Home / Features / Career Ladder / Career Ladder talks to NJC’s vertical manager 

Career Ladder talks to NJC’s vertical manager 

Q: What was your first ever job?
I was attending a Leisure and Tourism course at college, which I really wasn’t enjoying. I remember my parents going on holiday and when they came back I had quit college and started working as an apprentice travel agent: my dad’s face was a picture but I never looked back. I really enjoyed working with the customers and progressed through the apprenticeship, qualified to be a travel assistant and then eventually managed branches.

Q: What was you first job in the FM sector?
After applying for a PA role for MacLellan International Ltd. After a couple of years, MacLellan was purchased by Interserve and the PA roles started to disappear. I was asked if I would like to support the London window cleaning team as a coordinator, as the Director was keen to keep me within the business.

Q: What made you choose FM as a career?
I immediately enjoyed the variety of the work and the fact that no two days are the same. The FM world is fast paced, diverse and necessary. It supports a wide range of people, buildings and services.

Q: How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
I really enjoyed being part of the window cleaning team and found it interesting right from the start. I was taken out on the rounds with the foreman at the time, was shown the different methods of window cleaning, saw how well the gangs supported each other and immediately felt a part of the team. I worked hard, took on additional responsibility and progressed to become a window cleaning manager. I learnt a lot from the team, relying on the expertise of the foreman and operatives to broaden my knowledge of the industry. When my role disappeared due to restructuring I was approached by NJC to join them. I now run a team of 15, consisting of supervisors, static and mobile vertical operatives.

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 recently completed and passed the IOSH Managing Safely course, which has given me more confidence in my experience and knowledge of health and safety. I am looking forward to following more courses to broaden my knowledge. Health and safety is one of the main aspects of the FM industry.

Q: What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
I am passionate about what I do and working to support my team is one of my main focuses, as well as building good relationships with my clients. I make sure that all procedures and safe working practices are followed by every member of my team and we work together closely. For me team work is everything.

Q: What’s changed most since you started in FM?
Health and safety without a doubt. There is much more in-depth documentation, including RAMS, emergency descents, pre and post use equipment and PPE checks to name a few. Audits for equipment are taking place much more regularly than they used to and operatives, employers and clients are all much more aware of the processes to ensure safe working for everyone. NJC uses GoPro cameras for building maintenance unit and rope access work to ensure Health and Safety procedures are being followed before the task is carried out. These are beneficial for all and are a great training tool.

Q: What personal qualities do you think are most needed for a successful career in FM?
The ability to be flexible is key, as things often change on a day-to-day basis, like the weather, last minutes staff changes and equipment failure. You need to be able to think on your feet. Adapting to change, and the busy nature of FM roles also requires very good organisational skills and quite a lot of determination. Good communication skills are needed to fully understand customer expectations, lead teams and liaise with senior managers.

Q: If you could do one thing differently in your career in FM, what would it be?
Encourage young people to consider a career in FM and discover how many opportunities there are to progress within the industry. Training can help you get started, whether it is a traditional training course or an apprenticeship scheme combining working and training concurrently. I think too few people really understand what roles there are within the FM sector and I think we all need to play a part in helping to change this.

Q: What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how could that be achieved?
The FM industry is predominately male dominated and it would be great if we could see more women in front line and senior positions. Statistics show that men outnumber women in leadership by nine to one, and studies show that women can provide different qualities to men, such as their relationship building, intuition and multi-tasking skills. It will be interesting to see how this changes over the next few years.

Q: What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
I would say grab all opportunities that are presented to you, be it to try new roles, companies or locations, or to build your expertise through training. In each role, gain as much experience as possible and always endeavour to look at things from the customer’s point of view. Always work hard, be focused, and look for opportunities to make a difference.

Q: What are your long-term goals for the next seven to ten years?
I really enjoy what I do, I’m very committed and thrive on progress. I am starting a management course to improve my skills and I hope it will bring a new dynamic to how I manage and implement ideas and innovations to the team, company and customers.

Q: What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector over the next few years?
I believe technology, and utilising it more effectively will be the main change. This will encompass robotic technology, which may replace some roles, electronic tracking of work carried out, and an increased use of sensors. This will help businesses to work more efficiently, be more environmentally friendly and provide a more cost-effective service to their customers.

Q: What are the greatest challenges of working in FM?
I think increasing customer expectations brings a big challenge, particularly with demands for high specification service delivery at a lower cost. I find that I need to be constantly looking for better, more efficient ways of doing things, which is good, but a challenge nevertheless.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
I love the variety of the role and that I constantly come up against new challenges that I need to overcome. Leading my team is a key part of my role, and ensuring that they are correctly trained, working safely and supported individually brings me a great deal of satisfaction. 

About Sarah OBeirne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *