jennifer chamberlin - the leader assistant podcast

Jennifer Chamberlin launched My Bilingual VA in 2016 after working as a Personal / Executive Assistant in Paris for 15 years.

In this episode, Jennifer shares her journey from being a PA/EA to launching her own business. She also talks about her favorite tools, best practices for working remotely, and encourages assistants to see themselves as more than “just an assistant.”


If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

– John Quincy Adams


Jennifer Chamberlin Leader Assistant Podcast


Jennifer Chamberlin launched My Bilingual VA in 2016 after working as a Personal / Executive Assistant in Paris for 15 years. She grew up in England but was always passionate about Europe and learning foreign languages. When she began her first full-time job in Disneyland Paris in 1999, she knew it was the beginning of a new life in France. Now completely bilingual and a dual citizen of both countries, she’s equally comfortable in both cultures.

During her career, Jennifer has assisted high level executives in a variety of industries. Through her experiences, she has developed strong administrative skills and a good knowledge of HR procedures.

As a dynamic, reliable and trustworthy EA, Jennifer is highly motivated and looks to provide her clients with efficient and reliable administrative support. She is a good communicator, takes the initiative and has exceptional organization skills.

Based near Paris, Jennifer now works with multilingual coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs providing a wide variety of services to support their businesses. With her trusted team of associates, they can now provide a wide range of business support services in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. The world has no more frontiers and they can help you, whether you’re in Europe, Asia, America, Africa or Australia! Jennifer is now a certified bilingual online business consultant after completing Gemma Went’s Conscious Consultant Certification program where she learned about research methodology, business strategy, marketing and sales, finance, and operations. She now has several tools at her disposal to support entrepreneurs who are looking for more clarity and to develop their businesses, including mindset and strategy work . Jennifer is really excited about this new stage in her business and looks forward to helping even more clients.

When Jennifer is not working, she can be found wearing a Girl Guider uniform (encouraging girls to be themselves, have fun, build lifelong friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference to their lives and communities).

Jennifer lives on the outskirts of Paris with her husband and two teenage children.

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Jennifer Chamberlin 0:00
Hi, I’m Jennifer Chamberlin and today’s leadership quote comes from John Quincy Adams. And it is If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more you are a leader.

Podcast Intro 0:19
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistants to become confident game changing leader assistants.

Jeremy Burrows 0:34
With so much on your plate, wouldn’t it be nice if ordering food for the office were easy and reliable. My friends at ezCater our workplace catering pros helping you find food for everything from daily employee meals to staff meetings and special events. With ezCater’s network of over 100,000 restaurants nationwide, you’ll have a huge variety of options near you for any group size, dietary need or budget. Your food arrives on time as ordered all supported 24/7 by ezCater’s team of experts. Visit to find out more. Hey friends, welcome to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s episode 221 You can check out the show notes for today’s episode at and today I am speaking with Jennifer Chamberlin. Jennifer is the founder of virtual assistant organization called My Bilingual VA. And Jennifer, welcome to the show.

Jennifer Chamberlin 1:44
Thank you. I’m so excited to be here and so excited to be talking to you.

Jeremy Burrows 1:49
Likewise, likewise. So tell us, where are you in the world?

Jennifer Chamberlin 1:53
So I’m based near Paris in France, which is where I’ve been since 1999.

Jeremy Burrows 2:02
Awesome. And I see in your bio, you had a fun first full time job, or at least I’m assuming it was fun. You can tell us all about it. But something about Disney. Is that right?

Jennifer Chamberlin 2:14
Yeah, absolutely. So I think that you can hear from my voice that I’m British. So I’m was born and raised there. And then I came to Disneyland Paris to work until that time. Yeah. So I worked there for two years.

Jeremy Burrows 2:31
Nice. How was it? Was it? Was it magical? Was it just? Was it just a job?

Jennifer Chamberlin 2:36
No, it was amazing. It was it was my so it was my first full time job ever. And I’ve never actually been to Disneyland before I got there. So I you know, I saw it from the backstage just before I saw on stage, which is kind of a strange way to do it. Because I think most people probably go on stage first. But now I was so excited to get there and really excited to work there. And just, you know, the the idea of working somewhere where it’s a happy place, and people go there for happy times. I just love that. And I was really lucky because they they just allocate you to work, where you’re working, they don’t get don’t get a choice. And so when I got there, and I found Well, the first thing was that I was told I was going to be whacking 50% on attractions and 50% on food. And the stroppy teenager in me at that point, turned around and said, I’m not doing food, I don’t want to work in food, I didn’t come to say come to work here. That’s not why I left my country. So they said, okay, okay, you can do 100% attractions, that’s fine. And then I found out that I had been allocated to Big Thunder Mountain, which is obviously one of the coolest rides in the park and everybody loves it. And I was so I was just chuffed to bits. Like I got to be a cowboy. So I got a cool costume. It was yeah, it was just awesome.

