We talk career history, defining moments and future plans with Scott Giles, who, as EA to Southampton CEO Gareth Rogers, has a hand in helping Southampton Football Club storm up the English Premier League.
How did you become an Executive Assistant?
It was purely by chance and, actually, a result of trying to join the Royal Navy aged 17. During the entry tests, I found out I was colour blind and it was suggested that rewiring weapons probably wasn’t for me! The Navy were keen for me to join, though, and offered me a role as a writer, which involved intense training and a stint at typing school – in just two weeks I could touch type at more than 60 words per minute. I was very close to not getting through the specialist training and being discharged, which would have felt like such a failure to me at the time. Succeeding has shaped my career to this day.
After ten years in administration on land and at sea, my commander advised me to focus on ‘being a PA’ going forward, as that’s where she thought I’d excel. Shortly after, I was offered a PA position, working for several senior managers at British American Tobacco (BAT). I was lucky enough to travel as part of the role, organising global conferences, but also managed the football team at head office, and was on the Sports & Social Committee, which leads me nicely to where I am now!
Tell us about working for a Premier League football club…
After 15 years at BAT and 18 years living and working in London, I was keen for a change. And, after two rounds of interviews – including a presentation to the CEO on how I’d make a difference in my first 90 days – I relocated. Working for the club is all about results on the pitch and, by everyone working to the best of their ability, the first team have the best chance of finishing as high up the league as possible.
For me, this means covering the usual responsibilities that go with the very busy and constantly changing diary of the CEO, as well as organising and minute-taking at executive board meetings. But it’s my role on match day – involving hospitality for our executive board, visiting executives, the senior management team and their guests – which I find most rewarding. It’s incredibly busy and, as there are so many changes right up until kick-off, it pays to do some tasks as late as possible, even if it is cutting it fine at times. Nothing beats the buzz of match day, and it’s important to me that our guests leave with a great impression of the club and our hospitality.
You’re a keen football fan yourself – to what extent does this passion help your role?
It certainly helps to be involved in an industry I’ve loved since I was seven-years-old but I think it’s just as important to work with great people who love what they do. For example, I’ve never smoked but worked for BAT, found the role interesting and had a lot of fun. So yes, football is a huge passion for me but, if I didn’t work with these people or the club was poorly run then I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have lasted long. I’d obviously recommend other PAs go for roles in organisations they’re passionate about, but wouldn’t advise holding out for a job in an industry that appeals to you more than others. For me, it’s just a happy coincidence.
What’s your relationship with your boss like?
After more than two and a half years, I have a good understanding of how the CEO operates, he understands how I work and I have a great relationship with his family – it’s a family oriented club, so this is important. He gives me the freedom to get on with things and trusts my decision-making.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
Much better since relocating: my commute is now 30 minutes on a very bad day, as opposed to 60 on a good day in London. I work hard when I’m in the office and have my phone on hand when home. My boss is great when it comes to flexible working, although I get much more done working on a big screen in the office than I do on a laptop at home, so seldom work from home. Christmas is probably the only time that a job in football affects me more than it would in any other role – games come thick and fast in December and throughout the festive period. But I’m not complaining – when I tell my friends I’m off to work on match day they just laugh!
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Leaving British American Tobacco. They paid very well and the benefits were excellent – but in my final two years I noticed my role had become mundane and I decided I didn’t want to do it any longer. I assumed my CV was strong, having worked for 15 years in a FTSE 100 London-based company. But the job search wasn’t as easy as I’d anticipated. I aimed high but underestimated how much the interview process had changed and how stiff the competition would be. After getting down to the final few in several roles and being unsuccessful, I started to doubt my skills and wondered if I should lower my expectations. Then, out of the blue, I got an e-mail asking whether I’d consider relocating to be the EA to the CEO of a Premier League football team. The rest is history!
How do you see your career progressing?
As long as I’m happy, still learning and feel I’m contributing significantly to supporting the CEO and the club, I’d like to think I’ll still be in the same role in five years. The club is excellently run, has great people in place and there are many things in the pipeline so I’m genuinely excited for what lies ahead.
In my spare time…
I love to get out and about on my bike and, in May, I’m part of a group cycling 180 miles over two days from Stoke to Southampton. We’ll be raising funds for the Saints Foundation, which inspires, supports and delivers positive change for young people and adults at risk in the community. We aim to arrive in time for kick-off in the final game of the season, as Southampton play Stoke City on Sunday 21st May.