Jennifer Smith EA to the Chief Executive of Power2 & Chair of The Charity PA Network

A BIT ABOUT – Power2 & The Charity PA Network 

Power2 delivers programmes which develop crucial life skills for children and young people, helping improve confidence and boost self-esteem. Working with children and young people at key transition points, the team at Power2 look beyond the problems young people face and focus on their true potential, nurturing the assets, talents and abilities of all. 

The Charity PA Network (CPN) helps to raise the profile of PAs and EAs working specifically in the Charity and Third Sectors. CPN encourages networking and development amongst peers, creating a supportive community of like-minded individuals.  Follow CPN on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CharityPANet

Not content with a demanding job as EA to the Chief Executive of major UK Charity Power2, Jennifer Smith is also the Chair of The Charity PA Network which has exciting plans for 2019.  Meetingsclub caught up with Jennifer at Social Enterprise Brigade for 12 Minutes With and discovered that the retail industries loss is most definitely the third sectors gain!  

Why did you choose to become an EA? 

It was almost by accident really!  I initially started my career in retail but realised pretty quickly that I didn’t want to stay in this sector largely because of the hours.  I thought about office work and volunteered to work for UNISON at my local council so I could get some office experience, whilst still working in my retail role. A temp role came up within the planning department and the manager “took a chance on me”.  I then went on to work as a PA at Diabetes UK, before returning to Thurrock Council as a Team PA which gave me great experience for later EA roles. A five-year stint at the NSPCC years followed, before becoming an EA at start up charity called Pause and then on to my present job as EA to the Chief Executive of Power2, Joanne Hay. 

Is there any difference as an EA working within the Charity Sector compared to the Corporate World? 

I think there is an awful lot of similarities, however before the credit crunch ten years ago, corporates had a lot more to spend on events compared to charities.  Now though, all organisations have tight budgets and financial constraints on funding!  One major difference I believe are the development opportunities.  You are encouraged much more within the charity sector to grow and develop even if there isn’t always the funding for training.  You become an expert at finding free courses! 

What trends have you spotted within the Third Sector 

There is a greater focus now on statutory requirements associated with running a charity.  PAs and EAs are much more involved in this area and the Charity PA Network has certainly noticed this.  How do we change Articles of Association and what is the process are questions I’m often asked.  There is also quite rightly more scrutiny on how charities spend money now.  It has forced many to be a lot more open on how they spend donations. 

Who has inspired you most in your career?  

Two people.  The first person is a fellow EA Leonnie Braker.  She was the first person who taught me that being a PA and EA is a career, before that I was always told “you can’t do this forever, what are you going to do next?”  She showed me that there were development opportunities out there through networking and was hugely inspirational. The second person who has inspired me is a former manager of mine Lisa Harker at the NSPCC, who always had new ideas.  She allowed me to develop my role, do more and get much more involved in the organisation.   

If you could work anywhere in the world where would it be? 

I am a bit of home bird so I would find it hard to leave, but it would have to be America!  I’ve always had a fascination for America and would love the opportunity to work in New York or anywhere in the States. 

What has been your proudest business moment? 

Taking on the delivery implementation plan and organisational goals for Power2’s new strategy.  I didn’t think I would have the ability to do this.  I project managed the overall plan to make sure we achieved what we said we were going to achieve.  It was an important exercise as many of the agreed goals were linked directly to our funding and impacted on many of our stakeholders. 

What are your favourite business use APPs? 

City Mapper!  It’s a travel tool.  It works out for you where you want to go and then tells you how long it will take by cycling, walking, bus, train or Uber.  It even gives you the estimated cost of getting there, but the best bit is the rain safe option which is great for meetings.  I always check it even if I know where I am going. 

What piece of advice would you give to your teenage self? 

Keep going!  Don’t stop and don’t let hurdles or difficult people get in the way. 

What three items would you bring to a desert island?  

  1. A book – The Meg by Steve Alten 
  1. A friend!  Somebody to talk to 
  1. Having watched many survival programmes, I would create a new product – a cooking pot with retractable sharp knife 

What did you do last weekend? 

Last weekend was my Mum’s 60th birthday.  We went out for dinner on the Friday night and then on Sunday we had afternoon tea.  We had a great time. 

Is there anything on your bucket list that you haven’t yet done? 

Loads!  My friend and I have a joint bucket list!  We are both great foodies and have a long list of different restaurants to try out.  I’d also like to do “Up at the O2” walking over the roof.  A helicopter ride would be great and of course visit New York. 

If you were the Prime Minister what would be the first thing you would change? 

Before doing anything, I would undertake a consultation process.  Far too many politicians don’t listen to the public or their constituents.  I’d get people into a room and just listen to what they said before doing anything. 

Do you binge watch and if so, what do you watch? 

I’m not a big binge watcher.  I have so much recorded on Sky Plus that I haven’t had time to view yet.  I must get around to watching the Bodyguard soon before somebody spoils the plot for me!