The age of the “accidental facility manager”… Is it winding down? That paradigm through which so many of today’s facility management professionals have traveled as they establish their careers? There’s the carpenter who’s worked his way up to be vice president of facilities. And the office manager who’s now the director of facilities and real estate for her organization. As you probably know, there’s not often a clear path to a career in facility management — but that may be changing.
Is a new era of facility management on the horizon? One that’s characterized by a more defined path compared to the traditional paradigm.
This was one of the questions discussed earlier this week in Chicago at Facility Executive Live!, a new conference and networking event held by Facility Executive magazine on October 3, 2017. During the closing panel discussion, “Next Gen FM”, a focus of the talk was the pending shortage of new talent coming into the facility management profession. As Baby Boomers retire, who is taking their place? How can we make the profession more visible to the younger generation as they consider their higher education and career options?
One of the Next Gen FM panelists was Judie Cooper, associate director of organizational development, office of facilities management and reliability at Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Cooper made it personal when she visited her daughter’s high school one year during Career Day. She took the students on a tour of their school to highlight what facility managers do and how the job impacts the building those students occupy daily. Today, Cooper and her colleagues at Smithsonian work extensively with interns, both in college as well as in technical training programs, providing them with paid opportunities to work in a facility management organization. During the discussion in Chicago this week, she also shared insight into the succession planning framework at Smithsonian facilities department. They invest in the training of high performing staff so those employees have the opportunity, if they wish, to move themselves to the next level.
Jim Lord, managing director of Helbling Associates, an executive search firm based in Wexford, PA, provided during the panel discussion an example of an avenue one of his facility management clients uses to find new talent. This client teaches welding at a local college and keeps an eye out for star students who he might bring into the facility department within his organization. Specializing in securing executives for roles related to facilities management, construction, and real estate development, Lord has experience working with healthcare and higher education institutions, public agencies, design firms, contractors, corporations, and non-profit organizations in attracting talent for critical needs.
Meanwhile, panelist Jerry DiCola, director of facilities operations at Horizon Pharma, a biopharmaceutical company with U.S. headquarters in Lake Forest, IL, pointed to a number of reasons why a shortage exists. These include lack of training opportunities; facility management not recognized as a professional career; and that the general view of the facilities industry is dated. As such, the facilities industry has not adapted to the current generation, and appealing to that potential talent. And like the other panelists, DiCola asserted that partnership with higher education is one way to promote facility management to the younger generation as well as older job seekers.
Randall Niznick, facility manager for a Fortune 500 construction and building services company and retired US Navy Seabee, brought another perspective. In the military, he advanced from the HVAC and plumbing trades into maintenance and facilities management. Since his transition from the military several years ago, Niznick has worked in several facility management positions. He sees many parallels between Seabee skillsets and those required in facility management and speaks to veterans about the career opportunities. He notes many correlate facilities management with maintenance management — not realizing the potential career growth available in the field.
Technology, Energy, And More At Facility Executive Live!
The Next Gen FM topic was the last in a lineup of six topics covered at Facility Executive Live!, which was designed to bring facility executives together for a close-knit education and networking opportunity. Attendees heard from a group of industry experts, which included facilities peers, as well as consultants and other experts.
“Technology & Facility Management: A 360 Degree View” was a panel discussion that looked at how technology impacts virtually all areas of facility management. This discussion in Chicago covered a broad range in addressing how technology upgrades could benefit facility departments, and organizations overall. Panelists were Kevin Borg, director, facilities and project management, UCLA Athletics; Tom Grimard, associate partner, Syska Hennessy Group; Nick Lawrence, vice president, Intelligent Building Practice, Environmental Systems Design, Inc.; and Brad Shokes, senior vice president and business lead for Facilities Flex with JLL.
“Creating An Energy Roadmap” was the next topic, also formatted as a panel discussion. Ellen Bell from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) moderated the talk. As clean energy manager for EDF in Chicago, she has worked with nearly all the panelists, which enabled the participants to delve deep in to some of the specific points discussed.Those participants were: Brett Bridgeland, energy engineer, Seventhwave; Kevin Borg, director, facilities and project management, UCLA Athletics; Edward Krembuszewski, energy efficiency engineering manager, ComEd; and Bob Wengel, vice president of facilities, John G. Shedd Aquarium.
The next talk turned to the serious topic of Workplace Violence and Active Shooter concerns in commercial office settings. John Friedlander, senior director, security risk management practice for Kroll presented the audience with warning signs and indicators, response protocols, notification hierarchies, and what to expect when first responders arrive.
During lunch, three past Facility Executives of the Year — an annual award presented by Facility Executive magazine — got together for “Stories From The Field”, to talk about the facility projects for which they had been recognized. This work was related to energy improvements, water management, technology implementation, and construction projects.
Panelists were: Ralph Linne, director of facilities, Hamilton County, Ohio (2016 Award Recipient); James (J.B.) Messer, chief facilities officer, Community College of Allegheny County (PA) (2013 Award Recipient); and Bob Wengel, vice president of facilities, John G. Shedd Aquarium (2012 Award Recipient). (Nominations for the 2018 Award are being accepted now.)
The Impact of Workplace Design on employees, visitors, and organizations was the next topic during the afternoon. Jeannette Lenear Peruchini, interiors practice leader with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), an architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firm in Chicago was the speaker. She provided an insightful overview of workplace trends affecting space planning and facility operations.
Throughout the day, attendees visited with sponsor organizations at the event, who complemented the educational content: ASSA ABLOY, ComEd, Loctek, National Business Furniture, and Umbrella Technologies. Industry partners with the event were: IFMA Chicago Chapter, IFMA Northern Illinois Chapter, BOMA, and BOMA Suburban Chicago Chapter.
Each presentation topic during Facility Executive Live! was chosen for the program because these are subjects facility professionals are handling every day in their work. Until the next event, Facility Executive will continue to cover the above topics and more in the magazine and on our website.