Q: 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.
Q: 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. After a year’s apprenticeship I discovered I really did enjoy the variety and challenge it offered.
Q: 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. 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!
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
• Being an excellent communicator is tied to adaptability, the role of an FM 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.
Q: 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.
Q: What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how could that be achieved?
More apprenticeships! I’ve never come across an industry that has so many indirect routes of entry. 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. 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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. However, with property at a premium as ever, it’ll be up to FM to adapt existing spaces in order to achieve this goal.
Q: 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.