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Career Ladder talks to the Senior Assurance Specialist at Altius VA Ltd

Q: What was your first ever job?
My first paid job was a paper round but my first “proper” job was a bakery assistant for Morrison’s Supermarkets in Derby at 16 years old.

Q: What was your first job in the FM sector?

Administrator for Skanska FM at the Royal Derby Hospital. I logged jobs on the Concept database system.

Q: What made you choose FM as a career?
I really enjoyed the different aspects of the industry and as I began to specialise in health and safety I found that by working in FM I could gain experience in many different areas; from culture change initiatives to holding training sessions on specific topics such as Lone working.

Q: How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
I carved my path in health and safety moving from FM Office Manager to Health and Safety Advisor, then progressed to my current role as Senior Assurance Specialist/FM Manager at Altius VA Ltd. Through hard work and dedication, I gained valuable experience in both the healthcare and FM sectors.

Q: Do you have any qualifications or training in FM? And how have you benefited from them?
I have many qualifications in health and safety such as the NVQ Level 5 Diploma. I am also a qualified ISO:9001:2015 Lead Auditor, have a BA honours Degree and am currently studying a Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Business Management with a view to go on and do an MBA. These skills/qualifications make me adaptable to various situations that arise on a day-to-day basis in FM so that I can deal with whatever is thrown at me.

Q: What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
Whilst working for Skanska they introduced a scheme into the business called IFE (Injury Free Environment). This was a very positive initiative that focused on getting everyone from the craftsman to the MD to personally take ownership of health and safety, creating a positive and proactive mind set that embodied taking care of yourself and your fellow colleagues. Its main objective was to empower all staff to be able to stop any unsafe acts on a job, helping reduce incidents and proving to staff that their safety was Skanska’s priority. I helped to teach and introduce IFE the into the various Skanska FM sites around the country. I found this very rewarding and it was great seeing peoples attitude towards health and safety change. People left the course feeling empowered and educated and this showed in the incident statistics reports.

Q: What’s changed most since you started in FM?
The use of technology such as tablets has significantly advanced CAFM to be much more efficient at highlighting potential improvements.

Q: If you could do one thing differently in your career in FM, what would it be?
I would have got into health and safety sooner because I think if I had I would have been able to gain valuable experience around issues such as Legionella which a lot of work was being carried out in at the time. This is an area of great interest for me and its vital that FM companies get this right.

Q: What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how can that be achieved? 
I would argue that by dedicating more resources to supply chain management, particularly sub-contractor management, companies in the FM sector can be safe in the knowledge that their suppliers are competent and compliant with legislations.

Q: Are you a member of any FM association or body and if so what benefits do you think they provide?
I am a Chartered Member of IOSH, an OSHCR accredited H&S Consultant, a Certified Member of BIFM and a Practitioner level in IEMA. I find them invaluable for CPD, are a great support and also offer fantastic networking opportunities.

Q: What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
Sit down and think about what you enjoy in the FM industry and figure out what role you would like to do eventually. Make a plan of where you want to be in five years’ time and identify steps needed to get there. I self-funded 95 per cent of my qualifications at great expense but it was worth every penny and it paid off in the long run.

Q: What qualities should a good FM possess?
They need to be approachable, open to ideas, calm in a stressful situation and a good leader.

Q: What are your long-term goals for the next seven to 10 years?
I would like to get my MBA and then focus on specialising in health and safety culture change. Maybe one day creating my own course that focuses on staff wellbeing and the integration of health and safety into business.

Q: What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector over the next few years?
I think that the various management systems, such as quality, environmental and health and safety, will integrate. This will go hand in hand with technological advancements which means that processes will become more efficient and streamlined. 

About Sarah OBeirne

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