Gillian Powell is the Executive Assistant to David McGuire, Managing Director of Volvo Financial Services (VFS) Australia. She also supports two Vice Presidents at the company’s Australian office in Brisbane. “There is no such thing as a typical day for an Executive Assistant,” laughs Gillian. “We are so many different things to so many different people – this job is far more than diary management and travel bookings, although of course we do those things too! In a day I can go from being a sounding board to an ambassador for change, a confidante, a problem solver and everything in between! We’re included as part of the management team, so we’ve got a seat at the table and a voice in these meetings. We’ve got a holistic view of the business and we’re here for the whole team.”
The perfect job
Gillian didn’t set out to become an Executive Assistant. Previously she had a finance role and worked as an Assistant Accountant at Australia’s largest producer of small goods. Approximately 12 years later, one of the manager’s needed an Executive Assistant with a solid background in finance, and with her love for organizing, this seemed like the perfect job for Gillian. Following a company takeover, she left in 2016 – and that’s when she joined VFS.
“VFS is such a good company to work for,” says Gillian. “I can honestly say that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been at work. I am surrounded by amazing colleagues, I have a great boss, we have a fantastic company culture and they are investing in me, what more could I ask for?!”
Outside of work, Gillian enjoys spending time with her husband and 15-year-old son. “We like to travel and see new places,” say Gillian. “We go camping, kayaking and paddle boarding. In Queensland, we’re lucky that we get nice weather all year round.”
A few months ago, Gillian completed the Volvo Group’s Next Step program for Executive Assistants. The eight-month global program involved 27 Executive Assistants from different business areas taking part in training sessions where they developed their knowledge and competence in areas including Group products and services, AI and presentation skills. As well as remote sessions, the program involved two week-long face-to-face meetings – one in Sweden and one in Belgium – and working in teams on a project to present to the rest of the group. “My team worked on creating a global assistant network with a difference,” explains Gillian.
“We developed a networking platform, which was similar to speed dating, where assistants could quickly meet other assistants and learn from each other. Many of us weren’t experienced presenters, so doing the presentation really took me out of my comfort zone. I really appreciate being nominated for the program. VFS has invested in my development, and that means a lot. Expanding my network in this way was invaluable. I now have 26 colleagues around the world that I can call on if I need anything. I’d definitely recommend seizing these kinds of opportunities if they present themselves.”
After completing the program, Gillian spoke to one of the organizers about finding a mentor. She is now working with a Swedish colleague who supports an Executive Vice President at the Volvo Group’s headquarters. “It’s good to talk things out with someone who’s outside your own little bubble,” explains Gillian. “Because we’re in similar roles, she understands some of the challenges I face and can advise me on how to deal with different situations. Benefitting from a colleague’s experience like this is priceless.”
“I’m proud to be a woman of VFS.”