Find out more about how the BBO PA Network came to be with an exclusive interview with Founder Sarah Howson.
When and why did you set up the BBO PA Network?
I set up the network whilst I was on maternity leave back in 2015 after struggling to find any local PA networking events in Buckinghamshire. I ventured onto social media and found I had the support of a fantastic PA community offering encouragement to set one up myself! Initially the network just covered Buckinghamshire, in October 2018 the network rebranded and expanded to cover Berkshire and Oxfordshire also. A successful launch event was held at Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in March 2019 where over 70 EAs, PAs and VAs from all three counties came along to support the event. The feedback received after the event was very positive and confirmed that a network was very much needed. I absolutely love organising events and have the help and support of a wonderful committee too.
What are the key objectives of the networking group?
The network’s objectives are to provide a platform for business support professionals (EAs, PAs, VAs and Office Managers) to share best practice, discuss ideas, build relationships, inspire and learn from one another all in a friendly and supportive environment. We have been fortunate enough to have had some interesting and thought-provoking speakers covering a wide range of business related topics such as personal branding, influencing, networking etc… We’ve also been lucky enough to visit some amazing venues. We want all members to leave BBO Network events feeling inspired! Smart Works Reading is our nominated charity partner which is a wonderful cause, being able to raise money and donate clothing at our events is a great way to support our local community.
What do you enjoy most about the network?
I am passionate about people. Networking with other likeminded peers is fun and has really inspired me. I’ve had such wonderful feedback from past events, it’s so rewarding to hear of connections that have led to someone getting a job or where someone has been given advice an event that made a positive difference. Being able to support and build one another up is so rewarding as is witnessing assistants who are just starting out in their career grow in confidence from event to event.
Where do you want to see it in the next 5 years?
I really want to see the network expand into an active online/offline community and become the ‘go-to’ website for Bucks, Berks and Oxon PAs – full of useful blogs, great content and ‘little black book’ contacts that PAs have to have. Some of the larger PA Networks hold conferences and awards ceremonies – that would be the longer term goal for the network. A total inspiration to me is the fabulous Manchester PA Network, they are just BRILLIANT!