Open-access content 25th October 2010
Listing her interests as rock climbing and white-water rafting, Amanda Smalley, winner of the Student of the Year category explains how her love of a challenge brought her to FM.
Winner: Amanda Smalley
By Gemma Knott
28 October 2010
Listing her interests as rock climbing and white-water rafting, Amanda Smalley, winner of the Student of the Year category explains how her love of a challenge brought her to FM
This year's Student of the Year is used to reaching for high places - either rock climbing or sitting exams such as BIFM II.
Amanda Smalley, 30, was born in Lincoln and educated at the William Farr Church of England School in Welton, Lincolnshire. She studied geography and physical education.
Always keen to see what lies over the next hill, she went travelling for a year after completing her A-levels when she was 18 years old. She returned to Britain to work for several years before leaving to travel again at the age of 22. Smalley's travels, often with friends, have taken her to Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Thailand and Laos.
Her favourite place was Laos where "the scenery was amazing and completely different to London" and also offered the chance to go tubing. Smalley is not the kind of person to shirk from a challenge and the idea of riding over white water in an oversized rubber ring was more than appealing.
As well as travelling, Smalley enjoys diving and rock climbing. Heights don't bother her, although she says she is new to the sport and has been doing it for under a year. "It's something I really enjoy," she says.
Smalley returned from Thailand and Laos and worked in a call centre for the business Hanover Park Services, which provides credit reference services to landlords and letting agents. It was hard work, but she didn't mind it. But she was in it for only six months when fate intervened.
A manager asked her - totally unexpectedly - if she would like to take up a job as a facilities assistant within the FM department. "The FM job turned out to be really different. I'm not sure why they asked me, but I'm glad they did."
Within a year of making the move into FM, there was an opening for a facilities manager within the same company, after the person working above her moved into a human resources role. "The company kept growing, to the point of moving onto the next floor of the building."
Smalley made the move to Facilities Management Services in April 2007 in the role of facilities co-ordinator for an FMS site in Brentford: "I managed some of the soft services at one of our client's sites, including the switchboard and helpdesk."
Smalley progressed and is now the regional facilities supervisor following a role change and is based in London. In her new role, Smalley looks after FMS client sites in central London: "Some of the six sites don't have any staff to manage them while some do."
Well into FM by then, she decided she needed some formal training and looked into taking the BIFM Part II exams. "Because I didn't go to university and wanted a career in FM, this was the best way forward."
Managers saw the importance of having qualified staff and paid for Smalley to train for, and take the exams, which have proved beneficial in an all-round sense. She achieved a distinction at the end of the exams and praises the quality of teaching. "Jane Wiggins, an FM tutor, educator and writer, was my tutor and I had to read a massive pile of BPP FM books that came as part of the course fee. But they were brilliant."
Smalley readily acknowledges that she found some areas "more interesting than others" in her exam studies: "Least interesting was having to learn about all the legislation, but most interesting was the environmental side, and the people-oriented aspects of FM."
The hardest thing about taking the exams was juggling her work schedule, she said, maintaining the high-level of service to her clients and ensuring she put the hours in studying. But it was a commitment that she says she was more than happy to make.
She has no doubt that the skills and knowledge will pay off so she can "hopefully progress in my career. It helps to have an all-rounded knowledge of FM".
Smalley continues to welcome the challenge of FM as a career, and has enjoyed every moment of it so far. "At the moment I'm happy doing what I'm doing. I did say that after the exams I wouldn't be doing anything else for a while so I'll be focusing on my new role and getting to know my clients and new team."
The award is managed by the BIFM Professional Standards and Education department, responsible for developing and maintaining the benchmark national standards of the BIFM.