I work for Gail Rebuck

Louise Jeffrey is PA to the chief executive of the publisher Random Century

Seventeen years ago, when I was 19 and living in South Africa, I took a very thorough secretarial course which included speech and deportment. It stood me in good stead, for although I've had opportunities to work in other areas of publishing I prefer to remain a career PA. I moved to Random House from Collins with my boss of the time about nine-and-a-half years ago. Then in 1991 I put my career on the back burner to have children. By 1993 I was ready to take on a more challenging position again and when Gail Rebuck's PA resigned I took the opportunity of taking her place, becoming PA to one of the most important people in publishing.

Gail sat me down straight away and went through how she liked to work. I think it is essential to do this with a new boss because no two bosses work the same way. Gail runs the organisation, which includes 32 imprints, so my job requires a high level of organisation, swift prioritising and attention to detail. If you get something wrong at this level the consequences are much more disastrous. Gail is also responsible for our overseas companies and distribution warehouse so the total amount of paperwork and correspondence is huge. But Gail replies to her own e-mails, which frees me up a little. I love the Internet and the instant communication it allows, it cuts down on the paperwork whilst giving me the responsibility that I want and it means that I can help Gail with things such as her computerised slide- show presentations. I used to train my colleagues to be IT friendly because technology reduces the mundane tasks and makes everything more efficient.

My job is quite pressurised, and Gail spends much of the day in meetings so we have to grab time in between. I don't attend meetings because that's when I can get down to work, but I do have to make sure she's taking the right stuff with her without being asked for it first. When people telephone I need to be able to deal with things rather than just take a message, so Gail will brief me on the issues she's involved with, which means I learn a lot, too. If Gail is being invited to a lunch I will try to find out the format and who else is coming, anticipating the questions that she would ask. This does annoy some people and I probably do have a reputation throughout the building for being tough but I need to be firm to be efficient. When a new person joins she often gets sent to me for advice or information - everyone knows me here because I have been here for so long.

Our hours are officially 9.30 am to 5.30 pm with an hour for lunch, but Gail and I both try to get in for 9 am in order to leave on time. Gail has young children, too and has always made a point of not working too late, which makes life easier for me because she understands that I have a personal life. I usually leave at 5.30 pm to be home for the kids at 6.30 pm but whenever there is pressure my husband steps in. When I returned to work it wasn't just for the money. I wanted to keep my life in two separate compartments so I vowed that I wouldn't keep calling home, but if a child is seriously ill then that obviously comes first, and Gail understands, although she has a standing joke that she can chart a crisis because it will happen whenever I take leave. I was away when we pulled out of the Net Book Agreement and also when Gail was appointed to the Government's Cultural Industry Task Force several weeks ago. When I returned she laughingly said "you've just missed the most exciting of days".

Gail also has other roles outside of Random House, for example literacy programmes, Business in the Community and the new Task Force. My role is to set up meetings, ensure that Gail's got the information she needs as well as generating new correspondence to move things forward. Literacy is particularly important to both of us, being mothers of young children.

Gail gets excited if one of our authors is at the top of the best-seller list and becomes personally involved during a major event like getting Martin Amis back or acquiring a new John Grisham. The key authors she takes a special interest in, including her friends Lynne Franks, Sebastian Faulks, Ruth Rendell, Ruth Rodgers and Charles Handy. Talking to the authors is quite exciting for me and I love going to their launches, particularly when I get to chat with someone like Clive Anderson. I read a lot myself and the easy access to books is a big perk.

One of the best thing about my job is seeing the overall picture of what goes on across the organisation and the progress of a book from start to finish. A lot of PAs caught in a particular department want to move on to something else, whereas I would never find my job boring. I feel valued, especially when Gail brings something back for me from a trip. She's a very stimulating person to work for, highly organised and her attention to detail is spot-on. She's also a very dynamic role model.

Last week she was in her car talking to me by mobile when I heard a screech and a scream. The car had been hit, but her mobile stayed on so I heard her driver's conversation about whose fault it was, Gail flagging down a black cab, and her voice as she got back on the phone to say "I've just been in the most awful accident. Now where was I?" which just demonstrates how focused she isn

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

Loren Hughes: Commercial Finance Analyst

£55,000 - £60,000: Loren Hughes: Are you a newly qualified accountant from a B...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower