Take 5 minutes to sit down with your favourite hot drink for a chat with Strategic PA Network’s Committee Member Craig Bryson

Craig is a two-time award-winning EA. He is an Executive Assistant supporting the Regional Managing Partner, EMEA Industrial Markets, Global Head of Infrastructure, in Construction, and the UK and EMEA GIM leadership roles at Korn Ferry.

Craig was an Executive Assistant to Bob Benton at Bob & Co, in the media and entertainment industry. In his earlier career, he was Executive Assistant to the senior partner of Banking and Capital Markets at PwC.

Craig was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa. He also attended National Military Service in South Africa. Has climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Down syndrome charity. Craig was a musical dancer, performing in shows such as Oklahoma, Brigadoon, and ‘The man that came to dinner’.

Craig enjoys travelling, cooking and horror movies, as well as networking and meeting new likeminded people.

Tell us about your current role?

Working as an Executive Assistant to the Regional Managing Partner, Industrial EMEA. We are an executive search company looking for CEOs, COO and any C-Suite candidates to fill positions in the Industrial infrastructure sector. I also assist in onboarding new EAs and my boss’s team and regional account managers.

Describe yourself in 5 words?

Happy, Positive, Learning, Purpose and Presence

Tell us about your first Strategic PA Network experience? Can you remember your first event?

I had met Marianne and Sarah at a book launch and loved their energy and passion for the PA Network, as do I. Recently I supported Strategic PA Network’s networking sessions in the Club Lounge at The PA Show. It was an amazing experience!

We have the same energy and passion for the administration sector. I have not laughed and enjoyed myself with great like minded people quite like this before.

Why are you passionate about the Assistant / Business Support profession?

It was not easy being an actor. You meet wonderful people then the show is over.

However, when I started as a temp assistant at PWC. That is when I found the EA community. Meeting like-minded people to discuss issues and how to overcome them. The compassion and willingness to help others is such a great experience. I enjoy working and helping other EAs to get the best out of themselves.

What do you think makes a great Assistant?

Loyalty, trust and forming a good working relationship with your Exec. You should be able to understand what they want from you. Take every task and think three steps ahead to make sure that if anything goes wrong, you have it covered.

How important is networking to you? Do you enjoy it?

I believe in self branding, it is highly important to me. Internally and externally. Get to know your receptionist and catering manager, as they will help you later in whatever you need. External networking is equally important. You can grow by learning from others and it is exciting to meet amazing new friends, which help and guide you in your career.

What would you say to someone who has never been to a networking event before?

Be confident in yourself and it will shine through. If alcohol is served at a networking event. Always remember your branding. Drink a glass of water between each glass of champagne/wine or not drink alcohol at all. You are not there to party but to network. First impressions always last. If you know what companies will be attending the event, do a little research to enlighten yourself. Create a QR Code with your contact details. I have noticed a decline in business card usage.

What one piece of advice would you give to an Assistant just starting out on their career journey?

All EAs know the daunting feeling of starting a new career/job. You are not alone. Always ask questions if you do not understand and what is required from you. It will take you 3-months to learn their processes and 6-months to become a Guru, depending on how quickly you learn. Don’t get into your head and overthink everything you do.

What one piece of advice would you give to a CEO working with an EA for the first time? Or someone who needs educating?

Patience and respect. The EA is there to help you be the best you can be. Give more details on what you want or how you want it done. Don’t take out your frustrations out on your EA.

What is your favourite saying or quote and who is it by?

I always like saying ‘Sharing the Knowledge’, not sure who said it.

What are you currently reading? Would you recommend it and why?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

It is about a boy named Santiago who goes on a journey seeking treasure in the Egyptian pyramids after having a recurring dream on his journey, he meets mentors, falls in love, and learns the true importance of who he is and how to improve himself.

How do you ‘switch off’ from the role? What tips would you give to someone who struggles?

Have a good platform to keep all your scheduled meetings, client details, day-2-day task templates etc, in one place. OneNote or Trello are great. I also use a notepad for quick notes when on the phone or your boss asks you to do something. I then add this to my OneNote. If you forget your notepad at work, you have a digital version at home. This is also helpful for those covering you while you are on annual leave. I look at the next day’s activities and prepare all that I need to do. You can quickly read over what needs to be done on the day. I don’t have my emails on my mobile, as you tend to take a peek and then cannot sleep the whole night thinking on what needs to be done. A good night sleep is important.

What does EA etiquette mean to you?

Internal EAs:

  • If you are able to see your colleague’s calendars, and you need to schedule a meeting with four Execs. Why not check all the calendars first? Then, follow up with an email to your EA colleagues. Let them know you took the liberty to check all calendars and to ask if they can confirm if these slots are, okay? This way you save everyone’s time.
  • If an internal Exec wants a meeting with your Exec. The EA requesting would send the diary invite or book the restaurant.
  • Don’t throw your EA colleagues under the bus. There is always a better approach to resolve the issue.
  • Respect each other. Help where you possibly can. A kind gesture will always be remembered.

Client EAs:

  • If you are going to work with a client’s EA to schedule a lot of meetings within a year. In the first instance, it is always good to give them a call. Introduce yourself and explain the process. This gives that human touch, and it helps clear any misunderstanding in the future.
  • Your Exec and other internal partners are meeting a client. Liaise internally on their availability, send diary holds to all internal partners. Then follow up with the client EA. Don’t contact the client EA individually. It can become frustrating when none of the dates you sent works for any of your internal Execs.
  • Always ask if you can assist them in anyway, and that you are there to give them a helping hand.
  • I personally send handwritten Christmas cards to my Exec’s clients EAs. Who doesn’t like receiving a Christmas card.

Thank you so much for your time Craig, for those who’d like to connect with Craig – please do! His LinkedIn details are HERE.