NFMT Women In Facilities Management 2022 Coverage

The May Women in FM annual (virtual) event, hosted by NFMT and sponsored by Armored Things, brought together leading female voices in the field of Facilities Management for a panel discussion on their experience coming up in the industry, their strategies for success, and the ways they bring their whole selves to bear on the profession. 

 The event attracted more than 200 attendees.

Today’s FM career track draws on a much wider breadth of experience than it once did – that’s everyone from property managers to sustainability experts and specialists in urban informatics – and yes, the people who deal with burst pipes. 

“If a pipe burst – like it did yesterday – I’m the one that is going to be on hand,” explains Nicole Sherry, Director of Field Operations for the Orioles and one of only two women in MLB history to hold that title

To Sherry, the legendary field at Camden Yards is like her other child. “It’s like I have two children that really need a lot of attention and I try my best to teach my crew everything that I do so that if I need to be out for whatever reason, they can step right in without any harm to the field.”

The 24/7, 9-1-1 nature of FM jobs may not have changed much since Facilities Management titles were introduced 50 years ago– but Sherry is among the many women who are transforming the industry.


“So, it’s loving problem-solving, loving buildings, loving people, loving dynamic environments and challenges.”

DIANA ORTIZ BURNS, DIRECTOR OF FACILITIES AT MERIDIAN INTERNATIONAL CENTER

DIVERSE SKILLS AND SPECIALTIES



Director of Facilities Diana Ortiz Burns brings more than a decade of experience in operations management and environmental sustainability to the Meridian International Center, a Washington, D.C. – based nonprofit. 

“We’re always going to be different in this industry, and I think I’ve realized personally – that’s a thing I’m really embracing – how I’m different, and why that’s awesome.”

As the field grows more diverse – in terms of skill sets, backgrounds, personalities, race, gender, and all the ways diversity can be represented – the greater the opportunity for the career and the titles associated with it to have the greatest impact, says Ortiz Burns.

“So, it’s loving problem-solving, loving buildings, loving people, loving dynamic environments and challenges.”


“It’s not just all about building operations or events or moves or project management. There’s just something new every single day.”

WENDY LIBERT, SENIOR FACILITIES MANAGER AT THE AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCH

DREAM JOBS, MENTORS, AND ADVICE



“I never thought that facilities were my dream career going into it,” said Wendy Libert, Senior Facilities Manager at the American Institutes for Research. 

“It has turned into a dream career because [it has changed] and I’ve never been bored with it. There’re so many different directions you can go.

It’s not just all about building operations or events or moves or project management. There’s just something new every single day.”

Ericka Westgard, Vice President of Operations at C&W Services, a facility services company with more than 600 customers, set her sights on her career path early, earning a B.S. in Facilities Management. 

As a student, she says, “I probably didn’t really get the full understanding that as a facility manager you’re the one that’s going to be running towards the fire when everybody else is running outside.”

Westgard’s career remains exciting in part due to new challenges, and new technologies.

 “At one point, it [FM] was probably viewed as more of a support-type role – or more of a functional role.” Today, she says high-performing FM leaders are viewed as an “innovative, core competency.”


WHOLE SELVES, REAL WORK


The importance of mentorship was central to the NFMT panel discussion. Not just for networking, but for honest feedback, and a confidant when workplace dynamics are challenging.

“It’s definitely helped me personally,” says Ortiz Burns. “I had men and women who really took me under their wing, and I wouldn’t be here without them.”

What’s some advice they’d give their younger selves, or anyone following in their footsteps? For starters, take care of your own mental and physical health before attending to the physical properties and spaces you’re responsible for maintaining and improving. 

Develop a global awareness – whether it’s learning a second language, or developing a new understanding of ways to increase DE&I on the teams you manage. Learn new technologies by asking for training and support so some work can be automated or completed remotely. And bring your whole self to work, even if it means saying you need a break. Vulnerability during intense times can help facilities management teams know they are part of a team that prioritizes employee work-life balance. Also:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Trust your instincts, even early on.
  • Train your team to feel empowered.
  • Find a mentor – be a mentor.
  • Search out supportive leaders and organizations.

