Meet Julia Lythaby from SafeLane’s Ross-on-Wye HQ. She has had a 26-year career with the company so far and is currently Office Manager and PA to CEO Rob Hunter.
Staff Spotlight is a regular feature on the team that works for you...and we're updating a select few for our week-long celebration for the UN's International Women's Day 2022...
Ahead of re-sharing her spotlight from 2020, we asked Julia how the COVID 19 pandemic affected her role:
"The pandemic has proved how important adaptability is and whilst change can sometimes be difficult to deal with or accept, it is important to keep a business going. I am proud how SafeLane valued the safety of its staff over the last couple of years; it must have been difficult for senior management to balance the commercial needs of the business vs Covid restrictions and considerations. I am enjoying the current hybrid working solution as it gives me flexibility to meet the daily needs of the staff, whilst also affording me some quieter days to be able to focus on other elements of my work."
Read Julia's original staff spotlight:
This week, we caught up with Julia and learned how the company has evolved, how she juggles her different roles - and how to renovate a ski gondola. A job with SafeLane is certainly not your average one!
So, what did you do before working at SafeLane?
I was a full-time mum! So SafeLane was my first ‘proper’ job really! I started off as the receptionist when I was 21 – and I’ve been with the company 26 years this April.
Why did you decide to apply for a job at SafeLane?
Well, we’re about four companies on from the company I applied to – Exploration Logistics. I wanted to get into an administrative role because I’d been to college to do all my secretarial training. The company was local to where I lived, and we’d just bought a house, so I needed a job!
I didn’t really know that much about the company because this was in the days before the internet - gosh that feels weird to say - but this meant I couldn’t do loads of research and stuff.
It wasn’t just mine clearance back then, we used to do medical and health and safety support for onshore and offshore international projects too.
So, after I had the interview, I was even more keen for the job because I found out a lot more about the company and it was obviously a very interesting place to work.
How many different roles have you done at SafeLane and which one was your favourite?
My initial role was as a receptionist, then I moved to operations and did some project executive work before taking maternity leave. When I came back, I was really supported, and a lot of effort was taken to ensure that my role was the right fit.
I became PA to the director of operations, then moved into operational support. This involved building processes for the operations and project delivery side of things.
I then became PA to the financial director, and I got to learn all about the insurance side of things. This was in about 2009...
At this time, I was approached by Rupert Prichard who was the managing director for MineTech. He wanted me to work just for MineTech. I’d always worked for the group of which MineTech was a part, so this was an interesting proposition.
I took a leap of faith and accepted the job. Shortly after, it was announced the company was being split up and MineTech was being carved out to be sold as a separate legal entity.
It was around this point that our current CEO Adam joined the business.
Then the rest is history!
I helped establish MineTech as a stand-alone business and obviously we’ve gone through a number of sales since then and my role has grown again to be what it is now. My main focus is being PA to the CEO, but I do tend to help out across a lot of areas of the business as it’s needed!
What is your favourite part of your current job?
The versatility and, as everybody here says, no two days are the same. Today is a prime example for things cropping up that are out of the ordinary, we just had our new meeting room arrive… it’s a ski gondola we’re going to convert into a breakout space! It isn’t all just processes and insurance. Things like this are really nice, it caused a laugh in the office.
At SafeLane something can happen that just changes your focus for a day, 2 days, or a couple of hours. It can be a ski gondola - or a need to help out with insurance queries for the operations guys.
I also like the interaction with the senior management, Rob and Adam. I enjoy working with them both and helping to organise them!
When we have been through sales processes, for example when we acquired WB+AD Morgan last year, I’ve really enjoyed being part of that and enjoyed having the responsibility of organising key information for Rob and Adam.
It makes you feel like there is trust that they know you can do a good job; I find that very motivational.
I enjoy the travel organisation element of the role too. I love getting people from A to B and sorting things out for the board too. I love that sense of relief and fulfilment when everyone arrives where they need to be when they’re supposed to get there!
A focus for both Adam and me has been having a caring mother figure in the office…I like being that person that people can rely on to trust and support them, whatever the issue. I enjoy supporting the team in the way the company has always supported me.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve learnt working at SafeLane?
Well my geography has certainly improved! I like that bit about it and learning about different countries and cultures - I find that really interesting.
Obviously, the technical side of it is interesting as well. We’re not exposed to it as much in admin but it's still really interesting to hear about project successes.
The legal side of companies, like the company secretarial stuff is also quite interesting. I don’t think you would necessarily know or understand that side of it in other roles. Also, it’s been really useful understanding how private equity works and understanding how buying and selling businesses and mergers and acquisitions work.
I’ve learnt a lot in my time here!
What is your biggest achievement at SafeLane?
Crikey! I think overcoming the challenges that arose during the MineTech sale. It took about 18 months – it was a difficult period.
We were still occupying office space from the company we used to be part of at the same time as trying to build our own identity.
This was a challenging time because people I worked with for years felt suddenly felt like strangers because we were separated from them. This was something I worked hard to overcome. It felt a bit like losing a family, I’d been there 14 years at this time.
This sticks out as something in my mind as a big achievement. It’s worked out really well and seeing how the company has grown and that 10 years later I’m still here is really good!
When we were first starting there were just 10 - 11 of us. Now 10 years later we have 136 head quartered staff without all the teams we have deployed in the field. I’m proud to see the growth of the company and the culture we’ve developed for SafeLane.
Finally - for her updated staff spotlight, 2022 - we asked Julia:
We are celebrating the UN’s International Women’s Day all this week. Is there any advice you’d like to give to all the young women out there aspiring to work at such a high level as an office manager or a PA to the c-suite?
"Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. You can do anything you put your mind to if you work hard. Loyalty and respect are also very important and it should always work both ways. The end results can be rewarding in so many ways. Remember, you are the master of your own destiny."