Q: How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
While looking back to 2009 when I graduated, I had no idea what facilities management was. I started my professional career in ICT sector and worked for over three years in my home country (i.e. Pakistan). In 2013, I got the opportunity to join QD O&M as a “Facilities Engineer” in the airport facilities management project. It was challenging yet exciting to work in the FM sector. Within two years, I found myself fully transformed into an FM professional. My utmost dedication and love for my work led me to take a new position of “Planning Engineer” in 2016. In this role, I had the opportunity to have a bird’s-eye view of the whole FM process and learn about various functions in an FM project.
In 2019, I was offered a role with the newly established business development team. Since then, I have been working as a Senior Business Development Engineer. My current role involves FM market analysis, searching potential FM tenders, improving our existing FM processes, managing new tenders and preparing company policies and procedures.
Q: What has changed about your job role since the COVID-19 crisis? E.g. home working, furloughed, redeployed?
The COVID-19 crisis has shaken the whole globe for a while and almost every organisation has felt its heat. Many organisations world-wide had introduced major changes in their strategies. In our company, we have reduced the number of employees working in offices after government instructions. Our plan was to allow those people to work at home whose office-presence is less required and our department was one of them. This means I worked for around one and half months at home. During this time I connected remotely to my office PC to access my files and programs. We also attended meetings via video meeting applications.
Q: What have you found most challenging about your job in FM since the lockdown?
The lockdown led to more than half of the employees in almost every organisation to work from home and logically these people had no or less access to their office phone and emails with, the major challenge being a delay in responses from people. I believe it happened because people were not ready for such circumstance and we have learnt now from this experience to prepare for any similar situations in the future. Another challenge of working at home was to deal with the blended role i.e. you have to be a spouse, a parent and an employee in the same place and almost at the same time.
Q: What qualities do you think are most needed for a successful career in FM?
For a successful career in FM, one needs to be flexible and ready to adopt to changes. The FM sector is developing fast. There are major standardisation works in progress that will transform the FM sector into a very high-tech industry. This means to be a successful leader in the FM sector, you need to be a tech-lover as well as fully aware of both new international standards and local regulations for mandatory compliance. Additionally, top management need to be aware of incoming transformations and prepare their organisations by engaging their people accordingly.
Q: What is your organisation doing to ensure the safe return of staff to the workplace?
QD O&M is highly committed to adhere to the local laws and staff welfare. As the situation is still evolving, the company strictly follows the instructions of the local health authorities to ensure safe operations. Initially the number of people working at the office has been reduced. More accommodations and transportation facilities are available for employees living in company residences to help ensure social distance. The number of staff based in the office will then be gradually increased, as required. The company is acting proactively and taking every step to ensure smooth operations, while not compromising on quality of service delivery to clients.
Q: Are you a member of any FM association or body and if so what benefits do you think they provide?
I am currently a member of MEFMA (Middle East Facility Management Association), and a member of Global FM. MEFMA offers access to th latest information, case studies and knowledge of the FM sector in Middle East. The MEFMA like other FM associations is playing a good role to promote the FM sector in the region.
Q: Do you believe the pandemic has highlighted the important role of the FM sector and the part its people pay in keeping workers safe and buildings clean and maintained?
The pandemic has both negative and positive impacts on highlighting the role of FM in today’s world. The negative impact is with many of the companies considering FM as the less necessary function during the pandemic, and reducing FM operations to save costs without evaluating the trade-off. The much stronger and positive impact of the pandemic is the way it had highlighted the importance of FM, especially when it came to soft services. The significance of the FM personnel was realised and acknowledged by clients, authorities and even visitors. Second to health professionals, they were widely seen as the front-line fighters against the pandemic.
Q: What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic?
I believe the pandemic would allow the people in the FM sector to rethink their strategies. The health and safety professionals in FM will be further trained on novel infectious diseases. They will update their standard operating procedures to cope with such long-term situations. The top management will rethink their staffing strategies and adapt to new technology. The maintenance planners will consider updating their maintenance plans and strategies. In this way everybody will consider these changes, re-define their strategies and adapt to the new environment.