lucy MacDonald

View my CV

who am i?

I’m a people person.

An optimist.

An extrovert.

I can talk to pretty much anyone about anything.

I have an infectious laugh.

I’m in the wrong job.

what am i looking for?

New and exciting work opportunities which allow me to combine what I am good at with what I love. 

What am I good at? 

Communicating.

Organising and project planning.

Designing.

Problem solving & logical thinking.

Delivering.

What do I love? 

Variation.

Being challenged.

An element of surprise nestled among the routine.

Diversity.

Being in a vibrant environment surrounded by inspiring and energetic people who want to nurture talent.

Autonomy to make decisions and lead.

Mutual respect and understanding.

I am a personal assistant, but that does not mean I want to stay one forever

I have over 7 years PA experience, but I feel my talent is wasted simply moving meetings around in a diary.

Allow me to be challenged.

Allow my creativity to run.

Am I worth a risk?

Well, this website didn’t build itself.

This ‘personal brand’ didn’t create itself.

This content did not write itself.

lessons I have learnt

It wasn’t until I sat down to create this website that I realised with each and every role I had undertaken, there was a lesson to be learned.

Recognise a good opportunity when you see it.

Know when it’s the right time to move on.

Listen to your heart.

Don’t let other people’s opinions prevent you from forming your own. 

All good things must come to an end. 

Never trust a wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

There is such a thing as being too honest. 

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Be bold. Be brave. 

If you’d like to read more about how I came to these conclusions, read on… I left school after completing my A Levels; having rejected an offer to study at The University of Birmingham.

I know people say you shouldn’t live with regrets, but I do regret my decision not to go to university. But at 18, I suffered from short-sightedness and didn’t fully appreciate how many doors a degree would open later on in life.

I often catch myself wondering what friends I would have made and what experiences I might have had if I’d gone to University, but I try not to dwell on this too much. Not having ‘BA’ after my name hasn’t stopped me from getting where I am today.

1: recognise a good opportunity when you see it

So after leaving Sixth Form, I threw myself into full-time employment. My first job was working at The Passport Office, processing passport applications.

It was as dull as dishwater and I hated the repetitive nature and target driven element to the job. There was absolutely no room for creative thinking. It was, and of course needed to be, entirely process driven.

I moved into the Fraud Department which was so much more exciting! I felt like I was catching baddies and doing my bit for society. It was, for what it was worth, interesting work. I enjoyed flirting with the policemen when they came into the office to “meet and greet” applicants who clearly weren’t all-that kosher and I thought at the time I might like to pursue a career as an Intelligence Analyst.

So, I got a job with Cambridgeshire Constabulary in their Criminal Records disclosure office. At the time I saw it as a ‘foot in the door’ opportunity; learn the systems which the Police use, learn the lingo, make some contacts within the organisation, do a good job, get a good review and wait until a Junior Analyst role became available.

That was not to be.

The job was so repetitive, so mundane. Any applicant who crossed my desk with anything even remotely ‘juicy’ on their record got whisked away from me and dealt with by a more senior team member. It was heavily target driven and what’s worse, you could hear a pin drop in the office. No one would talk to each other because everyone was concentrating on their work. Or supposed to be.

I was 21 and could not have been anymore switched off. My performance at first was excellent, but after 4 or 5 months of suffering from the monotony, it quickly began to tail off. In all honesty, this job was a square peg, and I was a round hole.

It was not for me so I handed my notice in before my performance issues got me fired! I jumped ship before I was pushed.

2. know when it is the right time to move on

I moved to Travelex – the foreign exchange company where I got a job as an Accreditation Analyst in the B2B arm of the business. Again, I was in denial that this was the right kind of work for me.

Conducting ‘due diligence’ on businesses and deciding how much credit to allow them did not float my boat one bit. The only savior of this job is that the small team of people around me was relatively young, I worked with a girl of a similar age who had similar interests and opposite us was this hilarious guy called Anant.

As a trio, we’d have such a hoot which made the work more bearable and we quickly became friends. Exchanging CD’s, DVD’s (I’m 99% sure Anant still has my DVD copy of ‘Goodbye, Lenin’). We’d go out to bars or meet up at the local indie club together on a Friday night.

This job was very much a ‘living for the weekend’ sort of job. Our boss worked in the Kingsway office in London – so as long as we were getting through the files they didn’t really care what we got up to.

The work was still a square peg, and I was still a round hole. Then one day I saw an advert internally for a Marketing Assistant. It sounded amazing so I went for it and without any prior marketing experience, I got it!

3: listen to your heart

It had taken me 3 jobs to realise that heavily process driven, repetitive tasks were not the key to my success.

Ana was the Marketing Director for the Prepaid Foreign Exchange Cards division of Travelex and after just a couple of chats over coffee she warmed to me and gave me a shot at the job. Part of the role was basic PA duties for her which I had never done before. She knew that but was happy to let me learn on the job.

