Rory Chacko, CFMANZ, Operations Manager – Estates with AUT

Briefly, what does your job involve?
The management of buildings and infrastructure in order to keep the university operational.

How long have you been in FM?
Forever. 21 years.

How did you get into FM?
I’m an electrical fitter by trade, but in the late 90’s I tried my hand at being a barista, then a bookseller. I went to London to do a bit of an OE and found myself working for Borders Books and Music in Charing Cross Road. A job came up in the ‘site services’ department at their Head Office to cover maternity leave, I applied and got the role. When the person chose not to come back the role became mine. Over the years I’ve managed to climb the ladder to get where I am today.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
Helping people, and exceeding their expectations. In an educational environment, I also get to influence young minds through applied projects.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
People skills, empathy and an ability to multitask.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
Be a good communicator, work at lots of organisations doing lots of different jobs. Take an interest in buildings and what makes them tick.

Tracy Massam, CFMANZ, Pou Herenga Whai Rawa – Manager Asset Planning with Tāmaki Regeneration Company (TRC)

Briefly, what does your job involve?
I’m privileged to lead an incredibly well-rounded team of facilities and asset management planning practitioners who help make sure our homes we manage are warm, dry, safe and secure so tenants and their whanau can get on with living their best lives.

I act as TRCs asset owner and am accountable for the design of all the new homes we build and the development of planned maintenance programs for our existing 2,600+ homes across the suburbs of Glen Innes, Panmure and Point England, Auckland. Whai Rawa – Future Focused

How long have you worked in FM?
I have 15+ years’ experience working across the fields of asset, facilities, property management as well as service development and delivery which adds a unique perspective to lifecycle asset management. Pou Herenga – Knowledge Repository

How did you get into FM?
I love great design and seeing the connection between form and function come to life so when roles came up in property management and network planning at the Ministry of Education, I applied. I then got into facilities management and asset management planning and the rest is history. Mahi Pono – Doing Things Right.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
Connecting with people, seeing them interact with and enjoy the built environment, knowing they have discovered cool spaces and innovations and are using them in a way that suits and was designed with and for them is what makes the job worthwhile. He Tangata – It is People.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
The job is as much about people as it is buildings and services so having the ability to see and understand the connection between the building, the services that operate within it and the people that use both are extremely important attributes. Hononga – Joining Together.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
If you’re a long-term, big picture thinker, curious by nature and have the ability to translate and communicate information calmly and clearly, Karawhiua – Give it a go.

Bruce Kenning, CFFMANZ, Manager, Planning & Advisory with Government Property Group (MBIE) and Chair of the FMANZ Board

Briefly, what does your job involve?
Government has just over 960,000m2 of office space. As the functional lead for property, we take a system-wide view, providing standards, guidelines and advice, assisting agencies to meet the Government’s expectations for this portfolio. These are:
Community focus – agencies are connected with citizens, especially in the regions; Collaboration – property enables agencies to collaborate and co-locate; Valuing People – buildings demonstrate that we value people and enable people to do their jobs better; and Public Value – value for money for the taxpayer.

How long have you been in FM?
25 years.

How did you get into FM?
I was appointed to head up Army’s property management team in December 1996. After 10 years in that role, I applied for the role of Group Manager Defence Property Group, a new organisation established to amalgamate the property teams from the three services (Army, Navy and the Airforce). This Group developed and maintained a property portfolio of 5,000 buildings (including 2,500 houses), valued at $2.8 billion, and exercised environmental stewardship across 87,000 hectares of landholdings.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
The variety, and great people that make up this industry.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
Listen to your stakeholders and customers. Design and implement services with the customer at the centre; get them involved early (co-design). Sustainability is becoming increasingly important given the Government’s declaration of a climate emergency, and our desire for a carbon-neutral future.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
Give it a go, you will be surprised at the diverse nature of the business, as FM’ers operate throughout the property lifecycle (plan, design, build, operate/maintain and dispose).

Hannah Welsby, AFMANZ, Facilities Manager – IAG with Cushman & Wakefield and Chair of FMANZ’s Auckland Branch Committee.

Briefly, what does your job involve?
Outsourced facilities manager for IAG insurance, caring for and optimising IAG’s premium corporate environment.

