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This old-school secretary has much to impart PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 15 May 2017 14:41

When the Rector at St. Peter’s College suggested to young Mervyn Dirckze’s father, Errol Dirckze that his son take up carpentry, he was aghast! “My father looked at me in horror,” reminisces Mervyn with a chuckle, candidly admitting that he had no interest in the academic side at school. With his musical genes inherited from his father, Mervyn, joined a band in the 1960s and led a Bohemian existence little realising the path that lay ahead.

Today, Mervyn is an ‘institution’ at the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) with 30 years behind him, having served five Directors General as their trusted Secretary/Personal Assistant. His book ‘The Making of a Dynamic Secretary’ coming out as an EFC monograph is intended to provide next-generation secretaries a wealth of information and guidance to mould themselves into competent and professional  secretaries. The book offers fine tips on every aspect of office life from time management, office politics, pressure situations, office attire, setting up schedules, ergonomics and comfort devices at work to even remembering the birthdays of colleagues, making it a handy guidebook to any professional. The reader-friendly content of the publication, as the author has noted in his preface, ‘comprises information and knowledge he had gleaned from a career spanning nearly five decades, covering jobs in many sectors from printing to maintenance projects, from travel, tours and purchasing specialized food and other items for hotels, to the gem industry, motor and service organizations.’

More than a ‘taking-down-notes’ role, a secretary’s domain is a multi-skilled one, asserts the veteran, adding this role is becoming even more demanding in this ‘changing world’. “It is no longer about helping your boss get through her/his day but involves a greater involvement in the work of the office. The author acquired the ropes of the trade ‘on the job’ with no formal training in any secretarial school, he says. Complete with decorum, charm and the discipline of the ‘old school’ stock, Mervyn bemoans the lack of finesse in the industry today. “This is one reason which propelled me to compile this book, to impart the finer tips of our generation.”

The book is dedicated to his father Errol Dirckze who Mervyn credits as a ‘liberal thinking’ man who gave his son the freedom to choose his career path, besides being a musician. “So much so when my father realized that it was his son who was singing Brown Eyes behind a sack of walnuts at One Rupee Store opposite school (St. Peter’s), he didn’t waste a minute in buying me a ukulele, and later a guitar,” smiles Mervyn.

A man full of surprises, Mervyn says that he was the first to set up a discotheque here in the late 1970s at the ‘Shabana Night Club’ of Hotel Sapphire, Wellawatte. The idea of a Disco was conceived in him during his times in the Middle East when he was working for a travel company. “My first boss was quite disappointed when I wanted to quit my first job at Lake House Printers in search of greener pastures in the Middle East in 1974. I still remember him questioning me as to why I wanted to run to the desert despite the high recommendation he gave me,” smiles Mervyn. “However ever since Sriyan de Silva helped me find a place at the EFC in 1987, there had been no turning back,” notes Mervyn.

Loved by both the young and the old at the EFC for his unfailing sense of humour and witty repartee, Mervyn says that the ‘generation gap’ has never affected him. “Starting from Sriyan de Silva for whom I first worked at the EFC, with each successive Director General, I have derived a great sense of satisfaction as all of them including Franklyn Amerasinghe, Gotabaya Dasanayaka, Ravi Peiris and the present DG, Kanishka Weerasinghe, have given me a free hand knowing well that I know the ropes.” The foreword to The Making of a Dynamic Secretary is by the present DG of the EFC, Kanishka Weerasinghe and the book also has a special message by the former Secretary General of the EFC,Sriyan de Silva.

An avid reader, a book is a must-have for Mervyn in which he takes refuge in his spare time at work. Feeding birds is the latest addition to his daily routine, he quips. “First it was just one parrot who came for my peanuts early morning and now a whole bunch comes,” he smiles. Like a magician pulling out the proverbial rabbit out of his top hat, Mervyn reflects: “do you know that I won my wife, Beverley who has been with me for the last 46 years, over a toss?” Their love story where Mervyn had to decide whether it was Beverley or not to take his hand had even bagged the first prize at a Valentine Day Love story competition a few years back! “Not bad at all, we even won a dinner for two at a five star!” he chuckles.

Young at heart and moving with the times, he has made a lot of ‘Facebook’ friends as well. “I get on well with young people and I’m very fond of children,” notes Mervyn who is known as ‘papa’ among so many younger colleagues at EFC. A proud grandpa of two, Mervyn is delighted that his 13-year-old grand-daughter is taking after him both in terms of their mutual love for Elvis Presley and for the guitar.

Challenging one’s self and ‘making a game out of the job’ can not only help one take bigger strides professionally, but counter tough times as well, Mervyn shares his wisdom. “Of course all of this should be fused with a bit of laughter as well,” smiles the writer who reiterates the point in his book: ‘politeness and a smile should be your umbrella’. At 69, Mervyn cannot afford to call it a day as the EFC will not hear of his retirement.

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