How a positive mindset makes an awesome VA!

by Debbie Potts
21 August 2020

The other day I came across an article about just how much can be achieved by having a positive mindset and this resonated with me as I thought about where I am right now in my life and the journey I have embarked on. Allow me to tell you how I believe a positive mindset has helped my evolution to a virtual assistant and loving what I do.

I left my home in Zimbabwe at the age of 20 and came to the United Kingdom, the land of my paternal forefathers. I had no idea what was in store for a young girl from southern Africa! I decided to settle in London as I was in awe of this beautifully diverse city and all it had to offer. Being in London had my world exploding with new places to explore, new cultures to experience, new foods to taste, new sounds to take in and best of all, since I am a lover of people, new people from faraway places I had only dreamt of, and now they were right there to talk to, engage with, learn from and befriend!

Now, throughout my school education, it was instilled in me to be of the mindset that I am an asset wherever I go, so of course I did not hesitate one bit when I reached out to a school friend who had moved to London a little while before me and was gainfully employed by a solicitors’ practice near Baker Street, W1. I confidently asked her whether I could have an appointment with her boss to discuss my ‘potential’ employment with the firm. After an interview with one of the partners, and literally 24 hours later, I was working as a legal secretary! Back then, the recruitment process was very different to what it is today and everything moved much faster. Now I had attended a typing course at high school and thought I was so advanced, having learnt to type on the ‘oh so modern’ Olympic typewriter. I could even change the red and black ribbon with great ease so working as a typist would be an absolute piece of pie!

I remember my first day at work at the solicitors' office back in 1988, being sat in front of something called a ‘golf-ball’ typewriter, perplexed and full of wonder, thinking ‘what on earth…’. This is the UK so where are all the ‘advanced Olympic’ typewriters, I thought? After hearing the thumping revolving of the metal ball with embossed letters of the alphabet and the bashing of keystrokes coming from all the electric typewriters in the open plan office, together with the short, sharp ringing of bells at different intervals as each one in turn reached the end of the line they were typing, I couldn't help but think I had landed in some advanced and brilliantly choreographed production centre. So, with my mind made up to embrace this ‘new’ machine I couldn’t wait to add my clinging, bashing and ringing to this orchestra of golf-ball typewriters in the room!

Fast forward a few years and the firm's motherly office manager, we’ll call her Mrs R, informed us that our typewriters would be replaced by something new. The positive mindset in me thought hello word processor and wow, how advanced are we! Huge bulky computers with black screens, green text and hard plastic discs that stored the documents we were to be working on replaced our beloved golf-ball typewriters. Overnight, the open plan office became a place of quiet calm with just the tapping of keyboards and the occasional weird electronic beeping sound when our word processors had to think for a bit or when the speed of our nimble fingers was far too quick for the green text on the screen to keep up! In time,after the novelty had worn off, there was so much more chatter and laughter in the office, with the occasional bellowing from Mrs R telling us that there was work to be done from the in-basket and less chatter and more speed!

Fast forward another few years and our MS DOS word processors were replaced by slightly smaller slimmer computers. This time, when you turned on your screen, a lovely colourful blue, yellow and green logo appeared – this was the new windows operating system! The screen background was now a cool white and the text on the screen was black, with a few choices of different fonts. We were all so keen and enthusiastic about the in-house training, we couldn’t wait to become experts in this super-advanced new technology! Forget the laggards, in our minds we were the early adopters and could not wait to get stuck in and become trailblazing windows experts! If I remember correctly, sickness absence levels drastically decreased over the next 12 months because everyone was so keen to be in this advanced environment, no one dared to call in sick for fear of missing out some vital training!

I spent the next 15 years or so, working in the legal sector for both UK and US law firms around the West End and the City of London, soaking up as much good practice as I could and fully embracing the speed at which technology progressed, my mind continually set on aiming to master any system that was thrust upon us. I soon became the go-to person amongst my colleagues. I felt that I was a great asset to the firm and I loved it!

After my second daughter gained a scholarship to a boarding school, I decided that a change in work direction was necessary so that I could spend as much time with her as possible when she came home during the long school holidays. I set about putting on my thinking cap in search of a job that would give us the balance we needed. Lightbulb moment when I was dropping her off at school one day! I could work in a school office, I told myself. I have years and years of great skills which I was sure any school would greatly benefit from. So I diligently set about writing to all the primary schools in my area telling them what a great person I was, my attention to detail gained from years of working in the legal sector and of course my passion for technology and systems. (In my mind this was a done deal!)

Now, I did get quite a few knock backs and it took me two years before I managed to secure a position as an administrator/project manager at an education training centre working term time only. Not quite a school but having all the school holidays off was great. My boss at this time was one of the most disorganised people and his office resembled a cave filled with piles of paper and files scattered everywhere. So I set about transforming his office by organising and clearly labelling his filing system and digitising everything of importance for ease of reference. On his return, he asked if there had been an office reshuffle as he was convinced that he was in the wrong room. I took him through his newly organised office and I could see the perplexed looked on his face fade away as he wondered how he had ever managed before. From there, it took 9 months for the headteacher of a local school to come to the centre, step into my manager’s office and wonder who the office fairy was. She thought about how she would love someone like this at her school! Before I knew it, I had been encouraged to apply for a position at this school and so I began my new role as School Business Manager, transferrable skills in hand!

And now, with this mass of transferrable skills in hand, and a strong desire to take ownership of my professional life, delivering a meaningful and purpose-driven service as well as continued learning to feed my growth mindset, it seemed so obvious that a virtual assistant is what I should be. So here I am, finally evolved into a virtual assistant with the mindset that I really am an asset wherever I go and that I absolutely do love helping people, building relationships and being a part of their journey. I am delighted to offer my services to you and your business so that you can regain that valuable time you need to focus on what is important to you. I love being excited about what I do which ultimately means that I love what I do and therefore I do great work!

So, I’d like to pass some of that positive mindset on to you and you never know, today could be the start of something new and exciting!

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Before I end this blog post, I would just like to say that I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Well I think it also takes a village to make an awesome virtual assistant. Therefore I have a village of people to thank for joining me in the power of a positive mindset and always being so encouraging.

Nelson Mandela