MAY 2018 67
FM is known to be a career that people fall into from
other sectors. In this regular column, FMJ chats to a
facilities professional about how they got into the
sector and takes a look at their career path.
This month we talk to Sarah Wright, Vertical
Name: Sarah Wright
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
What was you first job in the FM
A er applying for a PA role for MacLellan
International Ltd. A er 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.
What made you choose FM as a
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
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
di erent 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.
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.
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
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
What personal qualities do
you think are most needed for a
successful career in FM?
The ability to be flexible is key, as things
o en change on a day-to-day basis, like
the weather, last minutes sta 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
If you could do one thing
di erently 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.
What would make the biggest
di erence 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 di erent 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.
What advice would you give
to young people coming into the
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
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.
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 e ectively 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
e iciently, be more environmentally
friendly and provide a more coste
ective service to their customers.
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
e icient ways of doing things, which is
good, but a challenge nevertheless.
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.
Would you, or someone you know, like to be featured in our career ladder column? If you’re an operational
FM with more than 10 years’ experience in the sector, then email firstname.lastname@example.org