ALL-ROUNDER: PAs and secretaries are the people who keep the cogs of the machinery running in businesses, and their jobs generally go beyond the call of duty.
Okay, so not all secretaries – or administrative professionals as they’re known – are women. However, many of them are, and most of them are among those we can’t do without.

They schedule our lives – not just planning meetings but sending flowers on your behalf, getting you coffee and helping you look good in the office.

She’s the only one who will tell you if your shirt is on backwards, remind you of the clients’ names as they arrive or field your families’ phone calls.

If the world’s entire workforce was taken over by a robot army, the only human employees would be PAs, secretaries, administrative professionals, etc. They are simply the unsung heroes of the working world. They are the cogs in the machine that keeps it running; they are Miss Moneypenny to 007; and Pepper Potts to Tony Stark’s Iron Man.

This Mother’s Day, don’t forget the women who mother you.

We chatted to four of them:

The agony aunty

Pearl Piet single-handedly makes sure the lives of about 30 employees run like clockwork

Editorial assistant Pearl Piet single-handedly makes sure the lives of about 30 employees run like clockwork. “My job includes organising transport logistics, stationery procurement and typing up documents,” she says.

That’s just her day job. Behind the scenes she fills the role of agony aunt, mother and trauma counsellor. “Everyone comes to me with their problems, and that’s after hours! Sometimes they just need someone to listen, and that’s what I do.”

The superwoman

Angelique Blaauw-Chiropa's day-to-day tasks include managing her boss’s diary, general school admin and secretarial functions.

High school secretary Angelique Blaauw-Chiropa doesn’t have a normal 9 to 5 job. Her day-to-day tasks include managing her boss’s diary, general school admin and secretarial functions.

But it doesn’t always end there: “A lot of the time I work overtime, filing documents, working in software systems and everything else that comes with it.” Her biggest responsibility is to organise the principal’s calendar and keep daily records of events he has to attend. This means having access to his email and syncing it with hers, which is no mean feat. “I can’t monitor him 24/ 7 and it’s difficult to manage someone else’s life,” she says.


The all-rounder

Being at her boss’s side for more than six years has certainly given Nicolette the tools to learn the tricks of the trade.

Nicolette Buckle is personal assistant to Theresa Szejwallo, managing director of The Travel Corporation in SA. Nikki, as she is affectionately known, is a master at juggling Theresa’s diary with the constant stream of those wanting to meet with her.

“While no two days are ever the same, I love being Theresa’s right hand. She’s exceptionally busy and has a travel schedule that would have most hiding their passport! Her schedule can change at a moment’s notice, so being flexible, calm and adaptable is key,” she says.

Being at her boss’s side for more than six years has certainly given her the tools to learn the tricks of the trade. What’s her secret? “I get into the office an hour or two before Theresa does. This gives me enough time to prepare the daily schedule, confirm meetings, set up one-on-ones and make sure that the day runs as smooth as silk.”