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Sunday, 8 August 2010

End of an era

I have thought carefully at which juncture I should tell this story and have decided with a week to go now would be right.

Next Friday, 13th August, I say goodbye to my long-serving and indeed long-suffering Personal Assistant Michele Walker after 16 years of continuous and loyal service.

She joined us in the old Capital Citybus days when we were owned by CNT Group in Hong Kong. That was 1994 and she will be the first to say the job has changed a lot since then. No email, we ran buses in East London, and I came to the office most days. Within a year we were in the whirlwind of the Management Buy-out and a few short years later we sold to FirstGroup Plc.

As my job changed so did hers. We moved to MacMillan House, Paddington and looked after the whole London and South East Division. By 2004 we were working for David Leeder and I was Commercial Director for the whole of UK Bus.

Email correspondence, video conferences, three nights away from home a week for me and international travel all transformed her job several times over. She became on first name terms with hundreds of people from Government to passengers, key stakeholders and staff.

In the past few years we became ultra-modern. There was no need for her to travel to London to talk to me by phone or send emails so she worked from the nearest First location to her home and met me in somewhere once a week.

In our next iteration my team and I are going to work completely remotely and are dispensing without fixed offices entirely. With this change Michele has chosen to step down from the very tough and demanding role she has undertaken for more than a decade and a half.

Of course we have growled at each other, she has tolerated the rants when my fuse was short, and answered my calls late at night, at weekends and on holidays when there were emergencies to sort. Against the huge imperative to get things done she was (and still is) a perfectionist.

This change allows her to get her life back, enjoy a far less stressful existence and enjoy her home, garden, cats and friends.

She would kill me if I used the word 'retirement' as that is far from her mind (and age!.

I'm going to use this very public forum to thank her unreservedly for all her attention, diligence and hard work over the past 16 years. Not only has she done all her work but she's also sorted out personal things and also those jobs on the fringe - I'm not sure sending out complimentary copies of Routemaster Magazine or looking after my children was ever in her job description.

We've spent the last few years trying to reduce the volume of emails. Not this week. Some of you will be talking to her anyway this week but if not you can send her a message at

(Type it carefully - there is only one 'l' in Michele. As she would say "one 'l' of a Secretary.......!!"


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