Leanne Gibson, General Manager Facilities, Transport & Technology, Wellington International Airport

Briefly, what does your job involve?
I head an amazing team of 28 passionate facilities, transport & IT professionals – complemented by 75 preferred suppliers – who are responsible for the maintenance of all the airport’s buildings, key services, technology, chattels, amenities and grounds within the airport precinct (110ha), as well as running the transport hub.

How long have you worked in FM?
Four years.

How did you get into FM?
I have a technology background which has proved invaluable as the airport seeks to leverage building management efficiencies through increased use of sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
Working innovatively with the great team at Wellington Airport to deliver facilities that enhance our passengers’ travel experience.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
In my experience, calmness coupled with excellent problem-solving skills and the ability to communicate well. And I strongly recommend some understanding of emerging technology such as sensors, analytics and drones.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
For junior FM roles, we look for people who have a genuine interest in buildings or building-related services, are comfortable with technology, have good interpersonal skills and have a can-do attitude. A driver’s license is useful. The rest we can teach.

Stuart Bryant, Head of Facilities, SkyCity

Briefly, what does your job involve?
Keeping the buildings and services functioning across our site – from the lightning conductor at the top of the Tower to the pumps in the lowest basement, and everything in between.

How long have you worked in FM?
20 years.

How did you get into FM?
I was working in FM without knowing it when I was an office manager. I then ended up working for the facilities team in the building that I was a tenant in.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
FM allows me to know about all departments within the business. No day is ever the same and I get to help people out when they have issues.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
While a good technical understanding is great, being a good communicator is key. The change in my facilities roles over the years has led me to a more strategic place where leadership and business savvy are now also very important.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
There are opportunities and life lessons everywhere. The first study I completed after secondary school was a snowboarding instructor certificate. I still use some of the skills I learned during that training today when dealing with people. FM offers a wide variety of roles so find something you like doing.

Emilyn Ese, Senior Aquatics Facilities Specialist, Auckland Council

Briefly, what does your job involve?
I help manage a portfolio of aquatic centres in Auckland. My role is ‘end to end’, meaning I help manage day to day maintenance as well as refurbishments, renewals and planned shutdowns of pools to carry out extensive planned maintenance.

How long have you worked in FM?
Eight years.

How did you get into FM?
I started in an admin support role for the property maintenance division in west Auckland, quickly learned the maintenance role and have progressed using the knowledge and experience I’ve picked up over the past few years.  This is my fourth facilities management role with Auckland Council.  It’s great working in an industry that is flexible and in a company that encourages progression.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
No two days are the same.  I enjoy getting out from behind the desk and interacting with centre managers, getting to know different facilities and learning how things work, from crematoriums to large complex pool filtration systems.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
Definitely problem-solving, critical thinking and a good work ethic.  As a facilities manager, you’re often tasked with making final decisions so being able to evaluate a situation, trusting your instincts and of course building great relationships with your colleagues and contractors helps when those decisions have to be made.  A strong background in computing also helps, as the industry changes as technology progresses.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
Go for it.  It’s a great career option, offering a lot of opportunities.  School subjects that have helped me in this role are IT and computing, English and maths.  If I could go back I would definitely take subjects like woodwork and metalwork. Anything that provides you with problem solving skills and helps build your confidence will help in this industry.

Stuart Graham, Manager of Facilities, Christchurch City Council

Briefly, what does your job involve?
I lead a facilities management department with 22 staff. We maintain and service 300+ council facilities by providing a range of hard and soft services. These include reactive repairs and maintenance, capital works, HVAC servicing, scheduled maintenance, cleaning, security, fleet management, office furniture and accommodation, catering, visitor management, incident and health and safety management.

I spend much of my time on leadership, partnering with stakeholders, meeting clients and contractors, recruiting and general staff management; leading stakeholders in planning and designing of new facilities; management for capital and operational budgets; overseeing contract management, tendering, supplier relationships and sourcing; corporate accommodation solutions for 1600+ staff and contractors using both owned and leased buildings; health and safety assessments, condition assessments, and risk management for all council buildings; partnering with operational and service managers across the council to ensure the smooth operation of facilities for the community; co-ordinating all operational matters pertaining to the facilities maintenance and grounds management, and monitoring progress against schedules and plans.

How long have you worked in FM?
20 years.

How did you get into FM?
I got into facilities management working at a tertiary education provider in course planning/ timetable positioning.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
I enjoy that every day is different, demanding and has a focus on solutions that help our customers and community.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
We need to be flexible and have an adaptive approach. Facilities managers are always multitasking. It’s important to keep positive when things go wrong, be solutions-focused and have a proactive approach. Embrace change – it’s constant and will either happen to you or with you.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
At school and uni I did science and geography and a bit of photography and developed an appreciation for lifelong learning, research and understanding how information and analytics helps business decision making. I find facilities management to be really rewarding and diverse and a great career for solutions-minded folk.

Phoenix Lavin, Design and Construction Interface Manager, Programmed Facility Management
2018 Facilities Manager of the Year

Briefly, what does your job involve?
I represent facilities management requirements at the design table, joining the design and construction team on day one of a project and staying with them until transition to the operations team.

How long have you been in FM?
17 years.

How did you get into FM?
I spent six years in the UK working as an electrician, then as a building services engineer who reported to an FM. Heading back to NZ I realised I had the skills necessary to move into facilities management so took up a role with the New Zealand Army, based in their property team in Waiouru.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
The different industries you can work in, from aviation to movie companies and everything in between. Facilities management is about more than buildings; it’s about enhancing people’s experiences by ensuring that the built environment meets their needs.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
Patience, along with excellent communication and time management skills, and a curious mind.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
Treat every job along the way as a means to gain experience as to what that industry/business/individual needs from the built environment, and remember that experience will pop up in your FM lifetime … and learn to use all the letters on a keyboard!