How long have you worked in FM?
7 years.

How did you get into FM?
Worst interview of my life for a call centre agent job with Cushman & Wakefield where I had no idea what they did or who they were. The manager took me on anyway and the mentorship and opportunities have been great.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
The challenging jobs. The ones where it’s a disaster and you have to hit the ground running, pull a group of people together, get them working together and walk away with a great result. You end up seeing the absolute best in people in those moments and it’s a good feeling.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
An ability to build and maintain good relationships and strong networks is key. All else can be taught. .

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
The same advice I was given on week one – seek mentorship. I’ve had some great people mentor me and I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

Leanne Gibson MFMANZ, 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?
Six years.

How did you get into FM?
I have a technology background that 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 CFMANZ, GM – Facilities NZ, 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?
22 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.

Marius Nortje, Operations Manager – Projects & Building Services, UMS (NZ) Ltd

Winner of the Brian Happy Award for Facilities Manager of the Year 2021

Briefly, what does your job involve?
I am responsible for managing operations for three major clients and my portfolio includes over 650 buildings (retail, commercial, public use); over 180 playgrounds, and thousands of other infrastructure assets, each with their own complexities. I am also tasked with delivering planned preventative maintenance, delivering hard and soft FM services across a diverse range of assets. In addition to the FM space, I am also responsible for delivering minor capital works projects with the intention of having an integrated operational maintenance approach.

How long have you worked in FM?
12 years.

How did you get into FM?
I was an electrician by trade 12 years ago but wanted to do more than just work on wires and electrical equipment which led me to where I am now. At the time I learned a lot about the “gut” of a building while working on construction sites. Shortly after that I became a people leader in the FM space and have never looked back. I love working in a team environment within FM.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
It’s fast-moving and exciting. I also like seeing a plan come together followed by execution.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
Leadership. It’s important to empower your staff. Take in all knowledge you can get.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
Go for it! In saying that, it’s not for the faint-hearted! A useful school subject for me was technical drawing. Doing a trade qualification did help as a lot of those skills can be applied in FM, such as reading plans and understanding the technical side. A trade qualification also supports the role by knowing how the practical aspects are applied on the ground and how decisions made can impact staff on the ground. I see schools are emphasising a leadership approach with students these days which I think is really good.

Simi Mukherjee, Head of Facilities Management, PMG Funds Management Ltd

Winner of the Brian Happy Award for Facilities Manager of the Year 2020

Briefly, what does your job involve?
I head the Facilities team and we look after over 60 buildings, 200 tenants and over 250 service providers. We have built a proactive structure to manage Health & Safety, Compliance & make sure that our buildings feel loved.

How long have you worked in FM?
Over 13 years.

How did you get into FM?
I worked in customer services roles for a while and got an interesting role with Noel Leeming where I managed the after-sales support role – dealing with disgruntled customers when things go wrong. It gave me a good insight into how to manage delicate relations and that then gave me the idea to look for roles focussed on relationship management.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
Dealing with people and understanding customer requirements.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
Listening skills, multi-tasking, handling pressure and stress.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
FM is a great career path for someone looking for an opportunity to really grow as an individual, manage difficult situations and be a good relationship manager.

Phoenix Lavin, Design and Construction Interface Manager, Programmed Facility Management

Winner of the Brian Happy Award for Facilities Manager of the Year 2018

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?
19 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?

Every job you do prior to being an FM will give you insight into what that industry/business/individual needs from the built environment. That experience is unique to you, and FM touches all aspects of a work environment.

Your journey to an FM career may start via an educational institution or you may enter it via your current role, whether that be a cleaner, electrician or engineer. That’s the beauty of FM; it has multiple entry points.

Great communication is the key to a successful FM career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of contractors and utilise social media and online contacts to further your knowledge.

And lastly, record your moments of success and discovery because that experience gained will help you in your FM future.

Natasha Barnard, Terminal Facilities Manager with Christchurch International Airport Limited

Briefly, what does your job involve?

My job is to keep the airport terminal facilities safe and accessible, so planes can land and depart and passengers can get from park to plane (and back again) safely and quickly.