I was a bit scared of making a mistake but I adapted to the role quickly and loved it. The business went through some significant change. The division I was now working for was acquired by MasterCard, and during this separation process from Travelex, Ana left and I was asked to look after the European Sales Director, Head of Product Development and the new Global Head of Marketing. I had gone from looking after one diary to three!

We moved two floors up within the same building and all was good. Michelle was the Global Head of Marketing and she was like a breath of fresh air. She had so much belief in me and got me involved with loads of fun and interesting marketing projects.

She encouraged me to apply for a Marketing Manager’s role but it reported into someone that one of my close friends at work had a tough time with. So I let that opportunity slip right through my fingers.

Of course, there’s nothing to say that I was guaranteed to get the job anyway, but I do sometimes wonder where I might be now if I’d have chosen that as a career path.

4: do not let opinions prevent you from forming your own

I stayed put in the same job, Michelle had left and things weren’t quite the same. They were asking more and more of me, which I was taking on without so much of a grumble but I wasn’t seeing anything in return. I’d asked for a rise and was categorically told no; despite having an excellent end of year review and could clearly document all the additional work I’d been delivering.

I’d had enough of being taken for a mug so I put some feelers out and started to explore my options elsewhere. It didn’t take me too long to find a new job working for a local .com business called Kiddicare.

I was going to be working for the Operations Director and the company had just been bought by Morrisons supermarkets for £92million. It was about to go through a rapid expansion plan and Simon’s job was to open up 10 stores across the country and control the whole operation.

I was in my element in this job.

There were no processes, no manuals – Simon’s job was to come in and write the operating manual for the entire company – nothing existed, so in the meantime, it was a case of “here’s what needs to be done – go and figure out a way to do it!”.

The office was buzzy, it was cool – even though I didn’t have kids of my own, I still loved the business. When the new Commercial Director came on board I was asked to look after him too, which was a great honour and Alex was by far, the best person I’ve had the pleasure of working for.

I loved my job because, alongside the routine tasks of diary management and travel, both Simon and Alex got me involved in projects that had a huge impact on the whole company. Projects that I had come up with the initial idea and seen through to implementation.

It allowed me to flourish creatively.

Sadly it was all to come to a halt when Morrisons made the decision to sell the business and it was taken over by Venture Capitalists. Around 75% of staff lost their jobs – all the stores were sold off and closed. Simon moved back to Morrisons plc and Alex left.

I had no one to look after.

I was redundant.

5: all good things must come to an end

Being on the receiving end of redundancy is tough.

After leaving kiddicare.com I temped for a bit just to pay the bills and then found a job working for a large local insurance company, BGL. I would be the HR Assistant in their ‘brand led’ department. BGL are the brains behind the hugely successful comparethemarket.com [think Alexander Meerkat] and the ‘brand led’ department was where they grew and nurtured their young digital brands. It comprised of their life Insurance brand and two ‘cookie cutter’ replicas of comparethemarket.com in France and The Netherlands.

The Associate Director of HR was a lady who at first I thought was lovely, but then again I was a bit naive.

It took no time at all before colleagues would start asking “how are things going with her?”. I would get asked this time and time again until it got to the point where I started to wonder why they were so interested in my welfare at work.

It really began to play on my mind.

Why should things NOT be going well?

After only a matter of weeks, colleagues started telling me stories of previous assistants who had difficulty with this woman. People had submitted formal grievances against her and over a matter of months, I started to realise first hand just why.

Things eventually came to a head with this woman and I was prepared to lodge my own formal grievance against her. Around the same time, my mother had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and it made me sit up and see that life is too short to be miserable at work.

I put my grievance in at the same time of handing in my notice.

I worked my notice and handed over to the next poor soul.

The person who took over from me lasted 2 days.

I lasted 9 months and that was by far the longest anyone of her assistants had stuck it out.

Does that make me brave or just plain stupid?

6: never trust a wolf in sheeps clothing

I kept in touch with some friends I’d made at BGL and found out that only a couple of months later my former boss had been fired for misconduct.

She’d put the nail in the coffin herself when she’d been recorded saying something highly offensive to an executive headhunter on a conference call.

I’m pleased that I had left because did I really want to be working for a company who employed someone like her and refused to look at the rate she was getting through assistants and asking if they might have a bad apple.

I was desperate to find a job like the one I had at kiddicare.com and a boss like Alex. Ultimately, bills need paying and I wasn’t in a position to be able to take my time finding my next move.

When a position came up at AB Sugar (the parent company of British Sugar), it had a clear progression path. My boss would be the current CEO’s PA, and throughout the whole interview process, she had made it clear that they were looking for someone to succeed her and take over managing the CEO’s office.

