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31 July 2019

Changing the perception of facilities management

Sally-Huang-WSs 3

Sandy Huang

The Shopping Centre industry is driven by people. It’s the skills and expertise of the people that manage, develop and evolve shopping centres for their communities that creates this great industry. Shopping Centre News profiles a range of interesting people from the industry each week. This week we speak to Sandy Huang from Scentre Group. Sandy is the Facilities Coordinator at the vibrant Westfield Sydney.

What is your current role and main responsibilities?
I am the Facilities Coordinator at Westfield Sydney, Scentre Group’s living centre in the Sydney CBD that is home to more than 300 retailers and caters to a trade area of more than five million people. My main responsibilities include:
• Monitoring and managing our computerised maintenance management system, Maintenance Connection, for reactive maintenance/repairs in the centre.
• Co-ordinating contractors including obtaining quotes, raising purchase orders, issuing permits, scheduling time so works are achieved; and ensuring providers are properly inducted and trained in accordance with our workplace health and safety procedures.
• Resolving and supporting facilities-related issues for our retail partners and customers.
• Completing daily site inspections for cleaning, including amenities and front-of-house.

How did you get in to this industry?
Whilst I am originally from Taiwan, my Australian husband and I left Taiwan and moved to China for his career. During that time, I worked in hospitality in 5-star hotels, where I learned and developed my skills across different departments. In 2016, we relocated to Sydney – where my husband grew up – and I decided to re-start my career. I was nervous about whether I could adapt to the Australian work culture and how I would fit in, but I knew my customer service experience and stakeholder management skills from my previous roles would serve me well.

I enjoy conversation and interaction with people and it always gave me great satisfaction to be able to assist customers by resolving problems and responding to enquiries, so facilities management was a natural step for me. I originally joined the facilities team at a technology company and after my manager joined Scentre Group, she put me forward for this role when it came up in July 2018.

What do you love most about your job?
The great relationships I have with our retail partners and my colleagues is what I love most. After working in this role for a year, I am now familiar with the infrastructure design of the centre from an electrical, mechanical and plumbing perspective. This knowledge and understanding helps me to resolve issues for retailers, customers or my colleagues; whether that’s by effective allocation of works or helping a contractor/vendor to get the job done in a timely manner.

I feel accomplished and take great pride in being able to use this knowledge to help our customers, retail partners and my colleagues.

facilities sandy1

What motivates you?
Recognition – either from my peers or my managers, nothing beats a ‘well done’! Especially the thank you messages I often get from retailers after receiving my assistance.

Also, Scentre Group’s culture around diversity and inclusion makes this a truly special place to work. Our directors and managers ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to gender equality and being respectful of multicultural backgrounds. Working in this environment motivates me to continue as I can learn and grow every single day.

What makes a great facilities manager?
A great FM will need to have good leadership, problem-solving and decision-making skills. The facilities team face various challenges every day, so being able to handle unexpected problems and work as a team to get a resolution is essential.

What is the most memorable moment of your career?
The most memorable moment for me was when I realised that just by being myself, by working hard and doing my best in this role, I have been part of a chain reaction and fundamentally changed the perception of this role within the organisation and the facilities management industry. Being a female in such a traditionally male-dominated industry, in the beginning I felt as though I was being treated carefully by colleagues – almost as though I was an outsider. By simply being myself, working hard and bringing my passion for the role, I was able to demonstrate that I could perform under pressure and I was able to break that mould. In that moment, I realised that my gender didn’t matter – that I had earned the full respect and support of my colleagues and I was truly part of the team.

Did you think you would end up in the role you are in now?
All my previous job experience was customer-service oriented so facilities management suits me well, but I didn’t ever think of working in facilities in the property industry. Facilities management is a male dominated area. It also shows the company is focused on skills and ability, not gender. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work in this world-class living centre.

What do you do to keep learning and growing in your career?
There are three key ways I learn and grow my career:
1. Use online resources to learn in my own time.
2. Shadowing onsite tech/electricians and watching how they resolve issues.
3. Working closely with my managers to understand how they are managing and delegating to the team.

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What advice would you give to someone starting in the industry?
Be as involved as possible, you can only learn when you are on the ground. The retail property industry is very hands-on.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get in to facilities management?
Facilities management is a wide-ranging industry which can include fire safety, plumbing, electrical, mechanical structural, vertical transport, property management, tenancy coordination, pest control, cleaning, grounds maintenance…the list goes on. It can be difficult to imagine what a role in facilities really looks like.

Having some expertise or background in technical /mechanical /engineering does help, however you will also need to:
– have a positive attitude and be willing to learn;
– have a strong sense of responsibility and urgency;
– always be ready to respond in an emergency situation;
– be able to work under pressure.
– be prepared to say goodbye to high heels and pretty dresses! Facilities management involves being in the plant room, electrical room, roof area, waste room, air-handling unit/Fan room, dock, dissolve air floatation room, grease room etc.

What are three words that describe you?
Persistent, curious, humble

What do you do in your leisure time to de-stress?
I love to have a massage on my day off as I find it is the best way to release stress and relax both my body and mind. I also love spending time with my dog in my leisure time.

What is the single most important quality you need to possess to be in this industry?
I would say being patient and enthusiastic.

The retail property industry is a challenging sector; it runs almost 360 days a year. Our customers, retailers and contractors are ever changing. I believe that being patient and enthusiastic allows me to deliver the best customer experience every day.

Source: Shopping Centre News

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