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Private Office Blog – A Day in the Life

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I started in the ONS in February 2013 as part of the UK Innovation Survey (UKIS) team, before going into the Monthly Unit (now known as REVS).  I stayed until September 2016 when I moved into a PA role for two of our directors, Nick Vaughan and Frankie Kay. Getting to grips with the hectic diaries of two people was a steep learning curve, but enjoyable. A role came up in Private Office a few months later, and I was fortunate enough to get the job. So, here I am at the start of 2017, as the Executive Assistant (EA) to the National Statistician, John Pullinger.

Working in Private Office isn’t just answering calls, arranging the odd meeting and getting your boss a sandwich. Our team organises everything from the ground up for John and his deputies. A typical day does not exist, and if it did, things might get boring pretty quickly. There’s only so many ways to answer a phone – professionally anyway, otherwise I’m sure we’d have a go at accents to keep things fresh. So what do we do exactly if we’re not checking out the sandwich selection for John?

I get in at 7am – I promise this is through choice. I check my emails first before checking John’s inbox for anything urgent or to see if there’s anything I need to action. I look over the calendar to make sure everything is correct and that there are no surprises! If you read his blog, you’ll know John has many competing priorities. I need to make sure his day moves seamlessly from one thing to the next, ensuring he has travel time, transport booked, the right locations etc. You can probably imagine that having so many meetings, your head can get quite full, so taking out the little stresses makes the world of difference. John’s diary is hectic – getting everything in is bit of a Rubik’s Cube job! Diary/inbox management may seem basic, but it’s trickier than it sounds and it’s the lynchpin of everything else.

To make sure John is fully prepared for everything, we organise a daily ‘pack’ consisting of all the information he needs. Getting this information means liaising with anyone from internal colleagues to external businesses to Government departments and their Ministers. I also do a huge range of other things such as commissioning and collating briefings, arranging events, dealing with Parliamentary Questions and Freedom of Information requests. In addition to this, we have to have a good working knowledge of what’s going on in the world – politics, migration, trade and Brexit are all hot topics at the moment and people are looking to official statistics to make sense of things.

I need to be ready for anything that will be thrown John’s way; whether it’s a general query or a challenge on the data we’ve produced. As we liaise with people on John’s behalf, we need to know what we’re talking about.

In a nutshell, Private Office support John and his deputies to make sure they can do their jobs effectively and help produce Better Statistics for Better Decisions. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve found Private Office to be a busy, demanding place to be, but it’s also incredibly interesting, has great job satisfaction and a really supportive environment.

So, if you see me browsing in the shop, I promise it’s for my own lunch and not John’s!

Amy Williams