By now I was 27 years old and I thought that to make PA to CEO of a subsidiary of a FTSE 100 company (Associated British Foods plc) within a couple of years would make me highly successful. Successful at least on paper.

I got the job; I was responsible for looking after the Director of Business Development and Sustainability.

I just wish I’d asked for a meeting with this guy before accepting the job. Instead, I’d interviewed with the CEO’s PA, the CEO himself and the HR Director. They all liked me. But not the guy I was to be working for.

Dan was an odd character. He would never give anything away. I’m not naive enough to believe you can get through life loving everyone you meet or have them love you, but I do think it’s fair to expect politeness from colleagues and peers.

He was just rude.

I was frightened of him.

Our communication styles were not suited, which was a shame because on the occasion I got to cover for Jane and look after the CEO, I’d always been highly praised. But even the temptation of making CEO’s PA wasn’t enough to keep me in the job.

Culturally they had big problems.

The office looked like it hadn’t been updated since 1985. My grandmother used to work for British Sugar and she had a very happy and successful career there which spanned many years.

I am certain I was sat at the same desk my Grandmother had sat at all those years ago, answering the same phone. Plus the CEO’s office was unbearably quiet. You could hear a pin drop.

7: do not be afraid of asking questions

While I was at AB Sugar I got engaged. I suddenly realised I needed to earn more money to save and pay for the wedding of my dreams.

My current earnings weren’t going to cut it.

The draw of London was strong but when you take into account the cost of travel it was really not a viable option for me at the time.

Cambridge however was just about do-able.

I started to focus my search on roles in Cambridge and one day got a call about an opportunity for a luxury leather goods company. Would I be interested in finding out more the recruitment consultant asked? Would I hell!? YES!

It transpired that Julie Deane, founder and creator of The Cambridge Satchel Company was in the market for a new PA, and she liked the look of my CV. An interview was arranged and I met with her at Carluccio’s in Cambridge.

I have very fond recollections of this meeting with her – she was such an inspiring lady and I have never wanted a job more in my entire life. I’d made it through to the second round of interviews and was put infront of two of her most trusted senior colleagues.

This interview was more difficult than the chat with Julie – they were tough and gave nothing away. It was all going well until the Head of Design asked a question right towards the end. They’d just struck a coup with a collaboration with Vivienne Westwood who had designed some patterns for the bags.

He asked me what I thought.

I was honest.

A little too honest.

I said while I thought the collaboration with Vivienne was amazing for the brand, I didn’t really like the designs. I think the words “garish” might have been mentioned; caveated by me saying “but that’s just because I’m a bit of a ‘plain Jane’ and like simple designs”.

I didn’t get the job.

They never did say why, but I’m 100% certain it is because I offended the chief designer. And Vivienne Westwood in the process.

8: there is such a thing as being too honest

I was still 27 and this was the first time I’d faced rejection.

In all my previous job applications I had been offered the job.

On one occasion with a small IT events company, they practically begged me to join, but they weren’t prepared to pay what I needed for the commute to Cambridge. I had always been the one in control; either accepting or rejecting offers.

I wasn’t used to being on the receiving end of rejection and didn’t quite know how to process it.

Even in my personal life with relationships, I hadn’t suffered rejection. I’d passed all my exams in school with good grades, I’d been accepted unconditionally at a Top 20, Russell Group UK university, I’d always been offered the job.

How dare they reject ME!?

It took a while to brush myself down and pick myself up and a few weeks later I got a call from the same consultant this time about an opportunity with AstraZeneca.

9: what does not kill you, makes you stronger

Not getting the job with The Cambridge Satchel company didn’t kill me.

It just made me more determined to be successful in my next job search.

I’d done some research on AstraZeneca. I knew they were pharmaceutical, but I didn’t know they’d developed and manufactured the drug my Mum was on for her Breast Cancer.

I felt a tie to the company; that I could be a part of something which made a difference in people’s lives – that saved people’s lives.

Or at least that’s what I tried to tell myself.

Really, at the back of my mind, all I could see were the pound signs and potential £12,000 annual rise in pay.

I was offered the job and started in the December of 2015.

The daily A14 commute was about to commence…

10: be bold. be brave

It had been nearly a year since I started with AstraZeneca when my engagement to Matthew came to an abrupt end.

There would be no wedding. In that time I’d also lose my grandmother and my uncle. I went through counseling for 3 months and I’m not afraid or ashamed to talk about that.

It was a time where I didn’t feel particularly bold or particularly brave.

I would take the brave decision move to Cambridge to be closer to work. Lots happened.

I’ve since realised that life is about being happy and fulfilled and making the most of your skills.

I would much rather be working and doing something I love than be bored at my desk for 8 hours a day.

So the time has come to be bold, be brave and follow my heart into something inside I scream “yes!” to.

While I don’t know what the future will look like, I’m very excited about the journey which awaits and the adventure to come…