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A day in the life of Andrea Cairns

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In the next of our regular series to highlight the work of colleagues, in this edition of Dialogue Magazine, we find out more about Andrea Cairns, Senior Events and Customer Services Manager in our Accommodation and Commercial Services.

Andrea joined Durham in July 2003 as a Sales Coordinator in the Conference and Tourism Office, which then comprised three members of staff. After two years in the team, Event Durham was launched and Andrea became Event Durham Manager, looking after the team for seven years.

As well as looking after the Event Durham team, Andrea took on the Reception Helpdesk and University Retail and Merchandise in 2012 and has been in her current role as Senior Events and Customer Services Manager since 2018.

In Andrea’s role, no two days are the same, which she really likes about her job. Some days she is running big events for the University, which involves a lot of trouble shooting. On other days she attends operational meetings to ensure things are in-place for large scale events such as Lumiere.

Over the years, Andrea has established many fantastic working relationships with so many colleagues, making her the ‘go to’ person for a lot of people around the University.

Dialogue asked her about the day of the VC’s Thank you reception…

Andrea’s day

6am: Wake up, grab a coffee, empty the dishwasher and any other tasks that need doing.

7am: Prepare a special breakfast for my daughter Rose for her 13th birthday celebrations.

8am: Dropping Rose off at school (I don’t usually, but it was a birthday treat).

8.30am: Start the working day in the office, looking through emails.

9am: Senior Management Team meeting.

10.30am: Walking to the Botanic Garden to check on progress for the VC’s Thank you reception preparations.

11am: Head back to office.

11.15am: Checking on name badges and logistics for the evening.

11.30am: Receiving a call from the chef at Botanic Garden telling me about a power issue. Walk back to the Botanic Garden to try and sort it out.

12 noon: Marquee provider rings asking which sides of the marquee should be open – walk back to the Botanic Garden to sort!

1.30pm: Grabbing some lunch.

2.30pm: Checking on emails.

3pm: Staff briefing, final check as to who is doing what at the Thank you reception.

4pm: Catching up on emails and other tasks.

5pm: Getting changed and ready for the event.

5.15pm: Walking to the Botanic Garden to do a final check that everything is in place.

6pm: Meet and greet at the Thank you reception, overseeing the smooth running of the event.

7.40pm: Leaving the event to spend the rest of the evening with Rose for her birthday.

8pm: Family time.

More about Andrea…

What do you enjoy about your role?

I love the variation of my role, there are never two days the same. I really enjoy planning the large-scale events and working with colleagues across the University to make events a success. My working days go really fast, so fast sometimes it’s scary! There’s nothing more satisfying than when you have been working on something and you see it all come together.

What are you most proud of?

I have a couple of things I am proud of.

Firstly, I was part of the operational delivery team that worked on two Royal visits to Durham - HRH Queen Elizabeth in July 2012 and then HRH Prince Charles in February 2018. Following both visits I received invitations to Buckingham Palace, and I have been lucky enough to go twice, once for The Queen’s Jubilee reception in October 2012 and then to the Royal Garden Party in May 2019. Both visits were fantastic.

The second thing I’m proud of and which meant the world to me is winning the Outstanding Colleague award at the Professional Services Awards event in January 2023.

Andrea Cairns with her friend Lesley Ash at Buckingham Palace
Andrea Cairns with her friend Lesley Ash at Buckingham Palace

Andrea's invitation to Buckingham Palace
Andrea's invitation to Buckingham Palace

What’s the best bit of advice you have been given and that you would give?

Don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

How do you look after your mental health?

I do find doing an exercise class or a walk after work does help me de-stress. I also find doing housework such as cleaning beneficial for clearing my head.

What’s your favourite food?

I do love a good roast dinner and it’s even better if someone else is cooking it for me.

What’s your favourite cake?

I don’t really have a massive sweet tooth. I prefer cheese and crackers.

Where has been your best holiday?

I loved taking my two children to Disneyworld, Florida. We’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times and these trips have been by far our best holidays. Seeing their faces light up as they approach the top of Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom was priceless.

As a family we also have a trip to Center Parcs at least once a year. In the summer we love going to Sherwood Forest and in the winter Whinfell Forest is magical.

Andrea with her family at Disneyworld, Florida
Andrea with her family at Disneyworld, Florida

What are your hobbies?

Family time for me is everything, spending time with them, going on holiday with them, but I also love walking and my exercise classes. When time allows, I go for a swim in the morning before work.



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