Clare Hathway is PA to Sandy Whetton, managing director of OAG Worldwide

'I need to glue him to his chair'
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The Independent Online

Sandy and I epitomise our company's main target audience - he's the frequent flyer and I'm the travel-booking PA. It's great, because we use the products and services all the time. If there's ever something Sandy feels isn't working, he'll call the developers in to discuss it. And equally he knows when our products are spot on. I've been asked to pilot travel services, too, because if it doesn't work for me and the other secretaries, it's not going to work in the market.

Sandy and I epitomise our company's main target audience - he's the frequent flyer and I'm the travel-booking PA. It's great, because we use the products and services all the time. If there's ever something Sandy feels isn't working, he'll call the developers in to discuss it. And equally he knows when our products are spot on. I've been asked to pilot travel services, too, because if it doesn't work for me and the other secretaries, it's not going to work in the market.

I've been here since 1992, and all my bosses have travelled extensively. I sometimes think I couldn't work for a manager who was in the office all the time! Sandy's always on the move, going to our Chicago offices once a fortnight at least.

He's quite unlucky on his trips, which is ironic considering he's the managing director of the world's major provider of business travel information! One of the worst times was when he was presenting our Airline of the Year Awards at a breakfast press briefing in Washington. He left at 10am from here to go to JFK but it was closed, so they took passengers to Washington by coach. As if that wasn't bad enough, the coach crashed, and Sandy eventually completed his nightmare journey at 5am, just in time to present the awards at 7.30am.

OAG has been publishing business travel information for more than 70 years, and we have the most comprehensive flight schedule databases in the world, covering 800 airlines - I didn't know there were 800 airlines before I came here. I use our Travel Information System on our intranet all the time, and it's invaluable. And Sandy has started accessing our travel information on his WAP phone around the world, so he can see, for example, if there's an earlier flight he can come back on.

My priority is keeping Sandy's days running smoothly, and travel booking takes a lot of my time. One of Sandy's regular requests is: "Can you get me back for the match?" He's a director and lifelong supporter of Mansfield Town Football Club, so he follows them around the country at weekends. Once I could only get him back on a Saturday morning flight, and he got straight on a train to Wales to see the game.

It's like a doctor's waiting room when he comes back, with people queuing up. I have to sort out who is a priority. Sandy calls me ferocious. "You could make bread into toast just by breathing on it!" he laughs. He's probably right - I am tough. But I need to be sometimes, and I think he appreciates that.

I enjoy making decisions on Sandy's behalf when he's away. I know what his priorities are, because I've worked for him for two and a half years, ever since he joined as managing director. At that time, our parent Reed Elsevier made OAG Worldwide a stand-alone company with our board in the UK. Reed Elsevier is currently looking for a buyer for us, because its future strategy will focus on its three core segments of scientific, legal, and business publishing. The sale is there in the background, but it doesn't distract us - we're still pushing ahead with new developments.

We've just launched an E-Notification service which tells you (or the person meeting you) if your flight is delayed, for example, by automatically alerting you through a mobile phone, pager or e-mail. And our brand new travel portal oag.com gives masses of travel information, with details of countries all round the world, with banking times, currencies, climate, directions to airports - it's extremely useful.

I enjoy working for an international company. In the afternoons, when we're winding down, the States wakes up, so it gets really busy again - it's exciting. OAG is an interesting environment, because you have a good mix of people, some who have been here since the early days, and the new 'techies' coming in now.

Sandy is a real "people" person. He's very fair and you can ask him anything. He'd much rather go and talk to someone than e-mail them.

That's great for them, but bad for me - I'm forever losing him. "I'll just be five minutes..." he says, and then he disappears for an hour. I need to glue him to his chair. Recently he's started nipping out through the door at the back of his office, which I can't see, and that drives me mad. I'm sitting out the front calling in to him, and he's gone walkabout! He's quite an extrovert and when he joined he brought a much more informal feeling to the office.

One of Sandy's great hobbies is cooking. He's always coming in on a Monday and telling us about the three-course dinner he created. I don't know how he does it - the last thing I want to do when I go home is stand in the kitchen, but he really enjoys it. And it's obviously great food because there's never anything left by Monday for us to try.

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