Career Ladder Questionnaire
· Education: What was your first ever job?
Saturday girl at a local fabric shop when I was 13
· What was you first job in the FM sector?
I applied for an FM apprenticeship with a charity I was volunteering for at the time.
· What made you choose FM as a career?
I wasn’t exactly clear on what FM was before I applied for the apprenticeship, but I was intrigued by the role and felt that I had enough transferable skills to make the leap. FM was a conscious decision for me and after a year’s apprenticeship I discovered I really did enjoy the variety and challenge it offered.
· How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
I owe my early career to my mentor, boss and friend Chris, he exposed me to every facet of FM; hard and soft service contracts, end to end lease management, planning applications, project management, he even encouraged me to self-teach AutoCAD. On completion of my apprenticeship I remained with the charity as an FM, progressed to a regional manager and, while working full time, completed my MSc in Facility and Environmental Management at UCL. Once I’d matriculated, I moved onto Vitality as their FM for the London and later Croydon offices. Despite enjoying my time there, I began to feel increasingly frustrated with the way services were delivered by FM companies; the limited involvement, lack of initiative and impersonal, overly formal relationships. I’d seen Andrew (Pareto FM Founding Director) lecture at UCL while doing my degree and when the opportunity to work for him came up, I jumped at the chance!
· Do you have any qualifications or training in FM and related areas such as health and safety? And how have you benefited from them?
I completed my MSc in Facility and Environmental management during the early stages of my career, the degree expanded my view of what FM was, the potential of the industry and career path I could follow. My pervious experience being principally clinical design and build projects, estate management, planning and light touch maintenance.
· What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
I’m a firm believer that the best way to ensure we get high quality people in this industry is through mentoring and creating a supportive environment for new FMs to learn and develop their skills. I’ve adopted this approach in every role I’ve held since completing my apprenticeship and tried to give back some of what’s been given to me. At CRI, Vitality and IPG I identified members of my team I believed had a flare for FM and potential to go further in the industry; each f the women I’ve mentored has gone on to forge a successful career and it’s not a “big splash” but I like to think I’ve made a difference to them and that they’ll pay it forward as I have.
· What’s changed most since you started in FM?
The way we work has changed; our hours and locations are no longer as fixed as they once were, and this has significantly impacted the way we construct work space and use buildings; there’s an emphasis on space for collaboration and socialisation to meet the needs of a more diverse and fluid workforce. Employees have come to a holistic environment and companies recognise that if they want to attract and retain the best talent, they need to create innovative, multi-functional spaces that suit this changing workforce.
· What personal qualities do you think are most needed for a successful career in FM?
· Flexibility is key- Being able to quickly adapt to change is crucial in an industry that is constantly evolving and as broad as FM; learning is part of the job. Clients requirements are as unpredictable; expectations change, new management is hired, businesses develop; as an FM provider we must meet and overcome these challenges while maintaining the same service standards.
· Being an excellent communicator is tied to adaptability, the role of a Facilities Manager spans all levels; you need to be able to confidently present solutions, direct contractors, negotiate with suppliers, manage and inspire teams, collaborate with and support peers.
· Confident in Decision Making- As the experts, we’re relied upon to make informed, logical conclusions based on experience and the information available; in pressured situations you need to be able to make quick, confident decisions without comprising delivery.
· If you could do one thing differently in your career in FM, what would it be?
I have a background in design and build, soft FM and project management and although I do have a working knowledge of hard services, I’d like to find the time to expand that knowledge. I’m incredibly lucky to manage several talented (and patient) engineers and a great technical team at my disposal who indulge my curiosity and are a great support.
· What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how could that be achieved?
More apprenticeships! I’ve ever come across an industry that has so many indirect routes of entry; people have come through via the mail room, cleaning managers that fell into it, IT professionals who had FM tacked onto their list of responsibilities. It would be fantastic to see more people come in at entry level who have set their sights on FM as a career. Apprenticeships are as much about the delivery as the qualification at the end; there are so many passionate individuals within FM in a position to share their knowledge and experience, but the key is linking them to entrants. I was fortunate to find an apprenticeship but having actively sought an apprentice for an associated role, I know how challenging it is to connect with viable applicants. We ought to engage more with colleges and awarding bodies to raise the profile of FM; by generating an interest in and understanding of what FM really entails, we’d be better placed to attract the right candidates to further innovation and best practice within the industry.
· Are you a member of any FM association or body and if so what benefits do you think they provide?
I’ve been a certified member of IWFM since graduating from UCL in 2016; being CIWFM has given me immediate access to a range of networking events, professional articles and best practice guidance notes as well as news on latest trends and developments in FM and other sectors. It’s important to know what going on in your industry, particularly in one as fluid as FM. I’d strongly recommend taking advantage of professional memberships, they can be a bit of a one stop shop and great place to broaden your understanding and awareness of the industry.
· What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
If you need daily recognition this may not be the industry for you; Good FM should be invisible, we are the people who work behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly and BAU continues unimpeded. No news in FM is often good news, it’s rare a client will contact you with praise on achieving perfect lighting or temperature levels; we’re the go to in an emergency, the problem solvers and fixers. Most of the time, you need to be content in knowing that you’ve done a great job and for that to be enough.
Having said that, we don’t toil in obscurity, the sector has several networks and associations that recognize individual achievements, celebrate and share new innovations and encourage networking and learning across companies and related industries.
· What are your long-term goals for the next seven to ten years?
Quite honestly, I’ve not thought that far ahead, I’m so happy to have found a company and role I love so I’m just enjoying it for what it is at the moment. What I’m looking forwards to is being part of the continued success of Pareto and to help grow it to be not the biggest but certainly the best FM provider in the UK. If I could help realise that, I’d feel I’d achieved something.
· What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector over the next few years?
There has been an increased focus on health and wellbeing both in and out of work; building and offices are being designed to promote more active and comfortable environments in a bid to retain quality staff. The challenge for the FM industry will be understanding and reacting to the needs of individual businesses to develop a flexible solution that optimise the productivity of the staff and support the needs of the organisation. The workplace is becoming more people orientated, with strong links between health and productivity, it’s inevitable that more and more businesses will invest in improving the quality of the workplace environment to increase staff efficiency. However, with property at a premium as ever, and it’ll be up to FM to adapt existing spaces in order to achieve this goal.
· What are the greatest challenges of working in FM?
The very nature of FM means you’re presented with fresh challenges every day; reacting quickly to failure, controlling costs and time management are all close to the top of the list, but I believe successfully managing client expectations is a key marker of a good FM. Clients are demanding and rightly so, they are paying you to deliver a specific service and as their facilities manager its important you understand their expectations, what they will and will not find acceptable, how to deliver news (positive and negative) and when to involve them if a situation becomes difficult or a deadline may slip. If there’s a setback, be honest and most importantly; never over promise and underdeliver.
· What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
There are so many things I love about FM it’s tricky to pinpoint just one, but, at a push, I’d say out of hours working. Odd but true, there’s nothing more satisfying than taking over a client’s office for a weekend and performing the minor miracles so that come Monday the flood water is gone, we’ve refurbished a floor or the air con that’s been making the office managers life a misery is working again. Weekend contractors are also a bit of a different breed, I’ve met some great people and had fascinating conversations while supervising in the early hours of a Sunday morning; there’s a genuine sense of camaraderie, of everyone pulling together but the real joy is handing the space back to the client knowing we’ve taken some of the pressure off.