MacKay Hannah

12th Annual Conference and Award for Executive Secretaries and PAs in Scotland (ACES 2020): A New Decade - It's all about the cloud...


Joan Serafini

Managing Director, Equator Events and Public Affairs and ACES 2020 Judge

Few people understand the importance of looking after high-profile figures than Joan Serafini. She spent over 22 years working for Government, firstly in the Scottish Office and then the Scottish Executive. As well as working in a variety of departments like Scottish Enterprise, Historic Scotland and the High Court in Edinburgh, Joan was latterly Private Secretary to former First Ministers, Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell.

With years of experience dealing with high-profile visits, including those of royalty and Prime Ministers, 2002 was the year in which she decided to put her talents to good use in the business world by starting Equator Events, a subsidiary of the Equator (Scotland) Group – the number 1 full service digital marketing agency in Scotland – owned by her cousin, John McLeish.

Joan’s ability to transfer the skills she used as a Private Secretary in Government to her business, meant that she was successful in securing clients such as The Big Lottery Fund, RBS, the Shanghai Govt, the Thai Govt, Korean Biotech Association, MTV Europe, VisitScotland, Xerox, Sony, PA Consulting Group, Erskine, Enable & Tomorrow’s People charities to name but a few.

Her own personal claim to fame was when she organised possibly the most glamorous event ever to hit Scotland – the world premiere of the Braveheart Movie in Stirling. As the Scottish co-ordinator for 20th Century Fox, Joan had to liaise with the likes of BAFTA and essential services such as local police & the council, to ensure that the event for some 1,000 guests, went smoothly. And the highlight for her was when she was rewarded with a dance & a kiss from Mel Gibson, even though according to Joan, she “had to stalk him” to get it!

Joan’s obvious enthusiasm, experience and the good relationships she has built up over the years are reasons why so many businesses entrust high-profile, big budget events to her company.
Blue Twitter Bird@EquatorEvents

Gail Welsh

Executive PA – Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling - Scottish PA of the Year 2014 and ACES 2020 Judge

Gail Welsh, founder of ESPA (Education Sector PAs network) was winner of the ACES Scottish PA of the Year award in 2014.  Heriot-Watt University is where Gail’s career started, after being awarded Best Commerce Student at college.  The rest of Gail’s secretarial/PA time in Edinburgh was spent at The Scotsman newspaper, a market research company and an environmental design company.  

Gail moved to Stirling just before the Millennium and for the next 15 years worked in Colleges Scotland.  After a sabbatical, in March 2015 Gail took up a 4-week temporary assignment as PA/Administrator in the School of Social Sciences at Stirling University where she remains to this day!  Gail is now Executive PA – Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling.

In her spare time, Gail is continually networking.  She is also known for her passion of foreign travel and living the good life with her husband.

Alan Hughes

CRM Manager, University of Edinburgh

A change and innovation manager who has worked in the voluntary, public and private sector in the UK and Ireland, Alan’s areas of expertise are Education and Business Improvement. A skilled facilitator and trainer Alan has developed a programme of training and development in Lean business improvement. His Lean implementation skills were developed managing Business Improvement Techniques in the engineering sector for Scottish Enterprise and enhanced with acknowledged global leaders McKinsey in the challenging environment of the RBS group.

Alan worked for the Scottish Funding Council and was responsible for setting up the joint skills committee with Skills Development Scotland. While at the Funding council he managed the Skills Utilisation Pilot projects roll out for the council on behalf of the Scottish Government Skills Utilisation Leadership group. As a consultant he has led business change initiatives in diverse sectors including financial services, further education and Health.


Steve McPherson

IT Learning Consultant, Appetite for Business

Appetite is an award winning SME technology consultancy that has been working with clients to build digital platforms and provide training on Microsoft technology for over 17 years. 

If you set up your technology correctly, it can add real value. That’s where Appetite come in with their Microsoft Consultancy and Training. Their clients tell them they make things better for them by taking away the worry and helping them to make the technology work for their business. 

Steve’s role entails working both in an individual capacity and working closely with colleagues, management and clients to proactively design, create and deliver compelling learning solutions and learning material to ensure that customers derive optimum value from products and services. Steve’s role, as part of Appetite’s team, includes:

  • Developing and performing training needs analysis, identifying existing and future training needs
  • Designing, developing and delivering inspiring and engaging training courses and workplace coaching
  • Delivering expert help and support on a range of off the shelf and bespoke system applications and software packages to clients from large groups to individuals, highlighting strengths and weaknesses and best solutions to meet client needs
  • Producing training material encompassing a wide range of methods from traditional classroom to e-learning
  • Providing user support, as and when required, through a variety of forms such as one to one support, floor walking, handouts and training manuals or support desk
  • Developing IT Training libraries and relevant training documentation
  • Developing e-learning training materials and courses

Steve’s full profile can be viewed on his LinkedIn page

wee blue twitter bird appetite4biz

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I can't wait until next year so I can come back, what a wonderful conference. I left Edinburgh zoo buzzing, what a wonderful way to start the weekend.

Sheena Stewart - Argyll and Bute Council,
Delegate at ACES 2016

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