Skevi Constantinou is an Executive Assistant and the founder of The PA Way, a lifestyle platform for administrative professionals
What is your background?
I originally trained as a chef when I left school as I truly am French at heart (my Cypriot parents are so confused by me!) so my only focus was to train in French cooking with the hope that one day I would meet my hero, Michel Roux Jr, to tell him how much of an inspiration he was to me. Unfortunately, shortly after completing my qualification, I had an accident which tore some shoulder muscles and I was then deemed too slow in the kitchen, so the doctors advised me to get an office job as I would not be allowed to work in the kitchens again. It was hard to digest this information, but opportunity only falls on a negative mind, so I knew I had to re-train in something else.
How did you become an Assistant?
By default. My whole passion was to cook and live the French life in Paris, but that accident changed my life and I am actually grateful. Being in the kitchen taught me discipline beyond measure and how to work under pressure and not crack. I got myself an admin role and then walked into the CFO’s office one random day and said, “I want to be your PA” and he looked at me and said, “I am not recruiting?” A few weeks later, I became his assistant and that was the game changer. I am addicted to this industry and everything it encompasses. My skills are completely transferrable (minus the food creation) and I used these to level up.
What are the main challenges you face in your role as an assistant?
I have faced a few challenges and I think the one I found the “hardest” was dealing with people who aren’t wired to be emotional as I am such an empath. I have dealt with some top-level Head Chefs, who would scream and swear at you during service as the pressure is immense, but at the end of the service, they would come over and give the team a hug and congratulate you on a great job. It’s like nothing happened over the last 3 hours.
In the corporate world, it’s very different and I found people can go days, weeks, without even speaking to you, so you have to ensure you don’t take it too personally. Another challenge in offices is staying out of office politics and switching off from the gossip. It’s irrelevant in my world, I want people to succeed and be the best they can be. I don’t want to hear about people’s failures and why it’s great. Talk to me about your fellow Assistant and why they are awesome, we are a community, we need to stick together as we are already faced with challenges as it is.
What are the main changes you have seen in your time as an assistant?
The evolution of an assistant. I have worked with other assistants where their confidence was rock bottom and they would work insane hours to get the event done for the gala dinner with 1000 people and then their Executives wouldn’t even acknowledge their hard work. With assistant networks and award ceremonies, I feel the voice of the assistant is being acknowledged and it really is exciting, but I still feel we have a long way to go. The fact that the majority of assistants literally have to put in a business case for training, yet other colleagues can go on training with no questions asked, blows my mind. It’s time to make a stand and yet it’s the most exciting time to cause this revolution!
What inspires and motivates you?
Life, people and music inspires me. If I am feeling low or need a positive outlook, I have the playlist to help- I cannot function without music to be honest! The journey of self-discovery motivates me the most. My self-drive to inspire change motivates me- what purpose do we have as humans if we cannot help others? Assistants inspire me, every single one of them. I have such respect for our industry, we are the game changers!
What advice would you give someone just starting out as an Assistant?
Ask yourself how you react to bad news or being told you have not delivered. If you take it too personally, you won’t survive. I have realised this over time. You need thick skin. Additionally, research and read up on a basic job description and see what your strengths are and what magic you can add to the mix. The job can be what you want it to be, you just need to find your superpower and own it!
Tell us about The PA Way. What inspired you to set up a lifestyle platform for administrative professionals?
Ah, The PA Way. The darling I never knew I loved until it showed up unexpectedly 13th February 2018 in my dreams and since then, I fall in love with it more each day. The PA Way is a lifestyle platform aimed to inspire, empower and motivate assistants to become the wildly successful assistants they are and deserve to be but in a fun and informative way.
I wanted to create a haven for our industry to share knowledge, experience high level events, be treated like a boss, drink the champagne that you order for your boss, visit the 5 star hotels that you book for your boss but there is no boss in sight. Only us! The PA Way equips you with knowledge and experiences to help you be the Allstar Assistant and gets you to level up! Being in your comfort zone will kill you, it’s time to push your boundaries and shake things up!
So, what’s next for Skevi Constantinou?
Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time? Honestly speaking, just to be alive. Due to health challenges I face in my personal life on a daily basis, being alive is the only gift. Having a heartbeat should not be deemed a luxury but one that is a God-given gift and I only plan a short period ahead. Health aside, I still have dreams and goals, so I would like The PA Way to continue to empower assistants, I would like to stop eating carbohydrates on the level that I do because there is no excuse ha ha! My career goal would be to one day speak at either Microsoft or Facebook but also to go to the World Administrators Summit – that summit only has one word to describe it and it is iconic.