Victoria Parker is Senior Vice President of Theatrical Productions at The Weinstein Company. She is Executive Producer of two shows on Broadway this season, “Finding Neverland” and “The New York Spring Spectacular starring The Rockettes”. Originally from England where she graduated from Oxford University, she lives in New York.
A couple of pointers to note – I work in film and television where the role of assistant is commonly someone under 25 years old who is looking to grow into an executive position. Therefore the tenure is usually 2 years max. I currently have a male assistant, I have had both male and female and I have no preference. I was an assistant 10 years ago for 2 years, I was an executive assistant who travelled with my boss, so I have included some thoughts below on that role too, but it was with the Chairman of a company and so had a very different set of requirements.
What educational qualifications do you insist on / Do you require your PA to have a degree?
I’m looking for a college graduate, but beyond that I do not believe there should be a specific degree requirement to be a PA; I always have felt that it comes down to intellectual curiosity and dedication. A great PA can have a major in Theatre or Chemistry . The more important question for me is “Is this someone who I trust?”. I look for someone to be a self-starter, confident, with a strong interest in the film, theatre industry.
Would you agree that behind every great business leader is a great PA?
While I don’t usually like to make those sorts of generalizations, what I do believe is that in order to achieve your full potential in the sphere of business, learning to manage and delegate are the most important skills. Finding someone whom you can trust with all elements of your personal life is the ultimate in a trusting working relationship, as it is handling what is most dear to you. So if you have someone in your life who can share that responsibility, I think it renders you much, much more effective. So in answer to your question, yes I do agree.
What makes a great PA over a competent PA?
A competent PA is one who does what is told and can make mistakes, but learns to resolve them going forward. A great PA is always 20 steps ahead of me, anticipating my day, my week, my year, understanding my priorities without needing to be explained, and someone who can help solve problems and doesn’t take no for an answer. That is how I was trained, and therefore it’s how I approach all aspects of my work life. Also, how you handle a mistake is another key trust builder. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you communicate it and how you resolve it that can help build the right sort of working relationship. If someone tries to cover up a mistake they have made, it erodes all trust and makes me question them on every front and it’s a big no-no for me.
How you handle a mistake is another key trust builder. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you communicate it and how you resolve it that can help build the right sort of working relationship.
Do you think the importance of emotional intelligence in a PA is sometimes overlooked for a strong skill set?
Yes, I think it’s an important skill in life period, and one you usually can’t teach. Ranging from choosing the right moment to bring something up, and when not to, to a sense of compassion and looking out for my well being. As my representative and ambassador in the work place, from a phone call, to greeting someone at the office, I want someone to represent me upholding my style and values, and it requires an instinctual understanding of who you are working for.
Would you agree that chemistry is the key ‘ingredient’ for a successful long term working relationship between the PA & Principal?
Absolutely. A working relationship between a PA and Principal will always have a learning curve involved. Both will need to understand each other’s ways of working and communicating. At the end of the day, if there’s no chemistry, the work simply does not get done well and the two are left stranded.
What key attributes, traits and skills do you look for above all others when employing a PA?
As mentioned earlier, I always seek people who have strong common sense and people skills. I want to know that my assistant is professional and confident as he or she is always my front-line. I also need to trust that they will get something done, and once I’ve put it on their plate, I shouldn’t have to think about it again.
How do you keep your PA motivated?
Make sure he/she is not over-burdened. Sometimes, I need to put myself in check to make sure what I’m saying is clear and not overwhelming. There are always stressful moments; but it’s key to step away from those and take a break. Communication is the key, taking the time on a regular basis to check-in that we are working well together and the volume of work is manageable, and also understanding the goals of your PA and keeping those in mind as they grow within your office/company.
Communication is the key, taking the time on a regular basis to check-in that we are working well together…
Is your PA a confidante and sounding board for you?
Not usually for me, except for a PA who worked with me for 2+ years which is longer than the normal PA and in the end she became a part of most of the things I did on a daily basis – I would have wanted to promote her to be an executive but she chose to leave the company.
Do you empower your PA by allowing autonomous decision making in any key areas?
Very much dependent on trust, and I’m inclined perhaps more onto the side of micro managing. But I aspire to have more of an autonomous PA.
Do you encourage ambition in your PA by offering a structured career path into an alternative role within your organisation?
In my business of movies and theatre, career paths are rarely linear. Thus, it’s always hard to know what the best path is for an individual. Sometimes, timing and circumstances play such a huge factor that it can be beyond anyone’s control. At the same time, I always look to provide the best advice and guidance possible. My success will only be as strong as my assistant’s.
Would the lack of a PA impede your everyday output?
Yes, for sure.
Are you conscious of boundaries where a task may be classified as beyond the call of duty?
Yes, and when I’m not, he will remind me of it!
Is your PA an ambassador for you and your office?
Ambassador is the perfect word. My assistant is not just supporting me, but he’s supporting my career and our overall business. Thus, I must be able to rely on him to represent the best version of me both inside and outside the company.