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Career Ladder talks to JLL’s EMEA Engineering and Sustainability Manager

Q: What was you first job in the FM sector?
In the client-based FM sector it was with JLL in April 2017 and I haven’t looked back since. Prior to this, and due to the downturn, I had to rethink my options as a construction-based electrician and ended up as a technician in a well-regarded hotel.

Q: What made you choose FM as a career?
The downturn made me rethink my career path. As I progressed within the hospitality sector, I started to seek more FM knowledge through part-time FM courses. I then began to gain a real understanding and love of the industry and knew that this was where my future lay. Despite many financially-attractive offers to return to the construction industry I remained within FM and saw the bigger picture. My decision has now been vindicated.

Q: How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
I started off as a multi-skilled technician in a five-star hotel. Through excellent guidance from my facilities manager, I decided the next step was to self-improve and gain managerial experience in a smaller hotel. This provided a great learning experience for me in areas such as finance. Where previously finance wouldn’t have been a major issue, it was now a massive challenge. I started to learn ways to improve asset efficiency and used energy saving methods to counter this while remaining statutory compliant and improving guest reviews. Following this I decided to move back into five-star hotels, this time as an FM. It was here where I used the methods learned to win awards for energy management and made major contributions to the hotel’s finance. I was then contacted by JLL for the role I’m currently in with Linkedin.

Q: 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 have a Level 5 IWFM diploma, Engineering Operations Diploma and a Level 3 CIEH in Health and Safety. I believe all these qualifications have helped me with to be prepared for the fast-paced and unpredictable environment that FM brings while being still able to deliver the best service to clients and stakeholders.

Q: What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
I feel my biggest contributions to my current role would be the complete roll-out of a newly-created asset management system across all 10 EMEA sites. There was little handover, so all data was gathered by hand and a management system created. The system included tagging, asset list creating, new logbooks, new SOPs/EOPs and the training and upskilling of the team to manage onsite. Another would be to help close out of snagging/defects of the new 190,000 sq ft €85m EMEA HQ in Dublin.

Q: What’s changed most since you started in FM?
While my time in FM has been relatively short, I believe technology is constantly changing. From smart phone apps to CMMS systems, the way we work is being made simpler and easier to manage thanks to technology.

Q: What personal qualities do you think are most needed for a successful career in FM?
A strong work ethic and ability to predict risk. Although that sounds quite negative, the ability to foresee where there could be potential issues has helped me a great deal in managing sites.

Q: If you could do one thing differently in your career in FM, what would it be?
Get into it sooner! Really though I don’t think I’d do too much differently, all mistakes or hardships I faced along the way made me the person I am today. I think mistakes are the best way to learn, once you do exactly that, learn and not make the same mistake twice.

Q: What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how could that be achieved?
I feel the opinion of the sector is changing however I still feel that sometimes it’s still seen as a cost rather than an investment. This opinion is changing but very slowly, I feel more awareness and training to owners/CEOs in regards to the positive financial gain from having a happy and healthy workplace would help investment in facilities and workplace more.

Q: Are you a member of any FM association or body and if so what benefits do you think they provide?
I’ve recently become a member of IWFM. I think it’s a great association with some tremendous events and support for gaining knowledge and networking.

Q: What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
Embrace technology early, it will be the future of this sector. Be patient, learn your craft and management style first before becoming a manager. Work hard but try keep a healthy balance between personal and working life. You’ll be a better manager and person for it.

Q: What are your long-term goals for the next seven to ten years?
To continue doing the best I can for my current client. I don’t concentrate too much on anything past this financial year. It’s best to concentrate on the here and now. The impact you can make today is the most important thing, any aspirations will follow with the hard work.

Q: What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector over the next few years?
Robotics, automation and AI will change the industry in the coming years. It will be the FM sector that will be managing these systems in the coming years.

Q: What are the greatest challenges of working in FM?
Due to the FM department not actively generating cash flow it can quite often be forgotten about. I feel this can be challenging to create a collaborative environment when there isn’t enough information about what FMs do exactly.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
I enjoy the changing day-to-day work that it brings. I could be in Dubai one day overseeing fixed wire testing, the next day in Dublin dealing with a Christmas event. It always keeps me excited to come to work and it’s never boring, I can assure you of that.


About Sarah OBeirne

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