Before	
  I	
  kick	
  off	
  with	
  a	
  li1le	
  look	
  at	
  a	
  few	
  inspira5on	
  PAs	
  who	
  all	
  broke	
  t...
Last	
  year	
  I	
  was	
  in	
  Memphis.	
  During	
  my	
  visit	
  I	
  went	
  to	
  Sun	
  Studios	
  which	
  is	
 ...
So	
  we	
  all	
  have	
  probably	
  owned	
  a	
  piece	
  of	
  clothing	
  by	
  Donna	
  Karan	
  or	
  DKNY	
  in	
...
This	
  is	
  Karen	
  Kaplan,	
  the	
  CEO	
  of	
  adver5sing	
  giant	
  Hill	
  Holiday.	
  She	
  started	
  out	
  ...
Last	
  but	
  no	
  means	
  least.	
  This	
  is	
  Ursula	
  Brown,	
  the	
  CEO	
  of	
  Xerox.	
  	
  
	
  
Ursula	
...
So	
  the	
  reason	
  I	
  picked	
  these	
  four	
  ladies	
  is	
  because	
  they	
  all	
  prove	
  it	
  can	
  be	...
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Assistants who broke the mould

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Inspiring assistants who have broke through the glass ceiling. The Assist Conference 2015

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Assistants who broke the mould

