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17 January 2019
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Newcomer of the year - highly commended - charlotte miller

Four women made up the finalists for the Newcomer of the Year award this year. Here, we catch up with this new generation of FMs to find out more about the people set to take the profession forward in the next 10 years.

Charlotte Miller, Sodexo
Charlotte Miller, Sodexo

22 November 2016

What challenges do you think remain for women coming into a historically male-dominated profession? 

CM: I believe the gap is closing and women are becoming more involved in diverse roles within FM. This year there were four female finalists for BIFM Awards Newcomer of the Year, which shows that there are more women entering the industry. This undoubtedly will help inspire others to join the profession and achieve their best. Women should be encouraged to become mentors and leaders within the industry to help create the vision of an equal diverse workforce.  


Looking back, is there anything you wish you knew about being an FM before becoming one? 

I wish I had been given advice on how important mentoring, networking and raising your profile can have a positive effect on your career right at the start of entering this industry. When I started in FM I realised I enjoyed it and started to see opportunities for a career, so I asked questions about how I could progress in FM. I was then put into contact with my mentor, who opened up so many doors with networking and raising my profile. I now tell everyone starting in the industry to look at these opportunities as they will help their career to grow and develop; it’s been so valuable for me.


What has been your biggest career challenge to date – and how did you overcome it?

My biggest career challenge to date has been the mobilisation of our CAFM system contract, where I have had to train frontline staff on a new device to communicate with the system and deliver our services. I could tell they were not confident with the new device and needed to understand the reasoning behind the new process. So before I even attempted to train them, I had a chat with them to ask what they did, how they currently operated and any queries on the current system and what they would like to see improved.


As soon as they were able to share their concerns and feelings on a new system we were then able to use the new device to show how this change would help them in their roles and  improve their data. Communication was key here, listening and understanding to the people you work with or train is essential for everyone to work together as a team to achieve the same end goal.


The judges said that you mix passion for the industry with a business maturity. How long did it take to get into the FM mindset of thinking on your feet and finding solutions to problems, and what would you say to others who are still on that learning curve?

My first role in FM was operational and it was an intense but fulfilling working environment, where the pace was quick and needed solutions to queries when they arose. What struck me was that when you work as a team, and everyone works to achieve the same goal, this is where the passion develops. This way of working has stayed with me. This is what drives the passion; if you believe in what you’re achieving, and you want to see the final results to improve a service, you will succeed. My advice would be to fully understand the challenges that are present, and to make sure the solutions have been thought through and are not a quick fix but are sustainable.


Do you believe your end-user client is an ‘intelligent’ one? In your experience, is understanding of FM’s value to the wider organisation changing?

I believe all clients have different ways of working, varying requests and a wide range of working environments. We are moving to a more streamlined work mode, but this is a challenge when you have so many different services working towards various goals. More investment and time is being spent on how we are able to bring ways of working together, so we were listened to on how effective we can be for our clients, when we can bring one process together to work effectively rather than numerous processes. 


Which individual would you name as the most important to you in your career thus far, and why?

Sajna Rahman has been the most important individual so far. She is my mentor and I met her at at Rising FM event for BIFM; that is where it all began. Sajna has given me fantastic support, guidance, advice, opportunities, feedback and invested a lot of her time with me. Most importantly she helped me set my goals, where I have worked towards them with realistic timelines. This enabled me to see my career more clearly and have a path to follow which has helped me reach my goals. It is so important to have a mentor to help listen, and understand what is the best way to develop yourself. Sajna has invited me to great networking events, given me opportunities to conduct presentations for our hard and soft platform and provided constructive feedback to help me grow. I have also had a fantastic line manager in Claire Savage, who has always supported my growth and helped me in every opportunity. She gives me brilliant working deployments which develops my experience. Having an understanding manager helps you to feel confident in what you can achieve. I will miss her but will remain in close contact as I start my new global role at Sodexo. 


How would you like to see the FM sector to change during your lifetime?

I would like to see more women within FM and more in senior positions, to help inspire, motivate, encourage and lead other women to grow and develop their career within the industry. Additionally I would like to see more mentoring schemes which offer valuable guidance and support. I think it would be great to see these schemes being promoted more within FM companies, so people are aware and would be able to find this easy and accessible, to help them set goals and to receive valuable advice and grow professionally.


How would you sell FM to other young people considering it as a profession?

If you want an exciting and diverse career and want to grow your potential in a varied and fulfilling profession, then choose FM. My three-year journey so far has been incredible and I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunities and support from the industry. I have worked with so many different people, who all have varied skills, and are all contributing to the world of FM. You can go into so many areas within FM; the different environments create many wide-ranging and exciting roles. You can create a successful, long, diverse career within FM, and develop skills so you can look into other areas so you are never limited to one profession. You will be contributing and improving the facilities for everyone, making a better and safer environment for all. 


What is your next personal professional development priority? What training is going to be important for you?

I am in the process of completing my BIFM Level 4 diploma through Sodexo’s IFM academy. In my new position as global project manager, I am looking at undertaking a project management PMP qualification. This will be in addition to my Prince2 practitioner qualification which I obtained last July. This enables me to be efficient for Sodexo to deliver projects across all the facilities services across the globe, against our project management framework creating a more streamline approach.


What’s your next career step?

I have recently been appointed as a global project manager for Sodexo. Working within Sodexo’s UK&I asset management team has given me great insight and knowledge into deploying a CAFM system for our industry, improving the way we operate for our clients in achieving effective facilities management provision. I feel I am now ready to embark on my new challenge and role in the field of professional project management working globally for Sodexo, improving our facilities around the world. 

Emma Potter