My role is to ensure all the terminal facilities remain fully operational (24 x 7); its assets are monitored, managed and maintained; the building is efficient, safe and compliant; and the occupants are happy. This includes a diverse range of assets from something as simple as a leaky tap to emergency power and fire systems.

I live and am inspired by the company’s mission to be a champion airport and am committed to three areas of focus: building a stronger business and enhancing customer journeys and being great Kaitiaki (guardians of safety, security and sustainability).

My portfolio includes the terminal building, baggage handling system, passenger boarding bridges, and some systems on the apron, to name a few.

How long have you worked in FM?
Almost three years now, though I’ve been in involved in asset and maintenance management for seven years before I started my FM role at Christchurch Airport.

How did you get into FM?
Before Christchurch Airport, I spent most of my career in heavy industry, including mining and pulp and paper. After my OE, I completed an apprenticeship in Industrial Measurement and Control and worked as an Instrument Technician for a multinational commodity trading and mining company. Furthering my studies enabled me to transition into Maintenance Planning and Asset Management. From there, Facilities Management was a natural avenue.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
No two days are the same and I learn something new every day. I love all the cool stuff that’s happening behind the scenes in the engine room that keeps a facility going. The terminal is an ever-changing environment with change driven by growth, statutory or regulatory compliance, so there is always something happening. Getting up close and personal with aircraft is an added bonus!

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
A good FM must be creative, decisive and passionate about the facility and its people and, essentially, must have an eye for detail. In this role, I need to be able to think on my feet and perform well under pressure. My success hinges on the ability to communicate, connect with, inspire, and engage our clients and team members. A technical background or understanding of engineering systems would be of significant benefit to someone considering FM as a career.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
A technical or engineering background is undoubtedly an advantage, because many of the systems and day-to-day decision making involves a certain level of technical insight. Good general computer-based skills also help, because management is done via computer-based systems, from ERP to BMS.

In general, STEM skills are important, but a desire to know more, and a ‘never satisfied’ inquisitiveness is just as vital.

John Hutchings, Account Director – Westpac NZ and Auckland International Airport accounts with Cushman & Wakefield

Winner of the Brian Happy Award for Facilities Manager of the Year 2019

Briefly, what does your job involve?
I lead two exceptional, dedicated teams who deliver the outsourced facilities management for our client portfolios. Westpac consists of seven corporate offices and over 140 retail outlets throughout NZ. Auckland International Airport consists of 140 industrial, commercial, hangars, carparks and retail properties surrounding the Auckland Airport (but excluding the terminal).

We work closely in a partnership with our clients to ensure what we do is aligned with our client’s values and strategic direction so that what we deliver is a seamless extension of their organisation as we assist with the management of their properties.

How long have you been in FM?
Approaching 14 years as an FM, on top of 13 years in building services.

How did you get into FM?
I came from an electrical consulting engineering background designing/project managing a wide range of building services in new and existing facilities. Moving to NZ provided me with an opportunity to experience the fire protection industry as a contractor/fire detection equipment supplier. An FM opportunity came up for a technical FM role – the role which made me realise I had found my calling as an FM.

What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
Like most FMs, I find the variety is amazing. Being in FM exposes one to so many facets of commercial property. It is pretty cool being able to use all your skills and experience from legal/leasing, procurement, building service engineering, compliance, people skills, process knowledge, system, analytics and communication to work out the root cause and solve problems.

What are the most important skills/ personality traits facilities managers need?
For me, one of the biggies is being genuinely curious. “When we are curious, we view tough situations more creatively” – Francesca Gino. Toyota has the “5 Whys” approach – after coming up with an answer to a problem, ask “why” again until you have asked the question five times. This mindset can help us innovate by challenging existing perspectives and getting to the root cause of any issue to allow us to come up with the best possible solution.
Having a passion for people is another key trait. This encompasses your customer, vendors and your team – relationships and teamwork facilitate a better outcome for everyone and make it more fun.

Any advice for someone considering a career in FM?
FM is so broad. Most FM’s will tell you how they “fell into FM”. Traditionally an engineering or trade background was the unofficial pathway, but some of the best FMs have also come from hospitality or science backgrounds so this is not always the case. There has been a lot of work developing FM specific qualifications and this will likely become more mainstream as the profession matures.