Name: Fionnuala Byrne
Job Title: Head of Facilities EMEA – Google and Southern Branch Chair of the BIFM Ireland Region
Education: What was your first ever job?
My first job after college involved working for a car company that provided leasing plans to companies. The majority of my college class went on to work in Property Agencies or Surveying roles, but I was after some something a little different and unique and I also wasn’t ready for the property world just yet! My job was in the service department, booking cars into service centres but most of it was actually spent on the road delivering cars. It was a great experience and gave me insight into how a small family-run business operates.
What was you first job in the FM sector?
After I left the car company I joined the life assurance company Canada Life to manage their property portfolio and provide corporate services which was effectively FM. A part of the reason that I was successful in getting this role was because I worked in the car leasing business – Canada Life had a large car fleet with the business. That, combined with my degree in property and surveying made me a good fit for the job.
What made you choose FM as a career?
To be honest, it sometimes feels as if it chose me! I studied property economics and valuation surveying in my degree but providing FM services has always been part of my role wherever I have worked. I have a huge interest in workplaces and how they impact our productivity, so FM is quite a natural choice.
How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
My role in Canada Life was really a mix of property management, FM and other corporate services that we provided to staff. When I joined Google it was as FM for Ireland but that quickly grew to include other countries in the EMEA region as the company continued to grow. A number of years later I became Head of Facilities for the region.
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 have an MSc in Facilities Management from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and have completed various training courses over the years that include people management, updates in legislation and strategic leadership. Keeping up to date with all the various changes in our profession is essential to being a great FM – it’s vital that we understand our obligations in relation to our buildings, our people and our environment. I’m a big believer in continuing education, whether its short courses to update your skills or a degree course to help progress your career.
What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
I am the Southern Branch Chair for the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) Ireland Region, so I hope that my involvement helps bring more people together through our networking events, our annual FM Summit and lectures series.
What’s changed most since you started in FM?
I think there is greater awareness of FM than when I first started. We’ve successfully moved from being a discipline focused on building services and engineering to one that also covers the built environment and everyone who occupies that space. Users mostly now understand the concept of FM and what we are trying to achieve in the workplace and built environment.
What personal qualities do you think are most needed for a successful career in FM?
When I hire FMs I look for flexibility, the ability to adapt to a changing environment, someone who is enthusiastic and willing to get involved. Our profession thrives on people who want to make a difference to their customer, whether that’s in an office environment, manufacturing plant, third level institution, hospital or conference centre.
If you could do one thing differently in your career in FM, what would it be?
I’m not sure I would change anything about my career so far. I have enjoyed every role thoroughly and they have provided me with invaluable experience and the opportunity to meet some great people over the years.
What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how could that be achieved?
I think it all comes down to how we network and interact with one another. The more we discuss our experiences, learnings, and ideas, the better we can work with one another to help drive the industry forward. This is all within reach, we just need more and more FM professionals to put themselves out there by joining the professional bodies and attending key networking events. As Southern Branch Chair of the BIFM Ireland Region this is something I actively encourage. The 2017 BIFM Ireland FM Summit taking place on November 17th at the National Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast and offers an excellent opportunity for FM professionals to come together to discuss current industry trends and best practice.
Are you a member of any FM association or body and if so what benefits do you think they provide?
As I’ve said, I am member of BIFM and its Southern Branch Chair. I am also a member of the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) which is affiliated with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). All these organisations provide fantastic benefits to their members, from the ability to meet peers and networks, to having the opportunity to undertake courses and help drive policy changes with our governments. Being a member of a professional body has really helped me build and network and progress my career.
What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
My advice would be to look for experience in different types of organisations, build your peer network and always remember your customer but most of all enjoy the experience! It’s a fantastic and very rewarding career.
What are your long-term goals for the next seven to ten years?
My goals would include pushing the FM industry forward, opening up more education opportunities for study and encouraging more young people into the profession through college courses and apprenticeships.
What do you predict could be the main changes to the FM sector over the next few years? One of the main changes that FM will face over the next few years which is very topical at the moment and is something that will be explored at this year’s BIFM Ireland FM Summit is the Internet of Things. The Summit theme explores ‘FM & The Internet of Things’ and will focus on how FMs can embrace new digital technologies which are everchanging.
What are the greatest challenges of working in FM?
It’s been said before but one of the biggest challenges would involve getting a voice in the boardroom and articulating what we want to achieve and how. FM is a relatively new profession despite the fact that we have been in existence under various banners for a while, we need to assert ourselves and actively promote the value we bring to organisations and their employees.
What do you enjoy most about working in FM?
Without a doubt it’s the people, the FM industry is driven by the great people working in it.
[As seen in October edition of FM Journal]