Shining the Spotlight on Tara Layman
This week, our shine the spotlight piece is on Tara Layman, the Head of PA and Administrative Services at a top Law Firm in the city. Here she tells us all about her journey into the industry, and her positive approach to successfully climbing the career ladder!
Can you briefly explain the journey of your career to date?
Having fumbled my way through college (signing up to a Business Admin NVQ primarily because my best friend did), I found myself working as a Legal Secretary within the Property team of a small firm of Solicitors based in Kent. After a few years there, a backpacking trip to Australia and a stint managing the family pub, I left the leafy suburbs and ventured into the big smoke. My second job in London saw me landing a role within a top global law firm, which was just what I’d been looking for. I threw myself head first into being a Legal PA for the Head of Department and a Team Coordinator for the Property group. I sought every opportunity going in a bid to develop and soon worked my way through the ranks thanks to a series of supportive managers and an environment that promotes growth from within.
Now, having been within the legal sector for 25 years (yep, you get less for murder!), I have secured the post of Head of PA & Admin Services and love it! Every day is just enough to deliver the nervous anticipation of “what will today bring” and then, knowing what the day brings, “can I handle this”. Having collaborated with a great internal team, I have been able to lead projects I never thought possible, developed skills I never knew I needed and established myself both within my firm and the sector. I manage an incredible team of hardworking individuals and enjoy the opportunity to coach them at the same time as identifying strategic improvement projects and maintaining industry knowledge.
What does your average day look like?
Full on! I can be travelling to another office in another country, spending all day in a project room, running meetings on any manner of subjects, moderating, mediating, interviewing, analysing, scoping, coaching, training, managing or writing articles for Strictly! At the tail end of 2017 I was Business Lead on the largest PA restructure project our firm had seen and was fundamental in creating a brand-new administrative role designed to support the changing needs of our business. From sourcing tech enablers to co-chairing face to face meetings with our COO, I was involved in all aspects from beginning to end. That level of involvement taught me that, whatever the day holds, it’s about being as prepared as you can be for both the expected and the unexpected. I like to keep myself as informed as possible on what is going on around the business, where challenges need addressing, where creative solutions need embedding and understanding what makes my team tick – after all, they are the story of my success.
Where do you want your career to take you from here?
Good question as I’m not sure I ever saw myself where I am now. I really enjoy the firm I’m at and the role I’m in. As long as I continue to feel like I make a difference (positively of course!), and keep stretching myself mentally, I will pursue opportunities as they arise and who knows, this time next year Rodney, I could be a millionaire!
Who has been the most influential person in your career and why?
As cliché as it sounds, probably my Dad initially. He falls firmly into the camp of wanting the best for me and continued to push me to try harder at school, pursue further education and get a job with a reputable firm. I can’t always say I listened but hey, that’s what kids are for right?! Subsequently, I have had Managers I admire and respect as well as mentors from within the business. Last, but by no means least, I am part of a great network of like-minded people who undertake similar roles for other firms and from whom I undoubtedly draw inspiration, ideas and, most importantly, sanity!
In your mind, what has been the key factors behind your success?
Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and being in an environment and culture that facilitates progress. There’s a saying about how a successful person never fails … they either win or they learn – that pretty much sums up my approach. Every day is a school day!
What advice do you wish someone had given you when you started out?
Listen to your Dad! But seriously, take the advice of others you respect and who want the best for you. Chances are they’ve been there, done that and learnt some lessons the hard way. Everything worth having takes hard work, dedication and perseverance. Find something you’re passionate about and stick with it.
If you didn’t do this, what would you be doing?
Sipping cocktails on a beach somewhere but if I had to work, then probably something that involved working with children.
“When I grew up, I wanted to be……………”
An air hostess which, on reflection, I should have stuck to as it takes me ages to decide what to wear to work every day – a uniform would have made things so much simpler!
If you want to share your story, and be included in our ‘Shine the Spotlight’ feature, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org