“I used to refer to myself as my manager’s shadow” - Joyce Dadzie won the award for Outstanding Achievement.
“It was surreal!” Joyce Dadzie says of the ceremony for Secsinthecity’s seventh annual PA of the Year Awards that took place on the 8th of November. “I’d never been to the Ivy, so the champagne reception, mingling with people, the three course meal, the little goody bag on the seat were all so good.”
And winning the award for Outstanding Achievement was the icing on the cake for Joyce. “They read out all the nominees and these people had done epic things in their career,” she tells us. “And as much as it was motivating to hear, I couldn’t believe how much talent was in the room so I didn’t think I was about to win anything. I felt really overwhelmed.”
The awards exist to recognise and celebrate the hard work of the best personal and executive assistants across London, something that doesn’t always happen, according to Joyce.
“I used to refer to myself as my manager’s shadow,” she explains. “And I think that’s how PAs are often seen. We do a lot of hard work but a light isn’t always shone on it. A lot of responsibility lies on our shoulders and there’s a lot of importance in what we do so it’s good to know there’s a platform out there that acknowledges the hard work we do.”
Tay Associates’ chief executive, Susanna Tait, is one of the judges at the awards and says that Joyce immediately stood out for her positive outlook and sunny personality. “It quickly became evident that she’s the glue that holds a team together, balancing strength and warmth to influence the right people to make sure things get done,” she explains. “Every task - big or small - is a project with a plan, a deadline and an outcome, encouraged and supported by Joyce’s sunny personality.”
Joyce is Executive Assistant to Al Giles, Executive Vice President at Axiom. “My role involves diary management, complex travel booking etc, but at the same time I also get pulled in as a project coordinator or helping with events - for example I’ve been asked to help when we have a big sales event in our New York office.”
And like all good assistants, she knows the importance of keeping on top of all her different tasks. “For me, one of the most satisfying things about the role is working through my To Do list. There’s so many different things at any given point in the day, so there’s a huge satisfaction knowing I’ve managed to do it all. Because all these things affect much bigger things.”
“Of course, getting everything done is also the biggest challenge,” she adds. “Those at director or CEO level probably know how in demand they are, but they don’t always realise how much white noise EAs and PAs have to sort through, deciding what is and isn’t important in terms of meetings.”
But this is where Joyce’s award-winning skills come into play. “I’m good at upward management,” she admits. “Saying to managers ‘look, we agreed last week that this meeting that I pushed would get done this week.’ You need to build a relationship with your boss. Everyone I’ve supported has a different personality and works in a very different way so I wait until I’ve worked out how we work before I try to implement changes.”
It’s not just a good relationship with your boss that’s essential, of course. “I can speak to anybody at any level and try and find a common ground to have a conversation about,” says Joyce. “It’s also a matter of knowing what the company is about. Speaking to people comes quite naturally to me, so it’s just about having a good knowledge of the content.”
Joyce fell into her first PA role three years ago, while working at Transport for London as the business admin team lead, when a new CIO was appointed and they made Joyce his PA. “That was when I realised how much value I could add to somebody at the kind of level,” she says.
If there’s one thing Joyce had learned in her career so far, it’s to expect the unexpected. “I remember when I used to look at the diary and be so happy there’s no clashes - it might be back to back, but everything works. And then something important would come up unexpectedly. I’ve learned to be more relaxed and flexible.”
She admits she’s had to fight her natural organisational instincts to do to this. “As a person, I like to be organised,” she laughs. “I’m one of those friends that, if you say ‘let’s go for drinks on Friday’ I need to know where and what time. You can’t leave it in the air - I need to schedule something in so I know that’s what I’m doing.”
Whilst a career as a personal assistant wasn’t what Joyce originally set out to have, her experience so far has convinced her it’s one she wants to stay in. “I feel passionate about it, and I think I’m good at it. It’s so broad, I know I don’t have to necessarily be a project manager to dabble in projects or become an event coordinator to schedule events, because I do those things already.”
And that’s what Joyce hopes initiatives like the PA of the Year awards help to prove.
“I feel like some people still believe PAs answer the phone, saying things like yes ‘no, he’s not available’, ‘yes, I’ll book a room’ or ‘sure, how many sugars do you want in your coffee?’ But there’s so much more going on, so much more that we do. And I’m just glad that there’s platforms out there that acknowledge and celebrate that.”
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