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Introducing the Winners of the 2021 PA of the Year Awards

Introducing the Winners of the 2021 PA of the Year Awards
PAs, EAs and Office Managers gathered yesterday to celebrate the 10th annual SecsintheCity PA of the Year Awards, sponsored by Tay Associates.

Held virtually for the second year running, the 2021 PA of the Year Awards were held last night, with hopeful nominees, friends, families, and supportive colleagues present. Despite the remote nature of the event – the awards are usually held at The Ivy in London – all the attendees appeared on Zoom in black-tie.

It’s been another disrupted, uncertain year across the UK. Yet, that doesn’t stop SecsintheCity from celebrating the achievements that assistants have accomplished. 

By the close of the nominations in September, the judges had received more than 450 entries, and the competition was fierce. Picking 19 finalists from such a deserving group of nominees was a challenging enough experience for the judges, choosing the winners proved even more difficult.

Once again, assistants have shown the enormous value they hold for organisations of every type, with their professionalism, adaptability and perseverance. The challenging circumstances that all assistants have experienced over the last year has given them a chance to show their qualities – an opportunity that our finalists grabbed with fervour.

Once guests had assembled and drinks were flowing – each finalist received a complimentary hamper of goodies from the SecsintheCity team – it was time for PA of the Year Awards host and SecsintheCity Sales Director Dan Richards to announce the winners.

Office Manager of the Year – Ruth Houlsby | Office Manager at Sir John Soanes Museum, London

The first honour of the evening was Office Manager of the Year. There were four nominees; Ruth Houlsby, Sarah Lambert, Debbie Peat and Elinor Preece – and the winner was Ruth Houlsby.

Ruth has been the office manager at London’s Sir John Soanes Museum for two years. In rapid fashion, she managed to establish herself as a crucial part of the team, an impressive feat considering she only joined the museum shortly before lockdown.

The nomination from Joanna Eccles, Head of Operations at Sir John Soanes Museum, was laudatory. She cited Ruth as “the driving force behind wellbeing for everyone at the museum” throughout the pandemic.

Legal PA of the Year – Breanna Worton | PA to Practice Group Managers, Business Services, at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, London

Up next was the Legal PA of the Year Award.

In this 10th annual edition of the awards, the honour was contested between Sangita Arya, Aaron Bailey, Nicola Boshell, Hettle Vasani and Breanna Worton. While all worthy candidates, it was Breanna Worton, PA at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, who was announced as winner.

Breanna is recognised as a technical guru at Freshfields, and appreciated for her enthusiasm and self-motivation. Scarlett Hepting, a Practice Manager at Freshfields who nominated Breanna, described her as a “force of nature”.

Outstanding Achievement – Sangita Arya | PA to Eduardo Ustaran, Partner at Hogan Lovells LLP, London

At this stage in the proceedings, the finalists for the final category of the event – PA of the Year – were introduced. However, before that award was announced, it was time to give out the Outstanding Achievement Award, to a remarkable candidate.

This award went to Sangita Arya, a Legal PA at London-based law firm Hogan Lovells LLP for the last ten years. Nominated by her son Nikesh Arya, a solicitor at Travers Smith LLP, Sangita exhibited strength on both personal and professional levels.

PA of the Year – Sarah-Jayne Makin | PA to Nick Salt, CEO of SYSTRA LTD, York

Finally, it was time to announce the winner of the 2021 PA of the Year Award.

The flagship honour saw ten finalists competing – Emma Abrahams, Emily Darnell, Taj Ahmed, Bella-Marie Bubb, Elayne Carby, Melanie Glover, Sarah-Jayne Makin, Antonia Merrick, Helen Merrit and Natalie Richardson – so, it goes without saying that picking a winner was a tough task for the judges.

Ultimately, the award went to Sarah-Jayne Makin, a PA to the CEO of SYSTRA Ltd. With a PA career spanning 22 years, Sarah-Jayne has shown distinction both at home and abroad – and without going through the formal education route that’s typical for such roles.

Congratulations go to the winners of the PA of the Year awards, but also to the finalists and nominees who deserve recognition for their contributions.

Nominations for the 2022 PA of the Year Awards will open next spring. Until then, keep your eyes on the SecsintheCity blog for future content, interviews, and more.

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