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Female Leaders Rising in Facilities Management

Noelle Faille is with Olive Garden and has spent a decade in facilities management.

“I always feel weird talking about this subject. I made my way in the younger years being a decoy duck,” she said.

Faille said she didn’t want to stick out as different. She wanted to be one of the guys, talking about football and fishing. This allowed her to climb the career ladder a little bit.

“I didn’t want to be thought of as a woman,” she said.

And it worked. She got invited to the golf course and poker games.

But Faille said as she grew and became more of the woman she is now, she matured. Faille came to see herself as a female in the workplace. Not only that, but women in facilities management were starting to grow into a new trend.

“As soon as we can visualize someone different in a role we’ve already got a stereotype for, it’s easier to incorporate it into your life. We never pictured a woman astronaut until Sally Ride,” Failee said.

Appearances change. Tattoos used to mean someone might be a biker, but now someone can be a chef with tattoos who makes a great pork chop, according to Faille.

And in facilities management, other workers are not stupified by the sight of a woman in a leadership role anymore. With every woman in facilities management, female leaders become more normal.

“I hope to be one of the women in an executive role that helps people visualize more women as leaders in the future,” Faille.

One piece of advice Faille offers to women in the field? The ability to deliver bad news is critical.

Faille said she used to be scared to deliver bad news to superiors. But the reality is people appreciate knowing the truth as soon as possible. Knowing problems immediately helps everyone collaborate sooner to fix them.

“Make that phone call, and start fixing it,” she said.

Facilities management offers some truly challenging tasks.

“Facilities managers. This is our job description: we do precision guesswork based on unreliable data provided by those with questionable knowledge. It just hits the nail on the head,” Faille said.

People in this field have to do the best with partial information and make decisions without knowing every outcome. There’s inherently some risks, according to Faille.

“I’ve made mistakes that have cost tens of thousands of dollars, but I’ve definitely learned from them,” she said.

As for gender equality in facilities management, Faille said workers around her do a pretty good job.

Industry conferences she attends every year seem to have more diversity in attendees, Faille said.

“I would love to see more representation by females in facilities, and I think we’re heading in the right direction,” she said.

There’s still work to do on that front, but the work is just to continue considering women for these jobs.

Though when it comes to salaries, Faille said without seeing data on that, she has no idea on payment equality in the field.

Faille said she can clearly remember her path to getting into facilities management as a career.

No one says they want to be a facilities manager growing up, Faille said. Her father was an engineer for Carrier HVAC. Her mother was a commercial property manager. So Faille said she grew up absorbing knowledge from them. Her early passions were leadership and food, so restaurant management was a natural path for Faille.

Faille said she was identified early as standout and offered a job in the training department of Jason’s Deli, onboarding and training managers.

“I loved getting young college graduates started on their careers and coaching them to be professionals,” she said.

Once Faille got her MBA, she decided she needed a job where her clothes wouldn’t stink at the end of the day. She moved within Jason’s Deli into purchasing, a desk job.

And while she learned “killer” skills negotiating food contracts, working in an office was miserable, Faille said. She had too much energy and missed the action, noises and smells of restaurants.

One day, Faille said she met with a facilities manager, and they let her know their business was interviewing for an opening. She eventually found a spot in the business and has been there for around a decade.

The business, communication, and time management skills are the hardest to learn, according to Faille. But in her position, she designed workshops and training videos to help others with these topics.

If 2019 Faille could give her past self some advice, she said it’d be to use the resources available from seasoned pros.

Tag along with a favorite plumber, she suggested. Ask what HVAC equipment guys what their readouts mean. Draw pictures, and make cheat sheets.

Experience comes from crazy emergencies that will inevitably arrive, she said. Facility managers store that knowledge away and use it later.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a job ever. I super love being a facilities manager,” she said.

Failee said it’s an act of service. The job will always be in the service of others and to help them advance their careers and lives.

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