Shamaiza Haider is the winner of the Deloitte UK EA of the Year and the current co-chair of the EA network at Deloitte.
Can we start with a little background information? Where are you from and what is your current role?
I was born and raised in Luton Bedfordshire (UK) which you may have heard of as it is renowned for featuring in the news. I live at home and if the commute to and from work was not always filled with some form of delay or cancellation, I would say it was a nice place to live despite the reputation it holds.
In terms of my role, I am currently a Senior Executive Assistant to two brilliant Partners and their super growth teams. The main team that I work for is Extended Enterprise Risk Management (EERM), led by Kristian Park with a team of 59 people and the other team; Equity Capital Markets is led by Richard Thornhill with a team of 30. Additionally, I am also the co-chair of the EA Network at Deloitte. It is a really varied and diverse role with no day ever being the same.
What is your background?
The youngest of 5 and perhaps the most troublesome as my parents would often say! I have a large family; which includes 8 nieces and nephews with baby no.9 on the way and they keep me busy outside of work.
Typically, within the Pakistani Asian culture, careers are not considered priorities for females, however, I was determined to go outside of the box. This included challenging the status quo and as a result, I subsequently ended up being the first female in the family to go to University. A huge accomplishment as there were a lot of barriers to getting there.
Post-graduation I thought I had it all worked out in terms of having a graduate job with the company I did my placement year with, however, life took a different turning and due to personal circumstances, I had to stay in Luton longer than I thought. I worked two jobs at the time; neither challenged me but were ideal for the short term. Knowing that I always need a challenge in my work, I began to search for a position that would provide me with a developing career as well as a job that I would love.
I firmly believe you should strive to find a job that you love, and if you do not love your job, then you must try to search for it until you find it. It is so easy to get bogged down by the thought of what we are expected to do, but to me, what really matters is what makes the individual happy as one size does not fit all.
How did you become an Assistant?
I would say by accident and one that I embrace wholeheartedly. I have never been one of those individuals that has had a life-long dream of a specific career I wanted, I can’t recall ever saying as a child, I wanted to be x, y or z and still to some degree, I am still evasive about the type of career I want.
My path to where I am right now started in one of my previous roles where a year or so into the role, I started taking on wider administrative duties for the team which I really enjoyed. I then started to apply for PA/EA roles and my first role came in the form of being a Junior PA at Harrods in the Personal Shopping department on a contractual basis. It was an enlightening period where I learnt a lot about basic PA duties as well as the wonderful world of Harrods, but when they did not know whether they could extend my contract, I ended up finding the role I am in now at Deloitte through a mutual contact. I applied thinking that I would not get the role but when I met my team lead, we hit it off and further on when I met my Partners, we got along so well that they called me as soon I got to the station after the interview to offer me the role. It was the best decision I made to say yes and I have never looked back since that day.
Congratulations on winning the Deloitte UK EA of the Year. Has winning this award changed your perception of your career or colleague’s perceptions of you?
Thank you so much! It’s a very exciting time for me and I am very humbled to have won this award!
I would definitely say it has changed the perception of my career, as I would like to hope that it continues to show the Senior Partners, not only in the whole of Deloitte but also in the service line that I fall under, that EAs are phenomenal people who are the backbone of a company. I have always been confident that if you take an EA out of the organisation; her/his Executive would not be able to function as effectively. Additionally, I think it has also shown me that with hard work, anything is possible and as I continue to carve out my own career, I look forward to all the new opportunities and challenges that will come on the way.
I am fortunate that I have a very strong network of colleagues at Deloitte, including my main Partner (Kristian) and team (EERM) who have believed in me from the start, so much so that they were completely confident that I would win this award. It is fulfilling to have that kind of belief and support behind you. It encourages you to keep trying and to also keep working hard.
What are the main changes you have seen in the time you have been an Assistant?
For me, when I started as an Assistant, I always knew that I didn’t want to go down the traditional route i.e. diary management, time sheets, travel bookings and expenses. Whilst these responsibilities interested me, I wanted more, as I deem that an EA is mandatory to the success of an Executive and it is so encouraging to see that there is a real change in the industry at the moment, which is now looking at the EA as so much more than just a traditional secretary.
There is scope where we are now considered advisors and business managers and an integral part of the leadership team. For me, that is very exciting as it means the role can become so much more than what it once was.
In my role within EERM, I am involved with aspects such as Recruitment, Talent and Client Roundtables to name a few and in the near future, I want to take it up a notch and be involved with strategy and vision of the actual business.
As an EA, we are self-governing to the group and we have a view that others can’t see and the future of the evolving EA role excites me. What helps is that my Partners support this completely and have always encouraged me to go beyond the norm and go above and beyond. Having a mutual understanding with your Executives is crucial to both of your success.
What inspires and motivates you?
Looking at some of the taboos in my culture such as being career orientated always motivates me to be different, to question the status quo, to challenge the things that others may not and especially to never settle. I love my job and the people that I work for, and I wish that for everyone because you want to be motivated to come into work. Even when there are hard times because it’s not always a happy go lucky role; you still want to know you are appreciated. I have that with my role and that alone motivates me to keep going, even on the days that I may not want to.
What advice would you give someone just starting out as an Assistant?
Do not be afraid to ask questions. I have only been in my role a few years but to this day, I still ask questions all the time and own up to your mistakes; you will be respected so much more if you say I did this wrong but here’s how I will make it right. It’s fundamental to ensuring you will do a great job, as we are all human and prone to making mistakes.
However, the biggest thing is to take the time to understand your Executive. This really does take time and effort but the results will be worth it. Work out what they like, don’t like and aim to stay one step ahead. They will appreciate your effort and hopefully return it back to you. Having a strong partnership with your Executive is key.
So what’s next for Shamaiza Haider? Where do you want to be in five years time?
Five years seems so far away and yet in a blink of an eye, it will be here. In that time, I hope to be in a Chief of Staff position with Kristian and his team and continuing my career at Deloitte. I also would like to take on the lead chair role for the EA Network and continue working with amazing people who are all successful in their own right. The goal for me is not only to be successful but also to be happy whilst doing it.