Jeremy Burrows 4:07
Love it. Well, what? So what took you from Disneyland to the world of personal flash executive assistant.

Jennifer Chamberlin 4:18
I’m sorry, I did a couple of years and Disney absolutely loved it. And then realized I kind of realized that it probably wasn’t going to be something that I wanted to do for the rest of my career. And being I was bilingual by that stage. And so being bilingual and Miss Paris, the kind of obvious choice of some where to look for work with secretarial work. I’d already done a little bit in the UK. So I had an understanding of what it would be. And I was really, really fortunate that a fantastic Headhunter looked at my profile and saw was something that some potential there. And so she put me forward to, to actually one of the big four, it was one of the big five at that point. And so I was offered a job as a junior bilingual secretary, secretary, and the tax and legal department working on French wealth tax returns.

Jeremy Burrows 5:25
So that’s a little bit different than Disney.

Jennifer Chamberlin 5:28
It was very, very different. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s the very high end of the people are concerned by that. But right. So there is a connection that,

Jeremy Burrows 5:39
wow. Yeah, you ended up making your way back to Disney, though, right. Is that right?

Jennifer Chamberlin 5:45
Um, yes. So yeah. So then I have my, my career evolved. So I did nine months in one of the big four. And then I moved to a law firm where I was the second PA, to a partner in mergers and acquisitions. So I did my experience there, until I had enough and said, I want to be the first pa now, you know, I can do this, I know what I’m doing. So then I moved to a bank, where I got a fabulous corner off first got my name on the door. Really nice balcony, I was really happy. Worked there. Then I got itchy feet again, and I moved to working for an OMG. So and then I joined an HR department. So that was very different, because rather than being an EA, I was a team assistant. And the whole ethos of their HR team pool of assistants was that we were all interchangeable. So we could be doing anything from there were a few tasks that dedicated people dead, but otherwise, it was a pool of different people. So I worked there had my children. Because it was that time of my life. And then that came to that came that came to an end. And I had the opportunity by that stage, I kind of had so much experience that I was really thinking about, well, what am I going to do. And so France has a really great system of kind of skills based assessments that they make you go through a series of interviews with, with a an HR professional, and they kind of conclude from that where they think you’d be best suited to go further and developing your career. And so I was it was recommended to me that I do an HR qualification. So I had that opportunity. Thank you very much to the French state and the French government because it was all funded, which was awesome. And so yeah, I went to do, I did a one year HR degree. And I went back to Disney as an intern, and their HR department.

Jeremy Burrows 8:03
Okay. And then you decided you didn’t want to do HR and you wanted to go back to assistant or did you how did that transition back to the assistant world.

Jennifer Chamberlin 8:13
I was really lucky that when I went back into the workplace after that, I found roles, which were all encompassing. So they weren’t general EAA, but then with the HR as well, because they were in smaller companies where there wasn’t necessarily a huge HR department. And that’s the real beauty of smaller, smaller companies, you get to do everything. Whereas in bigger companies, you’re very much siloed off. And of course, you can move from one thing to another, but I think it’s harder. So yeah, that was how I, I think that’s how I became, you know, kind of this generalist who, you know, knows that has seen a bit of everything.

Jeremy Burrows 8:56
Awesome. So during your, during your career as an assistant, working for these different various companies? What was maybe your favorite part about those times? And then what was your least favorite part?

Jennifer Chamberlin 9:15
Um, I’m very much my purpose is very much to serve other people. And that’s, and that’s what, that’s what we do. That’s the crux of it. We’re not, we’re not here to be in the limelight. We’re here to support those the other people who are and to do, you know, to make their lives easier. And that’s still very much the core of who I am. And so, you know, making their life smoother, whether it’s, you know, the general EA things or whatever it is that they need that we’re there to find a solution. So that’s definitely and then things like making connections and meeting people. Cool. And I, you know, take time. And that’s basically that’s definitely, definitely what I enjoy. I think now, after, you know, seven years of being a sole trader and working from home, I wouldn’t go back to work. I wouldn’t go back to an office.

Jeremy Burrows 10:21
So so your worst so your your least favorite part was going into the office?

Jennifer Chamberlin 10:26
Oh, yeah, absolutely. No, I mean, the commuting. And that’s why I launched my own business because, because when I when my previous post, my last position ended, I have the choice of going back in back into Paris for work. And the idea of commuting again and being out from 7am till 7pm. And I had young children at the time was just now I really don’t want to do that.

Jeremy Burrows 10:50
Yeah, I’m on the same train as you I like I like to work from home life. Definitely. So okay, so then, you know, you didn’t want to go back to the office. How did you? How did you come up with, Okay, I’m gonna start a VA firm, or did you just start like, Hey, I’m gonna support people remotely. And see what happens is that kind of, and then it just grew from there.

