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A network for knowledge sharing

Maria Marsh tells how she came to set up the University of Manchester EA/PA Network

Maria Marsh – Founder of UoM-PA’s (The University of Manchester EA/PA Network), Executive Assistant to the Director, Dalton Nuclear Institute, The University of Manchester.

I started the UOM-PA network in April 2014. The idea originated some time ago as I was made redundant from my Police Authority Manager role in 2011 – my second police redundancy in 5 years, which prompted me to look outside of the police and pursue a new career path.

As part of my previous Authority role, I provided Executive Assistant (EA) support to the Chairman and Board and decided to seek a new role within this field. I was luckily provided with a career coach in 2011 in the form of Colin Parry OBE (IRA Peace Centre fame) and his mantra was network, network, network! This was re-enforced on an Exec PA Retreat shortly after where internal PA networks were advocated and one attendee had already set one up and discussed the benefits.

I joined the University in January 2012 and found the vastness of the site and disparate nature of the working areas difficult to navigate at first and, due to the busyness of the role never got to meet face-to-face all those colleagues I would deal with regularly by 'phone and email.

I raised the idea of a Faculty network with my Director in my appraisal and he was fully supportive, the idea was an alternative means to network and communicate with my EA & PA colleagues. I had been conversing with some PA colleagues for 2 years remotely before finally meeting them at the network events.

Through word of mouth I started receiving enquiries about the network from colleagues in other Faculty areas and, with the support of my Director and our Staff Training and Development Unit, decided to take the network wider across the entire University. As Manchester already enjoys a vibrant social PA network scene, I thought it important that my events would be different and support the ethos of self-development, with a topic theme and expert speaker.

Currently I have 132 office professionals on my network database and arrange several events throughout the year – these range from internal lunch and learn sessions to evening drinks events hosted by external venues. All events are run on the developmental theme and have included talks on subjects such as social networking, personal branding, Challenges for the 21st Century PA and TA-transactional analysis. I am a member of EuMA NW and have been lucky enough to secure the expertise of speakers and fellow members.

I am just launching our internal SharePoint site for the network which contains development articles, details of suitable webinars, linked-in groups, training etc. This also underpins the benefits of the network such as; improved communication, a support system / encouragement and sharing best practice, I have been able to build in a discussion board which will hopefully benefit those members not based in central Manchester. My ultimate aim is to share knowledge – knowledge is more powerful when shared.