How a Tesco check-out girl rose to become PA of the Year

By Sandy Rashty, March 7, 2014
PA of the Year Dalya Bernstein is always on hand to support her boss

PA of the Year Dalya Bernstein is always on hand to support her boss

Everyone knows that real influence and power in the office rests with the personal assistants that keep their boss’s running.

Employees often turn to the aide to suss-out the boss’s mood, company heads rely on them for office gossip; but more importantly, PAs are trusted with the most confidential corporate and personal information only privy to the company’s inner-circle.

The far-reaching demands placed on a PA — from dictation to chauffeuring and picking up dry-cleaning — are well known to Dalya Bernstein, who was named Personal Assistant of the Year at the national Pitman Training Super Achievers Awards last week.

Bernstein, from Noseley, says that she is tough, organised and never without her mobile phone.

“I found out that I won on Friday, but it was such a busy day that I didn’t even have time to think about it,” she says.

“My focus is always on my career.”

Perhaps that’s why the 33-year-old senior PA to Sufyan Gulam Ismail, who has assets in excess of £65 million, is trusted to handle his vast property portfolio, charitable initiatives and even his dinner.

Dalya Bernstein

Dalya Bernstein

“He’s very specific about his food,” she laughs. “He only likes chicken on the bone, and I sometimes send photos of the food he likes to the hotel.” But Bernstein’s responsibilities extend beyond her boss’s diet.

“You have to be tough. People know I’m in charge. If they want an appointment they have to go through me,” she adds.

“There’s a lot of trust there. We speak at least 20 times a day. We’ll come out of a meeting and he’ll always ask what I thought — and I’ll tell him. He always takes my opinion on board, which is a great compliment.

“I’m not an expert in property, but I’m also trusted to manage 200 of his student apartments.”

But Bernstein, who has led seminars for PAs, once wanted to pursue a career in singing.

The Southport Reform Synagogue member — who has performed at Jewish weddings, bar and batmitzvahs for the past 13 years — has sung at venues across the UK.

She worked on a Tesco check-out till to support herself, but soon “decided there had to be a back-up plan,” she says.

“Performing gave me a lot of confidence to do what I do now.

“If I was meant to have pursued that route, I would have.”

Bernstein, who has worked as a PA for three bosses, is determined to gain more qualifications.

“When I first started, I couldn’t even turn on a computer.

“But I really enjoy the work.”

Bernstein says “there are no ‘normal hours’ in this job.

“You’re on call at any time for everything and I’m on the phone most evenings. You have to be flexible and have a very understanding boyfriend — which I do.”

Last updated: 4:06pm, March 7 2014