Jennifer Chamberlin 11:17
And it was, it was really incredible, because I was very much the corporate Yeah, that’s what I’d always done, I’d always worked in an office. And I, like even even the very sense of an EA for me was somebody who’s in the office with the people they’re working for. And so when I first but I’ve always been the EA that gets out there and networks makes connections, gets involved in training reads magazines follows, you know, people like you and Lucy, Radia, etc, etc. And so. So I was in some EA groups, and one in particular, where they were talking about a virtual assistant, and I had this gut corporate reaction to it. What on earth is that? How on earth is that possible? But anyway, I said, you know, I’m hearing this a lot, seeing it around a lot, no idea what it is that somebody wants to talk to me in the next line. And so I was very fortunate that it was a Sunday morning, and I ended up on a phone call with Amanda Johnson, who’s one of the UK is best VA coaches. And she literally spent an hour on her Sunday morning, knowing that she has a family, etc. And talking to me, that she didn’t know from anyone, and explaining what it was how I could do it. And literally after an hour, I left and thought, You know what, I could do this? It sounds like something I’d like to try. So yes, that’s where it came from. And that was yeah, that was April 2016.

Jeremy Burrows 12:45
Wow. So then you started supporting, and in June, you have multiple clients by yourself to start, how did that develop?

Jennifer Chamberlin 12:56
Yeah, so I was really lucky that in the position that I was, I was finishing off, I had, I literally had about seven weeks of gardening leave or something. So that was that was brilliant. So it gave me time to be at home, be preparing my business, you know, create the Facebook page, the website, all those things, do the marketing, and most importantly, make the connections. So I started I mean, my my first jobs were associate jobs for other more well established Bas, who’d been doing it for longer than me. And that was the best place to start really, because it gave me you know, it gave me the opportunity to prove what I could do. And then it just it just snowballed from there. And then I got my own clients, and then it it grew. And yeah.

Jeremy Burrows 13:44
So how did you What did you say, Alright, I gotta get help. Like, I gotta hire a team.

Jennifer Chamberlin 13:49
Um, so that came quite early on, I remember that I was I was doing a task for a client, which was just some, you know, data, data scraping or something filling in webs, an Excel sheet or something from the web, from websites. And I was sitting there. And I realized, you know, I could pay somebody else to do this. I don’t need to be doing this. And I’ve got 100 Other things on my to do list that I could be doing. So because I was in those VA groups, and I was making those connections, I went into one of them that I trusted. And I said, I’ve got this task is anyone available now to do it? We literally within 10 minutes, I took the first person who said yes, and because it was a trusted VA great. I knew that I could, I could trust the person that I was giving it to. And so it went from there really, it wasn’t that I I then went on and did client work, but I think I did a proposal or something for someone else that just it just freed up my time. And it was a massive revelation because it was suddenly Oh, I can you know this this hour in front of me. Well, I can be billing it and then she can be billing it and then we’re making more money. I’m which is awesome. I like this. And that’s and that’s one of the things that I love most about having my own businesses, I’m not rely on any more on a salary that comes in payslips that comes in at the end of the month, but money can come in at any time of the month, which is awesome.

Jeremy Burrows 15:18
So what’s maybe your number one tip then for? Whether you’re a virtual assistant, or you’re an executive assistant that’s maybe hybrid in office and remote, what’s your number one tip for working from home and working, you know, out of the office, um,

Jennifer Chamberlin 15:35
be super organized, I think, you know, no, have have your have your tools and set clear boundaries as well. Just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean that you can be doing, you should be doing anything at any time of day. So respecting, respecting that, respecting those boundaries and those limits. I think and then and communication is always, I mean, that’s, that’s one of the things I say about my years of self employment, it’s that I don’t think I’ve ever had a day where I haven’t spoken to somebody, which is insane. But it that’s just the way it is. You know, even if I haven’t physically spoken to someone, I’ve had connection, you know, a written connection. So that’s it. And that’s one of the biggest eye openers, as well as how I’ve just had to embrace all these new tools that, you know, seven years ago, I was just going to touch them. I remember my, my mom’s saying, oh, we should use Skype, and they’ll be able to see you and I pushed her son. Oh, no, really, you know, now it’s like second nature to talk to people over zoom. And it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Jeremy Burrows 16:48
Right? Well, so speaking of tools, what’s one of your favorite tools that you know, you use in your business?

Jennifer Chamberlin 16:57
I think it has to be slack. Okay, that I love slack. It’s such a great communication tool. It’s really, it keeps everything in its place. I like it. Because with my team, you know, we can have the general channel where everybody sees what’s going on, you can make those as fun as you like, which is really nice for corporates as well. And then have having those dedicated channels like for if I’ve got two or three people working on the same client, then we’ve got a dedicated channel and everything stays there. And we know where it is. And you can go back and search it. So yeah, Slack is probably up there. My second would be Trello, I think Lovegood Trello. Board. Yes.

