Real EAs of Wellington: Episode Three – Mignon White
With over forty years of Personal & Executive Assistant experience under her belt, Mignon White has seen it all. In this episode of the Real EAs of Wellington, Mignon takes us through her journey, from starting out on a typewriter to going through 2 company mergers.
Tell us about your pathway to becoming an Executive Assistant (EA).
When I left college, I attended what was then, Gilbeys Business College where I learnt typing, shorthand, English and office practice. I attended with a friend and I think I spent more time giggling than learning. My shorthand teacher was about 80 and we had really antiquated typewriters (they probably weren’t antiquated at the time!). I remember being yelled at once – the teacher said “Mignon White, you’re nothing but a GG – giggling gert”!
After leaving Gilbeys, my first job was a PA to a manager at Phoenix Assurance. I had a large office mostly to myself. I started out with a manual typewriter and then got an electric one, which I hated! I think I stayed there for about 18 months and then went to various other organisations as a PA. I left NZ to do my OE at the age of 23 and was away for 3½ years. When I came back to Wellington, I decided to go temping which I did for 17 years. During that time there was only one company that I wanted to work for permanently, which was Transfund. I started out there as a temp and ended up going permanent as EA to the CE & Board Secretary. I stayed there for 14 years and went through 2 mergers during that time, as well as a few different Managers.
I am now back temping/contracting, which I enjoy but it is a whole different ballgame!
What’s your funniest/most embarrassing moment as an EA?
This was probably at my very first job. My manager was a bit of a Casanova and he used to look me up and down in the lifts. He gave me “Lady Chatterley’s lover” to read!
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
My role as EA and Board Secretary at Transfund. The CE was a workaholic and used to work till all hours of the morning, and then be very grumpy and stressed the next day. However, I learnt a lot from him and from the role, and ended up being the longest EA he ever had.
Who do you admire and why?
Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, who dedicate their entire lives to help others.
If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?
I would love to own a boutique travel agency, where people come to me with their budget interests, etc and I design a holiday for them. The other job I would love to do is run a homestay or manage holiday apartments in Australia.
If you could rewind 10 years and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t take things personally and don’t doubt your confidence and ability.
What’s the best piece of advice that’s helped you in your career?
Don’t worry about things that are out of your control.
What’s your favourite piece of work wardrobe?
Skirt and Jacket
Where is the best place in Wellington to get a coffee/drink?
If you were not living in Wellington – where would you be and why?
Anywhere that doesn’t have a Winter!