  We have a fantastic working relationship.

 

7. Most memorable day in career history and why? 

I met Madonna when I was working at the BBC.  I found a woman wandering round looking a little lost so I asked if I could help her.  She needed directing to one of the sound stages from a dressing room and couldn’t remember how to get there.  We got chatting and I mentioned I had a ticket to see Madonna & The Stereophonics on TOTP later that afternoon for their pre-recording, which I was looking forward to.  As BBC staff, we sometimes managed to get perks like being in the audience for TV shows.  She told me she was Madonna’s PA.  I helped her get what she needed from the stage and took her back to the dressing room before she asked me to wait outside for a moment.  A minute or so later, I was invited in and was standing in front of Madonna.  She thanked me for my assistance and we had a chat for a few minutes before she left for her rehearsal.  I left pretty star-struck!  PA related, it would be point below…

 

 

8. Biggest achievement as a PA?

Taking home the Private Individual PA Award at the London PA Awards in 2016 and going back this year as a Champion and handing the award to this year’s winner.  It was fantastic to be able to pass on the award to another man, too!

 

9. Biggest hurdle you have had to overcome as a PA? 

The idea that it’s a “Girls job”… I still meet people who question why I would want to be an EA and it continues to frustrate me.  I don’t believe in “jobs for boys” or “jobs for girls”.  I’m very good at what I do and that’s all that matters.  People fail to realise how hard we work!

 

10. Do you feel valued as a PA? Do you think PAs get enough recognition?

I think PA’s still deserve more recognition and it can be a very thankless role… but we are slowly getting there.  I’m lucky as my boss makes me feel very valued, but there are some people I know who deserve far more recognition than they get and it can be disheartening.  Events like the London PA Awards are slowly changing things… my boss was incredibly proud of me for winning my award and there was recognition company-wide.  I believe I’m valued because I have a very proactive and “nothing’s too much trouble” attitude.  The right attitude will get you as far, if not further, than any skills you have.

 

11. What advice would you give to candidates finding their first job in a support role in London?

Use a good agency (i.e Bain & Gray!), believe in yourself and keep aiming higher.

 

12. What three attributes do you think make a good PA?

Staying one step ahead, Organisation, Resilience.

 

13. What makes your day easier/ what or who couldn’t you live without?

A great network of PA’s and contacts in various restaurants, hotels, event spaces, etc.  I couldn’t live without the 30 minute walk home from the tube (I get off a stop early) so I can clear my head before I get home.   And I have the patience of a Saint! 

 

14. What are you most proud of?

My London PA Award, and the fact I’ve been doing this for 15 years now!

 

15. What advice would you give to a young PA starting their career? 

If you’re prepared to have a “can do” attitude and you go the extra mile, you’ll go far.  Be prepared to go above and beyond and work long hours sometimes, and try and find someone you’ll gel with and be as nice as you can to people… you never know when you’re going to meet them again, or need their help.  Make all the good contacts you can.  And resilience… you need to be resilient.  

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