Jeremy Burrows 17:43
And how many, how many assistants work on your team now.

Jennifer Chamberlin 17:48
So I have, I have around 10 that work with me on a regular basis, but they’re not just assistants. So because of the wide range of tasks and services that we offer, inclusive, things as wide, you know, as wide as the general EAA, but also social media admin translations, proofreading subtitling videos. So there are different professionals. And then because we’re a multilingual team, there are different languages spoken as well. So it’s not I was saying to somebody about that day, I couldn’t hire like, instead of those people, I couldn’t hire one person, because I wouldn’t find that unicorn pattern, you can unicorn who would be able to do all of the things that they can do individually. And it’s really where I’m just thinking, as I’m saying this, that the sum of the parts is so much greater than the parts on there. Right.

Jeremy Burrows 18:42
Nice. So tell us a little bit about, you know, you’ve been running this business for how many years now? Seven, seven.

Jennifer Chamberlin 18:52
Yeah. So it’ll be seven in about a week from when we’re recording this.

Jeremy Burrows 18:57
So when? When did you or I guess the first question should be, have you gone from alright, I’m growing my business. I’m operating my business to helping other people who want to start a virtual assistant business or who want to become a virtual assistant. Have you gotten into that world at all?

Jennifer Chamberlin 19:19
Yes, absolutely. So a couple of years ago, I got that was really something that I wanted to do. And I started mentoring new vas, but I was absolutely adamant that I didn’t want to be stepping on anyone’s toes and you know, doing doing it in a way that wasn’t didn’t feel right. So I hadn’t my niche for that was French speaking vas. So I’ve done some mentoring. I’ve had quite, you know, conversations and I’m always open to chatting with new Bas and telling them, you know, little little bits about what I know, and answering their questions. And then I did have a I did run a mastermind and grape for three months. So that was that was great. But unfortunately, the French, the French speaking VAs aren’t, aren’t necessarily as ready to invest in themselves as maybe the English speaking world is. So it didn’t, it didn’t really take off. But I’m still, you know, it’s still something that I’m passionate about.

Jeremy Burrows 20:27
Yeah. Well, is there anything that, you know, you’ve got people listening from all over the world assistants, virtual assistants, personal assistants, administrative assistants, executive business partners, all the different titles in the administrative profession. listening right now, what’s what’s one thing that you want to say to those listening to kind of leave them with?

Jennifer Chamberlin 20:56
I think the biggest thing that’s on my heart is never ever, ever say that you’re just an assistant. Because, you know, this, you’re never just an assistant, there’s so much to it. And never, never put yourself in a box. Whether you you know, whether you remain a corporate, PA for for 40 years, and your whole career or whether you branch out and dare to do something different and dare to move on from it, there are so many opportunities and your path this is your path and and do what lights you up.

Jeremy Burrows 21:37
Awesome. Well said, Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your story and your insight for assistance all over the world. So what’s next for you.

Jennifer Chamberlin 21:47
Um, so it’s a super, super exciting time. I’ve just completed a certification program to be an online business consultant. So that’s really what I’m transitioning into. I’m gonna keep the I still want to offer the business support services that we’ve become known for to multilingual entrepreneurs. But I also want to offer that business consultancy side, because I see so many people, you know, young entrepreneurs, business professionals needing that support, that I really want to offer their mindset and strategy and the confidence so that they can, you know, grow their businesses even more. So that’s really what I’m excited about. And it’s given a whole new new sense to what I’m doing. So watch this space.

Jeremy Burrows 22:37
Nice. Awesome. And is that so that would be like if if assistants listening or like, Oh, I’ve always wanted to start an online business. You would be the person to reach out to?

Jennifer Chamberlin 22:49
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. But also those entrepreneurs out there who, you know, maybe maybe struggling in their business, but they don’t quite know what their needs, what they need. So one of the things that I’ll be offering is an online business audit. So that’s just sitting down with me going through, you know, the basics of your business and seeing, you know, doing doing kind of a SWOT analysis into it, and then seeing how you know, a VA or somebody could have support them further. So it’s super exciting.

Jeremy Burrows 23:19
Wow. Yeah. Congrats, by the way, and that’s awesome. Thank you. Where can people reach out to you? What’s the best place for them to say hi, and learn more about what you’re up to?

Jennifer Chamberlin 23:29
So I’m on LinkedIn, and that’s probably the best place so Jennifer Chamberlin MBVA and then my website is mybilingualVA.

Jeremy Burrows 23:42
Perfect. I’ll put those links in the show notes at And yeah, thanks again for being on the show. Best of luck to you and we’ll, we’ll talk soon.

Jennifer Chamberlin 23:53
Thanks. It’s been great.

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