Secretarial: Minding the man who minds the minders

I Work For; Karen Drake is PA to Ken Dulieu, chairman of the security firm Capitol Group
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The Independent Culture
BEFORE I came to work for Ken, I thought that I had moved out of secretarial work for good. But when my agency rang to tell me they had a job for a leading security company, I got talked into going to the interview.

I clicked immediately with Ken and his wife Jeannette, who is also a director of the company. Although the work sounded dynamic and involved, what really appealed to me was the idea of working for Ken himself - the fact that the industry is exciting is simply a bonus. Ken is very charismatic and energetic - he worked first as a policeman and then as a private investigator, but by the time I joined the company 19 months ago he had over 2,000 employees.

Ken is a hands-on executive. He likes to keep in close contact with our clients and wants me to get to know them so that they will take me into their confidence when he isn't there. Because the business is of such a sensitive nature, the clients need to know that they can pick up a phone for back-up support at any time of the day or night, and I am often the first point of contact.

We are there to take the worry away and have guards on hand to deal with anything from a bomb threat to a threat of physical violence.

One of my first encounters with the undercover side of the business was when I walked into a meeting and saw myself on a television set placed on the table. I looked around for the camera, but couldn't find it because it was hidden in a tie pin. There have been other entertaining moments, such as the time I got a phone call from the police asking me to identify two of our agents. They had been following a target on surveillance and had traced him to the edge of a military base which, being an IRA target, was under police surveillance itself - the agents were arrested under suspicion of being terrorists.

But the most absurd case of all was when an agent's cover was blown by the very man who employed him to work under cover within a casino as part of a fraud investigation. The client saw our agent working in the casino, recognised him, but forgot who he was and asked him what he was doing there!

I'm not an office-based PA - one moment I may be working on location for a highly confidential job and the next I will be putting oil into Ken's motorbike engine. We work a lot in his car and the pace is so frantic that sometimes both our mobiles and the car phone are ringing simultaneously. I have even been known to walk up and down the poolside taking down dictation whilst Ken does his lengths.

We are both a bit psychic. I am forever finishing Ken's sentences or answering his questions before he asks them. I think I have to be a bit of a Rottweiler to do this job. When an old boss of mine met Ken he asked, "So what's it like to have Karen as your boss?" But Ken's family have adopted me and Ken often refers to me as his daughter, which can confuse the clients.

People are always fascinated by my job and usually connect it with the spy business or MI5. But when questioned I always remain vague about the covert side because, of course, working for Britain's most secretive company means most of your job has to remain top secret.


Katie Sampson