A Day in the Life of.... Rona Cant
Rona Cant : A - PA, Adventurer, Speaker, Author
It's not often we get the chance to interview a PA who lists on her CV as a job Skill: Adventurer. And yet, there is no other word that is descriptive enough to encompass Rona Cant.
Rona went from her position as PA at prestigious Oxford University quite literally around the world when she was accepted as part of the crew for the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race, a mind-boggling ten-month circumnavigation of the globe. Factor in a simple inescapable fact, (she's afraid of the water!) and you begin to understand that Rona is about overcoming obstacles, whatever they may be.
Two days after Rona returned from her around the world sojourn, she was off again, this time on the notorious West Coast Trail in the frozen Canadian Tundra where she met and dealt with bears, and an injury which left her sitting alone in a camp with a wild cougar for company!
Rona has been a PA most of her working life, and we asked her what skills she had acquired as a PA which she felt translated to her role as Adventurer.
"As a PA I learned that the support team is and always will be an integral part of any process. Becoming part of a team, learning to embrace that concept became very important in later days for me, but I learned initially that I was an important part of the team as a PA and had already seen the proof of my contributions in that role."
"I wasn't going to be the Captain, but I also knew that what I was contributing was of equal value to his contribution. I learned that as a PA too. That sense of understanding that nothing gets done unless everyone works together is fundamental in a PA world. That carried over beautifully to my new adventures."
But Rona, most of us don't go and do around the world challenges and face off bears and cougars. As a PA what made you decide one day that you were going to go off and live your dreams?
"I was fortunate to have a very encouraging employer who allowed me a great deal of Flextime so that I could acquire the yachting training that would be required to get me on the team and eventually around the world. There came a point where I realized that they had called in a Temp for nearly a month to cover for me and I thought, It's time to just go for it. They were incredibly supportive at Oxford and my PA job was so demanding that after I left they had to replace me with two people. Which also added to my sense of confidence in my abilities. After all I had to learn to do the job of a PA, it's not something I was born with. Here I was doing the job of TWO PA's I thought to myself, if I can do that, then there's nothing else I can't learn to do."
Explain to us why since you're afraid of the water you selected the Yachting Challenge as one of your first adventurer trips?
"I wanted to travel, to see much more of the world than I had and the Global Challenge was certainly going to enable me to see parts of the world I had only dreamed of. So that was a motivating factor, and frankly, I knew that if I didn't face my own fear that I'd never achieve anything great.
Everyone has their own internal thing that keeps them from doing something, whether it's going after a promotion in the office, or making a career change. In my case there was a great deal of water between me and the parts of the world I wanted to see. I needed to get over it. Now instead of a fear of the sea, I have a tremendous respect for it."
What other skills did you acquire as a PA that have served you well in your current endeavours?
I did some temp work for Brook Street, since I'm rather shy, going in as the "New girl" was a really good way to raise my confidence levels.
Did you ever tell them you were off dog sledding in the Arctic in between assignments?
"No." Says Rona with a wry laugh, "It never came up."
Rona continued with her observation on PA skills, which had translated to her role as an Adventurer.
"Organisation. Being organized is very important, as a PA in a demanding role, I learned to get things done in the most efficient way possible, now I apply those skills to making sure that I've got everything I need. It wouldn't do to get ten miles out and find out that I had forgotten the matches when it's minus 30 in the Arctic."
"Delegation is also important. There are times when you know someone can simply accomplish a task better than you can, and there's no shame in taking a step back to allow them to do just that, whether you're in the board room or on the boat deck."
"Prioritization. Very quickly being able to decide what is important."
"Ability to follow instructions. As a PA, while I often set some rules, it was important that I understood tasks that were given to me and follow instructions. It's the same in being an adventurer. There's lots I don't know and when someone who does know gives me instructions, I need to be able to follow them and adapt those instructions to the task at hand where necessary to achieve an end result".
So what's next for you?
"I think I'll always consider myself a PA in some respects, after all it's a stable satisfying career and one I chose for myself. For the time being though, in between the occasional temp assignment; I'm off to the Arctic Circle again in April on the Tran Scandinavian Trek and then in December, I'm headed to South America trekking from Aconcagua to the southernmost tip of Chile to explore the glaciers before heading north to the Galapagos Islands and then east to Peru."
What advice would you give for our readers who think they can't pursue their own dreams?
The phrase that got me round the world and through all the challenges that I have done so far is that of Henry Ford 'If you think you can or you think you can't you're right'. I believe that if you want to do something then you should just believe that you can do it and go for it - Live your dreams!
In short, Rona advocates that dreaming dreams is good, but achieving them is better. It's an inspirational lesson from a truly inspirational lady!
There is no way we can do justice to Ms. Cant in the space we've got. If you'd like to read more about her experiences, you might pick up a copy of her book, A Challenge Too Far?
You can also visit Rona's Website at www.ronacant.com where you can read a bit more about her adventures and what's next on for her.