And, from Armored Things Roberts’ (no surprise) a plug for data as a way to level the playing field.

“It’s not just women’s voices that could be discounted. It could be a more junior employee could be someone new to the team – who might have a great perspective. We want to give people data so that they will be the most informed people at the table when it comes to planning our smart spaces.”

To learn more about how Armored Things helps facilities management teams, schedule time with one of our experts today

Resilient Coders: Social Justice Through Economic Empowerment

Resilient Coders, a nonprofit coding bootcamp, strives for social justice through economic empowerment —specifically through high-tech jobs. What does it take to turn that vision into real-world change? David Delmar Senties, Founder and Executive Director of the Boston-based organization, says it’s about making bootcamp graduates “impossible to ignore” and also establishing a graduate-to-jobs pipeline.


“Through our free coding bootcamp, we teach more than the technical skills they need to be impossible to ignore in the workforce – we present a path to economic resiliency. We work with populations that have been systematically marginalized because we see in these communities an untapped talent pool with the potential to drive the 21st-century economy.”, David Delmar Senties, Founder and Executive Director, Resilient Coders


The bootcamps train individuals from historically underrepresented populations for high-growth careers like software engineering, and connect them with jobs. Next year, the non-profit is expecting to have around 130 students.

The goal is to give these individuals the skills necessary to become indispensable members of the tech ecosystem. According to Delmar Sentíes, “We believe in the raw economic potential of an untapped talent pool.” 


CLOSING THE HIGH-TECH GAP


An equitable economy equates to more readily available opportunities that enable upwards mobility for a greater range of people. Unfortunately, this level of economic evenness is hardly being achieved in today’s economy. The income gap is consistently increasing; since 1980, after accounting for inflation, pre-tax wages for the bottom 50% of earners have not budged. Meanwhile, wages for the top 1% has tripled. Resilient Coders is standing its ground on the front line of this battle, and is helping build a solution for the ever-growing conundrum.


“Communities of color face an uncertain economic future, creating an urgent need for equitable job opportunities that are resilient to changes in the labor market. National studies show that Black and Brown workers are overrepresented in low-paying, high-risk jobs that are most likely to be automated and are underrepresented in well-compensated, stable, and automation-resilient roles that White workers are ~50% more likely to hold. Jobs for Latinx workers face a 28% greater automation risk than those of White workers, and jobs for Black workers face an 18% higher risk.”  David Delmar Senties, Founder and Executive Director

Delmar Sentíes is a professional designer and interface developer with experience working for a multitude of award-winning startups, as well as established brands such as Starbucks, Coke, FedEx, and Pepsi.


IMPRESSIVE FINAL PROJECTS


Through their 20-week Resilient Coder bootcamps, the organization prepares students for pitching their final projects to prospective employers. The select cohort of young working adults, typically between the ages of 18-30, learn to code their own games and applications. Students come away with solid proficiency in HTML, well-crafted and responsive CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, React, Node, and MongoDB. In order to meet graduation requirements, students must build an application in JavaScript. Additionally, every student  needs to have procured, serviced, and invoiced their own freelance client. 

These bootcamps are designed to build and hone skills that directly translate to positions in tech. Almost all of the Resilient Coder’s alumni find work within weeks of having presented their final projects. Demo day, as it is called, is an opportunity for graduating students to showcase their skills for employee partner companies hiring software engineers. Here is the final project of Dashlin Sermeil, a recent graduate, who’s code encourages and improves communication between children and their caretakers using interactive design and data collection. 

Demo day isn’t the only way students find work, as the boot camp gives them the skills to find jobs on their own. 

Armored Things has been a proud supporter and partner of Resilient Coders. As a Boston-based startup, we appreciate the impact they continue to have on our local and global communities and share their vision for a high-tech community that prospers from the most diverse contributors and skill sets possible. We’re committed to building an inclusive community within our space. 

If you are looking to hire any of these positions, check out some of Resilient Coders recent graduates.