Juliette (Juls) Davies

Virtual Assistant specialising in the Early Years sector / Founder & Facilitator of EY Matters

What was a typical work day like before the corona crisis?
I work from my home office, so a typical day starts around 6am and the main focus would be on providing the support services needed by my clients in varying tasks including administration support, organising events, social media, accounts, website maintenance etc. The virtual support work provides the funding for me to work on EY Matters, developing the website to create a supportive place for Early Years professionals and also supporting Ofsted Big Conversation and the newly formed Early Years Academy, so around 20-30% of my day would be focused on dealing with the necessary tasks around these initiatives. Depending on the day, I could finish any time between 6pm and 10pm.

When the outbreak started, what was your initial reaction?
Fear, horror and disbelief. My main concern was for family, friends and colleagues health and as the situation developed my fear increased for the Early Years sector as a whole, how the provisions would cope, those looking after key worker & vulnerable children but also for those managers, owners and leaders having to deal with the lack of information and seeming support, having to make difficult and sometime impossible decisions regarding their staff, their children and their businesses.

What impact did this have on your day job and how did you adapt?
In regards to Virtual Support as most of my clients work within the sector, it meant that I had to face the fact that their incomes would be reduced and therefore I would become a luxury, meaning that my income in itself would reduce.

However, I was determined that I would continue to support them and would worry about funds later as I have a deep commitment to all of my clients and know that I can support them in any efforts they make to regain income and also their support of Early Years.

The main impact was the increase of work through EY Matters; attempting to provide support, the relevant and verified facts, resources and organising online events and meetings and of course taking part in these.

What are the big challenges you have faced / are facing as the pandemic continues? Having to furlough my part-time assistant for financial reasons means that I am dealing with all of the tasks myself and with funding being low, I have had to rely on my own resourcefulness in order to fulfil promises I have made as opposed to outsourcing / finding software that automates tasks etc.

I guess my biggest challenge is balancing work / home life and completing projects, especially those for initiatives I have set up, but I keep going every day and will achieve it.

How have you kept going through the tough times?
Head down and keeping on keeping on. I have promises to deliver on and although they are not coming to fruition as fast as I would like, I make progress every day and track this on a visual list so that I can look at what I have achieved to keep myself motivated.

Also, taking a social media break this week and not participating in the regular calls, the ones that I normally organise etc. to maintain my focus on completing and delivering the EY Matters projects.

I guess most my most important motivator is my love for the sector and the hope that I can make a difference to some.

What acts of kindness have you seen or shown that have made you smile recently?
There are quite a few, far too many to mention, so I guess this makes me blessed!

I totally appreciate the time that June [O’Sullivan] takes in writing her blogs, attending the weekly Zoom call and sharing with the group with such honesty; also to Neil Leitch for attending these meetings as well when he can. Both are so busy with their day jobs…

The Early Years staffroom organised by Ruth Swailes is my lifeline most days, a mix of laughs, pedagogy, sharing of information and discussion.

I also feel privileged that so many have agreed to record presentations for free for the Continual Online Conference so we can provide free CPD.

Watching how many people are sharing resources, articles and supporting each other is another one .

What has this crisis taught you – both professionally and on a personal level?
It has taught me a lot about people – both positive and negative so I embrace the positive and learn from the negative. It has reaffirmed my belief that the sector, all of the member organisations and other organisations need to work together to raise the profile of the sector in order to get things done,  and at around 3 o’clock in the mornings when I am still working to get EY Matters bits done, to learn how to keep my mouth closed more often and stop volunteering or having ideas… although can’t see that happening!

Personally, it has taught me to appreciate the simple things such as an early morning cup of tea in the garden, being with family and friends and appreciating that I am extremely set in my ways on a work front that has become more evident since I had to share the office with Tony (my partner) and how by working around each other’s calls, we can get along quite harmoniously although I do get jealous that he can work from the garden!

How are you trying to stay happy and healthy?
Taking joy in interactions with people, whether it is phone, Zoom or other video calls … speaking to my Dad about six times a day, video calls with grandchildren, organising #stayathome date nights … all of these make me happy.

Having to shop online makes me buy healthier food and has stopped the impulse chocolate purchases – wine is always planned however! Most of all, listening to my body, sleeping when I need to, taking the breaks that I need and accepting that I can only do what I can do and not getting frustrated with myself.


To find out more about Juls’ work, take a look at the EY Matters Twitter and website.