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Studying while working is becoming increasingly popular within facilities management. Ashraf Patel and Danny Malyon – both from the Sainsbury’s FM team – tell Jamie Harris about what drove them to undertake BIFM Level 7 qualifications and how it spices up their day jobs


11 September 2017 | Ashraf Patel and Danny Malyon

What attracted you to the BIFM Level 7 qualification? 

Ashraf Patel: Ever since completing my degree, I’ve considered undertaking further study and completing an MSc while working, but wasn’t quite sure what it was I wanted to do. After six years in FM, covering a variety of roles, I decided to look into what professional qualifications were available. I discovered BIFM qualifications and found that Level 7 was the best fit for me based on my experience and academic qualifications, with the added bonus of linking the first year to completing an MSc.

Danny Malyon: After two years of being in the head of FM role and completing several BIFM courses, I really enjoyed the content and day-to-day challenges of FM. I saw the opportunity to link the material within BIFM Level 7 and the MSc to delivering a business lead FM strategy based on best practice.

Why did you choose to do it together?

AP: One of my concerns about going into further education was the challenge of completing the studies through correspondence and balancing work and studying at the same time. With Danny completing the studies with me, there was a better chance we would dedicate time to study as well as firing up some competition for results.

DM: I have always been a believer in life-long learning for myself and was supportive of Ash taking this route as part of his CPD. Additionally, the thought of challenging each other while completing the course was an exciting prospect. 

How did you approach Sainsbury’s management about the training, and get the required sign off? 

AP: I approached Sainsbury’s by discussing my development needs and we both concluded we would benefit from the course.Sainsbury’s was very open to me gaining professional accreditation and learning best practice from a recognised body, with the aim to implement learnings to provide business benefit.

DM: Professional expertise was not common amongst the FM team at Sainsbury’s so I wanted to challenge myself in gaining as much knowledge as possible and ensure our supply base provided an industry leading service.

How do you feel the qualification, with its more strategic focus, relates to your day job?

AP: The Level 7 modules relating to finance, legislation, managing data, managing staff and customers, offered some great scenarios, which involved writing a strategy for addressing the core content within these modules. These scenarios related to challenges FM faces on a day-to-day basis. These enabled me to apply the content to these examples and understand how to put theory into practice.

DM: I have been able to create an FM strategy for Sainsbury’s using the principles from the course by aligning the business’ strategic goals. Managing staff and customers helped me understand how to gain customer feedback using proven models to help align the overall FM strategy, for example aligning in store cleaning with strategic business objectives.

Are you doing anything differently as a result of your level 7 qualification?

AP: While studying for Level 7 I was overwhelmed by the amount of academic information available within FM. We sometimes try and solve an issue from scratch without realising someone may have already achieved what you are trying to do. I can now look up journals and academic papers to implement best practice.

How has it helped with managing the supply chain?

AP: One of the modules, managing staff and customer details, researched methods of measuring performance from different perspectives. This has allowed us to really understand the opportunities when considering service delivery through feedback from our customers.

DM: The content and research from the knowledge and information management module helped support a ‘field to fork’ strategy where we ensured our products are kept at optimum conditions for our customers, giving them a great product.

What advice would you give to others considering the level 7 qualification, and why?

AP: Don’t hesitate or be afraid when thinking about new ways of working in your organisation; reluctance to change, and to continue doing what you have always done, can lead to missed opportunities. BIFM level 7 provides great insight into proven ways of working which has allowed us to bring in new ideas.

DM: Even in a large role, Level 7 allows you to consider problems in a unique way and can be applied to your daily responsibilities. The course is very relevant to current FM industry challenges and is an enabler to enhance your business.

Any final thoughts? 

AP: The course helps you understand how FM operates in other industry sectors, but that, ultimately, the principles are the same however they are applied.

DM: Within the FM arena, it is important to understand the wider industry view when considering the challenges you face. This is a great opportunity to gain that insight. 

Name: Ashraf Patel

Job title: FM capital operation manager

Previous qualifications: Bachelor’s degree (BEng) in mechanical engineering

What brought you to FM? After completing my engineering degree I secured an engineering graduate placement within retail. The placement allowed me to explore many aspects of engineering within retail, including maintenance, and I decided I wanted to further my career within this area. 

Name: Danny Malyon

Job title: Head of FM

Previous qualifications: Bachelor’s degree (BA) in retail marketing

What brought you to FM? Following a career focused on retail and completing a number of senior operational roles, I wanted to gain experience within the FM department after being on the customer side of FM delivery and developing a keen interest in it.

See full details of units covered at: bifm.org.uk/Level7Qualifications   

Find a recognised study centre at: bifm.org.uk/where_to_study