PA of the Year: Zoe Robinson

“What I was doing five years ago isn’t what I’m doing now and what I’m doing now will likely be redundant in five years’ time. So, I need to keep learning, evolving and growing my skills.” says Zoë Robinson, winner of Executive PA Magazine's PA of the Year Award in 2016.

We spoke to EA of the Year Zoe Robinson, EA to the CEO at nib NZ, about her journey and plans for the future

How did you become an EA?
I started work as an EA straight out of university and found I relished the challenges it brought. I stayed there for more than four years before working as the PA to one of the Partners at an Engineering and Urban Design consultancy. I loved it there; it was such a fun role and I held it for about five years until my now-husband and I moved to New Zealand.

What were you doing prior to being an EA?
I was at University in London, studying Fine Arts. I sold my end of year collection to an art gallery and decided I could paint and work at the same time. My first role began as a temporary general admin/reception role, but I was offered the EA role after a couple of months and ran with it. Though my career has been solely EA focused, I’ve continued painting in my spare time and had my work on display in galleries across the UK and in New Zealand.

What has surprised you most about the role of an EA?
I’ve come to appreciate the level of trust you need to build with everyone you work with; most importantly with your Executive, but also your colleagues and both internal and external stakeholders. You also need to be an extension of your Executive. You have to know what they want, how they want it, when they want it – and deliver. They need to know that if they haven’t thought of it, you have. It’s an interesting concept and requires a great deal of hard work to integrate yourself and become comfortable with it.

What do you believe were the reasons you won PA of the Year?
I’ve been a PA/EA for more than 18 years now and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed and felt confident I’m really good at. I think it takes a lot time and effort to build a relationship with your Executive; to know what they’re thinking so you’re able to make decisions on their behalf when you need to. You also need to add value, save them time by taking care of things so they can focus on the wider strategy and goals for the business. Importantly, you need to have the confidence to make those decisions on their behalf.

What is your advice to other EAs?
I believe there is a very strong obligation to reflect both your executive and your organisation positively and professionally. Your interactions with colleagues, clients and stakeholders are a key influencer in the way people regard your business and the way it is run. Our CEO has a quote on his wall, “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark”. For me, this is at the core of how we should base our interactions with people and I try my very best to be conscious of that responsibility at all times.

Tell us a bit about your prize and your new role as PA of the Year?
My prize included a fabulous mid-week break to Melbourne with premium economy Air NZ flights and three nights at the Langham. My husband Jon and I are really looking forward to having a break early in 2017. As for opportunities, I’ve been asked to speak at a PA Conference in Auckland in May, which I’m very much looking forward to. Being an Ambassador for the role is a huge honour and something I aim to do justice to. I’m also working with a couple of different EA networks; building relationships with other assistants is so important in this role – whether it’s to gain direct access to other Executives your organisation works with, or for bouncing ideas and sharing information with your peers.