Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to the PA network. It is always interesting for us to hear about our members’ working lives and get insights into working practices in different environments and fields of expertise.
You work for the world’s largest primary producer of platinum and your boss is the CEO of this conglomerate. Saying you must be pretty busy is a bit of an understatement, so let’s get right to it.
Can you clarify your role/title, and your boss’ title?
Executive Assistant to Chris Griffith, CEO Anglo American Platinum Limited and his Technical Assistant, Stephen Bullock
What is the first thing you do when you get to work?
Greet Chris if he’s in the office (he travels quite a lot – to the mines and overseas – so isn’t always in the office first thing in the morning) – I have to walk past his office to get to my desk!
Log on my office phone and laptop. Make us all a cup of tea – we’re all in the office by around 06:30. We are usually the first one’s in the office in the morning (and sometimes the last to leave at night!).
Once tea is made and everyone settled, I check the calendars, email and plan for the day. I always have a “to do” list so check that too to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I try to check the newspaper headlines and my emails before I get to the office so I have an idea what needs attention in my email boxes once I’ve done the tea duty!
What is the last thing you do before leaving work?
Tidy my desk and pack my bag for home, which usually includes one or two bits of work.
Print calendar for the next day and make sure all documents are ready/available for the next day. We use Boardpad for a number of our meetings so these need to be downloaded.
What invaluable things do you do for your boss that make you stand out as his PA/EA?
I asked Chris for his input on this one. His response:
“Shirley has the ability to look at incoming issues, whether they be emails, requests for meetings, telephone calls etc., and have a good understanding of their importance – and then quickly channel those to the correct people and elevate urgent matters to me.
This is important as it ensures we do not miss critical issues whilst the CEO is busy.
The ability to do this indicates a higher level of capability than a traditional PA.”
You work for an international company in a senior position, what are the perks of your job?
Anglo American Platinum is a South African company and its major shareholder is Anglo American plc, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In my previous role in Supply Chain I was very privileged to travel to London twice to assist with the organisation and running of the Anglo American Supplier Conference and Award events. These visits gave me a greater understanding of travel and working in London. Meeting my colleagues in our London office has also proved to be invaluable over the years.
In my current role I organise the Exco and Board offsite events, which I am required to attend. As a listed company we are often requested to host Investor and Analyst Roadshow visits to our various mines. I have assisted with 2 roadshow visits to the world’s largest open pit platinum mine, Mogalakwane in Limpopo, South Africa. Visiting the mine gives you a completely different perspective to working in the comfort of Corporate Office.
The ladies I work with will tell you my best perk is I get to have my own office.
Do you believe your position, and responsibilities, salary, bonuses etc. are in line with other senior managers in your company and your industry? As a woman in a top position, what changes would you still like to see?
I have seen huge change in our company since I joined. There are definitely more opportunities now for women to rise to senior level positions and to become more involved across the business including all aspects of mining, both on the operational side and at the corporate office.
What stands out in your CV? And is there something you would add to it now?
I have been at Anglo American for nearly 20 years so the “diversity” of the areas I have worked in stand out the most on my CV.
I was in the Corporate Finance function when Anglo American did its first BEE deals and the company listing on the London Stock Exchange.
New Mining Business and Exploration where I had a geography lesson almost every day.
Group Procurement and Supply Chain where we grew the department from 5 people to a global team. I worked for two Global Heads who were based in London so I learnt to work very differently – discipline and commitment are key to working in different time zones for a boss who’s not in the office next to you.
In 2012, I transferred to Anglo American Platinum. Working in a business unit compared to corporate office and directly for the CEO has been a great addition to my CV.
If you had to move from your current job, what would drive you to make the move?
I have only been in my current role for three years so to move jobs now would need to be an exceptional opportunity i.e. overseas move or to a role in a completely different environment, where there are new challenges and an opportunity to make a difference. Retirement is also just “around the corner” which would be another consideration.
Job satisfaction is most important to me and I am enjoying what I do right now.
If you were going to write a handbook for someone taking over your job, what are the top 5 things you would say?
- To do list – you can’t remember everything. Helps to keep you focused. Attention to detail.
- Prioritise – which can be tricky when you are dealing with multiple tasks/demands
- Read and don’t be afraid to ask questions – the only way you learn what’s going on around you. Remember you can’t read everything in detail.
- Make friends not enemies!
- Adapt or die!
I know you have just returned from a well earned holiday, how important is keeping your home life separate from your work life? Is there a clear separation for you? Is there something you do outside the office that allows you to be present and focused at the office.
Work and family are intertwined at this stage of my life. The CEO’s office is busy. I work long hours during the week but do try not to work on weekends. I will check emails from time to time. My family help to keep me grounded and understand my work demands.
Thank you so much Shirley, for giving the PA network a glimpse into your working life.
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