I work for ... the director of the Hayward Gallery: Sharon Kent is PA to Susan Ferleger Brades

I am Australian and only intended to stay in England temporarily, but then I fell in love and married. When my temping agency gave me this job I was looking for part-time work, but it quickly became obvious that this was a full-time position. I was a little frightened at the prospect of working for someone at such a high level. I could see that Susan was unbelievably busy, and initially I thought that I would never be able to keep up with her. However we hit it off well. She's very frenetic, but the more crazy her workload becomes, the calmer I try to be. Deep down I do get a bit panicky sometimes, but I don't let it show.

I started working for Susan when she was made director. I had worked with her for a year before my job was advertised, but by that stage I had formed such a strong attachment to her that I hoped that no one else would apply - luckily, they didn't.

Susan is American, tall and very imposing. She dresses in smart business suits with nippy skirts, bright tights and high heels, and she always has immaculate nails. Her bangles are one of her trademarks; people know when she's around because they can hear the jangling. The Hayward is a passion for her and she wants the best for it. She's very involved in plans for the site development of the gallery which will go ahead if we receive the funding. But when she's not working she's devoted to her family; her son's annual school concert, for example, takes priority over everything else.

Before I worked here I didn't have a strong interest in contemporary art and had no knowledge of the Hayward or even the South Bank, so it's been quite a learning curve for me. In fact I think it's important that I don't have aspirations to join the art world, because what Susan needs is a good assistant, rather than a PA who wants to run exhibitions. I was really surprised to see how many people there are in the art world; I had always imagined it to be quite a small network. When I was new to the job I asked a caller whether he was going to be present at the Howard Hodgkin exhibition. He was astonished, and answered, "But of course. Don't you know who I am?" He turned out to be David Sylvester, the distinguished art critic. Now I always make sure that I am suitably impressed when an eminent person calls.

I thought that I wouldn't be able to handle formality, but I think that my being Australian allows me to be more casual and laid-back in my approach - if I can make a joke, I will. I recently met the sculptor Anish Kapoor, having spoken to him many times on the phone, and we both laughed because we'd each expected the other to look quite different. Exhibitors tend to look more like normal people than weird artists.

Susan is very methodical and highly efficient. Her attention to detail is remarkable considering the speed at which she works. There are days when everyone in the office wants an appointment with her, and it's up to me to prioritise the requests. She travels a lot and often has to fly somewhere at short notice. Luckily I've got a good travel agent, but the organisation of trips can still be difficult. When Susan had to go to Tokyo I bought a map of the city and worked out how she would get from one place to another, booking her into meetings with gallery directors accordingly. I felt like a virtual traveller. She didn't have time to be briefed on her itinerary until the night before she left, but apparently the trip went like clockwork.

Our offices are on the top of the Royal Festival Hall and we have a wonderful view of the Thames, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. In summer time it's a lovely place to be, although the building heats up like an oven. One of the nicest things about the office is our rule that if anyone goes away they bring back food for everyone else.

I really like working for a woman which came as something of a surprise after having heard so many bad tales of female bosses. Susan respects me and unlike a lot of male bosses she takes care of her personal appointments and would never ask me to do anything domestic, like picking up her dry- cleaning. She is always apologetic when asking me for something like a cup of tea, although I tell her there's no need for her to be.

Susan and I laugh together a lot. She has a little system of sticking cat stickers on to my computer if I have done a job particularly well, rather like giving me gold stars. I really couldn't imagine what could happen to make me pack up and leave her.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor