Thinking of Westminster College as your future employer? We thought it would be nice for you to meet all our support team, and show off all the amazing things they do for the college and why they like working here!
Meet Emma, our PA to the Bursar and Office Manager.
Name: Emma Brown
Title: PA to the Bursar and Office Manager
Start Date: September 2009
Job Title Changes / Transfers: 3
What I like about Westminster…
No two days are ever the same.
It’s a bit of a mixed blessing this one! As a relatively small organisation, we’re quite a tight knit family and it means we all pitch in wherever help is needed; many of us hold more than one title, and those who do have one title have a fairly diverse set of things to do. Those of us who’ve been around for a few years have knowledge about things which might not be anything to do with our job title. If something needs to get done, we’ll find a way of doing it, and doing it well.
Working for a non-profit organisation.
Any surplus is invested back into either the people or the building. I’m really proud of that; it makes the occasionally long, challenging days very worthwhile. Every penny we make enables us to invest in the future.
We’re very much an equal opportunity employer.
We’ve a very diverse team here, with people from a multitude of countries, all bringing their own unique experiences to add to the Westminster experience. The thing which stands out most for me, as a woman in management, is that our current management team has more women than men – that is unusual even in these times, but most particularly in a Cambridge college. We invest in our people, so it is natural to see internal promotions or transfers; I started as a temp for 2 weeks. Since then, with my most recent role change being from PA to the Principal to PA to the Bursar back in October 2015, I’ve had quite a few changes within what I do as part of my dual roles of Office Manager and PA as the college and the team have grown. I’m also really proud to work for an accredited Living Wage Foundation employer, which is one of only two Cambridge colleges which pays the Living Wage, as set out by the Living Wage Foundation. That’s phenomenal!
We’re not afraid of change.
We don’t “do something that way because it’s always been done that way”. It’s important that we acknowledge our history and legacy – why we’ve done something that way before – but it’s also important to constantly reform. Both as part of the United Reformed Church, and as a forward thinking organisation! I started here when we had 2 full time members on Reception (including me), opening the building at 8.30am and closing up as we left at 4.30pm, closed at weekends. We’re now open 7am to 11pm, seven days a week and I manage a team of 5 to cover reception. Back when I started, we didn’t have any en-suite bedrooms – it was all shared facilities along draughty corridors – and our building was beautiful but in need of some serious updating in many different ways. After raising £7 million, we underwent a major building refurbishment and we’ve now got 38 bedrooms and 2 cottages, all en-suite. Gone are the days where we had an occasional overnight guest alongside our students. The extra income from B&B goes back into keeping Westminster sustainable for our students and the URC, and into ensuring we look after our Grade 2 listed building – she’s a gentle creature and we need to nurture and protect her!
I’m not going to lie, a lot of us put on a few pounds when we start working here! The food is delicious and I get fed a very tasty two course lunch every day during the week. They cater for my rather weird dietary requirements; though I should try harder to resist pudding, making the healthy choice is incredibly difficult when you’ve got Igor’s chocolate brownie in front of you…
What an average day is like…
There’s no such thing! I oversee Reception, and whilst we certainly have daily tasks to do, our focus is customer service, be that interactions with our students as they collect their post, welcoming in a contractor arriving to service a piece of plant, directing conference delegates to their meeting room or checking in our B&B guests. People, by their nature, are all different and have different needs and expectations. We try to anticipate what they need and exceed their expectations. That, in turn, makes every day different. Then we get queries and challenges that, even with 8 years under my belt, haven’t come up before.
On a ‘bad day’…
They do happen to us all occasionally! I try to do three things.
Firstly, look back to my very first day and remember how many positive changes we’ve been through. Even the very hard changes have lead to new opportunities that we might not otherwise have had.
Secondly, I spend a moment just quietly in our stunning chapel. I’m not a Christian, but I’ve always adored churches and cathedrals, and simply being in such a beautiful, spiritually rich space recharges the batteries.
Thirdly, I visit the sisters. They were rather phenomenal women with a very quirky, rich history and fascinating lives. Their portraits hang in our Dining Hall, so we eat with them looking over us most lunch times. In a world which didn’t allow them to attend university or get a degree, they let very little hold them back from doing exactly what they wanted to; i.e travelling through the desert on camel back fully garbed in their Victorian outfits, complete with their china tea set. I visit them because I like to think that we continue their legacy. They would certainly not have let a singular tricky email (letter?) or long, difficult meeting get to them so why should I?
(PS – the photo is of me on my wedding day in June 2014 and proves that I do, ever so occasionally, wear bright colours)
Keep up to date with our blog to meet more of our team!