  1. 1. Before  I  kick  off  with  a  li1le  look  at  a  few  inspira5on  PAs  who  all  broke  the  mould  in   one  way  or  another  I  want  to  take  a  minute  to  talk  to  you  about  the  Assist   Conference  and  why  I  set  this  event  up.  Firstly,  I  believe  that  we  do  one  of  the   world’s  trickiest  jobs  –  we  have  to  juggle       mul5ple  tasks,     mul5ple  personali5es  –  which  are  oFen  found  in  the  same  person     And  different  percep5ons  about  our  role  and  the  industry.         We  have  all  heard  the  ‘just  an  assistant’  line  and  most  of  us  have  probably  said  this   about  ourselves  at  some  point.       I  want  this  conference  to  signal  the  death  knoll  for  that  flipping  saying!  We  are   professional  women  who  have  a  difficult  and  actually  incredibly  important  job  and   from  this  point  on  we  must  believe  in  ourselves  so  that  our  Execu5ves,  colleagues   and  peers  take  us  seriously.  So  how  do  we  start  this  process  –  well  I  think  a  good   place  to  start  is  to  look  to  our  fore-­‐sisters.  The  women  who  were  assistants  but  did   things  a  li1le  differently.  Now  we  could  just  sit  here  and  watch  Working  Girl  and  9-­‐5   and  then  head  off  for  a  drink  but  I’ve  found  a  few  non-­‐fic5onal  accounts  of  women   who  have  broke  the  assistant  mould.       1  
  2. 2. Last  year  I  was  in  Memphis.  During  my  visit  I  went  to  Sun  Studios  which  is  the  place   where  Johnny  Cash,  Karl  Perkins,  Jerry  Lee  Lewis  and  the  king  himself  –  Elvis  Presley   all  recorded  their  famous  tracks.  One  of  the  stories  I  absolutely  loved  was  about  the   woman  you  can  see  in  the  picture.  Her  name  was  Marion  Keisker  and  she  was  the   secretary  to  the  studio  owner  –  Sam  Philips.  So  the  story  goes:     She  was  alone  in  the  studio  the  day  that  a  young  Elvis  Presley  walked  in  to  record  a   few  songs.  She  asked  the  boy,  “what  kind  of  singer  are  you?”  and  he  said,  “I  sing  all   kinds”.  She  then  asked,  “Who  do  you  sound  like?”.  He  said,  “I  don’t  sound  like   nobody”.  Now  usually  the  studio  manager  would  cut  the  tracks  but  on  this  occasion   Marion  agreed  to  do  the  recording.  As  you  can  imagine  Marion  was  impressed  with   Elvis’s  voice..  And  probably  his  looks  helped!...  and  decided  to  men5on  the  young   talent  to  her  boss.  At  the  5me  the  studio  had  enough  ar5st  and  Sam  Philips  wasn’t   interested  in  Marion’s  new  find.  With  much  persistence  from  Marion,  Sam  finally   agreed  to  let  Elvis  come  back  into  the  study  to  record  another  song.  This  5me  Sam   was  impressed  and  the  rest,  as  they  say,  is  history!  What  I  love  about  this  story  is  that   Marion  took  it  upon  herself  to  record  Elvis  even  though  it  was  normally  her  manager   that  did  it.  Elvis  might  never  have  been  discovered  if  it  wasn’t  for  her  confidence.  In   fact,  a  few  years  later  Elvis  and  Marion  bumped  into  each  other  and  Elvis  said,  “I   don’t  know  whether  to  kiss  you  or  salute!  We  would  not  be  having  a  press   conference  if  it  weren’t  for  this  Lady”.   2  
  3. 3. So  we  all  have  probably  owned  a  piece  of  clothing  by  Donna  Karan  or  DKNY  in  at   some  point  or  other,  but  not  many  of  you  will  know  that  Donna  started  as  an   assistant  to  the  designer  Anne  Klein.  Her  rise  from  assistant  to  owner  of  a  global   brand  is  pre1y  drama5c.       She  was  due  to  go  onto  maternity  leave  when  her  boss  was  taken  ill  and  rushed  to   hospital.     While  Anne  was  in  hospital  Donna  took  over  the  planning  of  the  pre-­‐fall  fashion   shows.  Sadly  Anne  Klein  passed  away  on  the  same  day  Donna  gave  birth  to  her  first   child.  But  as  they  say  –  the  show  must  go  on  -­‐  so  Donna  organised  the  rest  of  the   fashion  show  from  her  bed  in  the  maternity  ward.       3  
  4. 4. This  is  Karen  Kaplan,  the  CEO  of  adver5sing  giant  Hill  Holiday.  She  started  out  at  Hill   Holiday  as  their  recep5onist  in  1982!       During  the  her  first  week  on  the  job  her  co-­‐worker  and  more  senior  recep5onist   assured  her  that  she  was  the  lowest  of  the  low  –  saying  that  she  was  even  lower  than   the  post  room  guy!  Apparently  it  was  all  very  The  Devil  Wears  Prada’.    But  this  didn’t   phase  her  and  instead  she  took  on  an  ‘I’ll  show  you  mantra’.       She  quickly  progressed  from  the  recep5onist  –  lowest  of  the  low  –  to  assistant   despite  the  fact  she  wasn’t  actually  qualified  for  the  posi5on.  To  catch  up  she  spent   evenings  and  weekends  learning  the  ropes.  She  worked  her  backside  off  and  was   rewarded  by  having  her  job  5tle  changed  to  Account  Manager.  From  there  she  could   progress  up  the  management  roles  un5l  she  was  finally  named  CEO  in  2013.       Her  advice  for  other  assistants  that  want  to  move  up  the  career  ladder  is  fantas5c  -­‐     She  said  “I  raised  my  hand  for  every  opportunity.  And  I  never  let  the  fact  that  I  had   absolutely  no  idea  what  I  was  doing  stop  me.”   4  
  5. 5. Last  but  no  means  least.  This  is  Ursula  Brown,  the  CEO  of  Xerox.       Ursula  was  working  as  an  intern  for  Xerox  when  she  was  asked  to  a1end  a  work-­‐life   discussion  where  she  raised  the  issue  of  diversity  in  the  workplace.  Apparently  her   opinion  was  quite  forcefully  communicated  and  the  following  day  she  was  called  into   see  a  senior  Execu5ve  of  Xerox.       Expec5ng  to  be  reprimanded  or  fired  she  was  instead  asked  to  be  his  assistant.   Ini5ally  she  thought  ‘why  would  I  want  to  do  that’  but  once  she  was  assured  the  job   would  involved  more  than  the  tradi5onal  secretaries  tasks  she  excepted.       She  was  expected  to  a1end  mee5ngs  with  her  boss  including  board  mee5ngs.  Board   mee5ngs  at  Xerox  were  set  up  so  that  the  Execs  sat  round  the  board  table  and  their   assistants  sat  off  to  the  side.       During  one  such  mee5ng  the  CEO  was  discussing  the  hiring  policy  and  that   departments  were  hiring  too  many  staff.  Ursula,  ever  the  curious,  raised  her  hand   and  asked  ‘if  the  CEO  can’t  stop  staff  hiring  staff  –  who  can?’  Again  the  next  day  she   was  called  into  see  the  CEO  and  thought  this  might  be  her  last  straw.  But  instead  she   was  being  poached  by  the  CEO  to  be  his  new  Execu5ve  Assistant  .         5  
  6. 6. So  the  reason  I  picked  these  four  ladies  is  because  they  all  prove  it  can  be  done.  It   isn’t  easy,  it  takes  5me  but  assistants  can  move  up  within  their  organisa5ons  and   they  can  achieve  extraordinary  things.       They  also  personify  the  three  key  themes  of  the  Assist  Conference     •  The  need  to  change  other  people’s  behaviours  and  your  own.     •  The  need  to  be  proac5ve.   •  The  importance  of  having  your  career  goals,  always,  at  the  front  of  your  mind.     We  will  return  to  these  key  themes  throughout  the  day  but  for  now  I  want  you  to   think  about  what  you  can  achieve  in  your  own  careers  and  how  you  can  move  on  up!     6  

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