International Women's Day Special!

International Women's Day Special!

Hey - my name is Symone Mills and I am a private PA and side hustle enthusiast!

1. What time does your alarm go off and what is your morning routine?

My alarm goes off at 6am, I am NOT a morning person and I normally snooze for about 30 minutes, check my phone and then get up for a 30 minute home workout, before getting ready to start my working day.

2. How has covid 19 and the fact we are all working from home changed your routine?

To be honest, I have been working pretty much throughout the lockdown so whether I am working from home or from the office my routine has not changed.

3. How do you feel right now? (About 2020, Covid 19, BLM, remote working, the rest of 2021)

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a challenging year! It’s has forced me re-evaluate certain things and has helped ground and solidify values I didn’t realise were so important to me. 2020 has forced me to take a 360 view on so many aspects of life…financially, morally and socially.

For example, as a side hustle enthusiast I have always advocated building other income streams in addition to the normal 9-5. This has proved itself to be so important at a time where there is so much financial insecurity. I have been renting out my spare bedroom and renting out two cars on an app for over a year now. The combination of these, cash flows me around £1000 per month and the cash buffer has been a god send during these uncertain times.

As an ethnic minority, the BLM movement has been particularly difficult for me, as it has forced me to face up to everything I have experienced as a Black British female. It presented a unique opportunity where the conversations I may have had with family and friends were now being discussed on an open forum, on a wider setting; with colleagues or associates I would have never discussed these things with previously. It deeply saddens me that although it seems we have come so far as a society, there is still so much work to do. The sense of helplessness and the shared trauma ethnic minorities feel will always be something we carry and it’s something I do not think will change in my lifetime.

2020 has also forced me to confront moral dilemmas when dealing with Covid-19 and what is expected of me in my working environment. A major part of being good at my job is making the impossible, possible; but where does that leave me morally when we are in the midst of a pandemic? Too many times I have been asked to do things, I know blatantly bend or break the rules and I have been left grappling in this awkward space of, do I speak up and risk losing my job? Or do I just get on with it?

It got a lot harder to do the latter when I experienced the death of my gran due to Covid-19.

Overall 2020 has taught me a lot of life lessons and I am optimistic that 2021 will be a better year. I’m hoping that plenty of good things will emerge from the pandemic. For example, more flexible working patterns (that enable people to have a better work/life balance, especially now everyone is more accustomed to remote working), more appreciation for our friends and family, more awareness for mental health issues, less tolerance for things that do not make us happy and to live with more emphasis on the “now” and not the “later” as life is WAAAY too precious and short and there may not be a “next time”.

4. What are you responsible for in your current role?

I am currently responsible for a team of 15 household staff, 4 children aged (13-25), (so everything from schooling to helping the oldest buy his first home), 3 dogs, a rental portfolio, two main residences, 3 oversees residences and a fully staffed yacht. Alongside this, I am responsible for all of the day to day private matters for the family and any small business projects they may have. In the last 6 months I’ve planned a virtual Bat Mitzvah, overseen a £500k refurbishment project, proofread a memoir, pitched the memoir to publishing houses, planned and executed a permanent relocation to Miami, celebrated and planned 4 “lockdown birthdays”, filmed a few dozen tik toks and done more online returns than anyone wishes to remember. That’s just some of the highlights! HA!

5. How did you get into working as a PA/EA?

I accidentally fell into a private pa role after taking a temp contract in a family office for a private PA who ended up being on long term sick leave. A four week contract turned into a year and I guess the rest they say is history.

6. Describe your typical workday

The fantastic thing about being a private PA is that there is no “typical” day. One moment I may be planning a luxurious holiday to the Caribbean, the next I could be getting a carpet refitted because the dog had multiple poo explosions all over the carpet! My days are so varied and always ever changing! You never know what you may be asked to do next.

7. What has been the greatest challenge in your career to date?

I think the greatest challenge in these types of support roles is knowing how to read people and creating your own boundaries. It is so important to know when to speak up and when to shut up! You have to be emotionally intelligent as this characteristic is important for almost every aspect of the role. Also, setting your own boundaries and knowing what you want from a role is also very important and generally comes with time. Being assertive about this will help you mould your career into whatever you want it to be and prevent burnout.

8. What advice would you give younger people getting into the profession today?

You need to have thick skin to do this job and it is not as glamourous as it sounds! It’s not an easy job but can be very rewarding. I have learnt so much on such a variety of topics from all the different families/people I have worked for over the years and I would not trade that experience for anything!

9. What was the best career advice you were ever given and by who?

“You are the CEO of your own life” – it took me a long time to really grasp this but after hearing it over and over, from different business people, entrepreneurs, self-help books it has finally landed. We really are in control of our own destiny. Taking responsibility and accountability for where you are or where you aren’t is really important. If you are not happy with something, change it. If you want something, go for it! It really is that simple.

10. Can you recommend any books and or podcasts?

I have been loving Youtube at the moment. I am currently binge watching “The Humble Penny” a family of 4 who managed to pay of their mortgage in 7 years (WOW!) and educate the masses on reaching financial independence and freedom.

11. To celebrate International Women’s Day, who inspires you and why?

It’s got to be my Nan who I lost to Covid-19 a few months ago. Like most Caribbean women she left her family in search of a better life in England in the 1950’s. She worked hard as a dressmaker until she had enough money to bring her kids over to the UK. She loved this country and appreciated every opportunity. Her work ethic and tenacity will always inspire me. She taught me to be strong, proud of who I am and instilled in me the importance of sacrifice in order to get what you want.