Let me introduce you to two extraordinary people…Mike Stratton, director at Wellcome Sanger Institute and Kate Shasha, chief of staff and director of strategy at Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. They don’t know one another but have two things in common. Firstly, they both know me and secondly, they are two of the most amazing bosses.
EAs, I’m sure I’m not alone here when I say that when you take on a new role you never really can tell what your new boss is going to be like?
His ‘right hand’ in the truest sense
I knew of Mike from when I was a temp. He was so inspiring that I announced to my then line manager: “I’m going to work for him one day”. A year later, I was being interviewed to be his EA. He asked whether I was up for the challenge of managing his time (which he’s terrible at) and I accepted the challenge. I went on to support him 24/7 for more than eight years and what a ride!
I suppose it took about a year for Mike to truly trust me. Let’s not forget that 24/7 meant that I supported him personally and professionally, so I had access to his bank accounts and keys to his home. When the trust was built, the role took off.
Mike treated me as a peer and I was his ‘right hand’ in the truest sense. He trusted me with his life, quite literally. In turn, he churned out work at a pace and volume like nothing I had ever encountered, and I had two choices – sink or swim. I swam, every day. Supporting someone like Mike is almost indescribable; he has a unique approach to work and is truly amazing. He always approached our day with good grace, dignity, charm and humour, and always said ‘thank you’.
Like cogs in a machine
My current boss, Kate, has such a special talent of line management that she could make a fortune tutoring those less desirable managers (we all know a few, right?) in how to succeed.
Kate is, without fail, always a million steps ahead of everyone. She retains such vast knowledge, never forgets anything and keeps the entire organisation on track and to task – but does it in a way that you want to be like her, work hard for her and achieve everything. Kate does not keep all of this to herself – she’s encouraging, nurturing, wants you to do well and be the best you can be. This style of line management is not only motivating but it gives me the confidence to take a leap just to see what I am capable of.
Kate and I haven’t worked together as long as Mike and I did – in fact we’ve just turned two years old! She is, without a shadow of a doubt, my trusted partner. We feed off one another and are in sync so much so it’s like cogs in a machine where one cannot survive without the other. It’s wonderfully weird.
As you’ll know being in the EA or chief of staff role you have so many fingers in so many pies and there is so much to learn. Kate’s stewardship of our organisation is a sight to behold. Her conduct makes me want to do better – I want to be the ambassador she is and I have the best teacher.
With both Kate and Mike, I’m now their friend, sounding board, peer and trusted advisor. I thank my lucky stars every day that I was fortunate to be part of Mike’s world and I am now hitched to Kate’s. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.