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Industry Insights: Maree Lee

Maree Lee, senior consultant at FMI, smiles at the camera wearing a pink beret

How long have you been with FMI?

Over 14 years now! 

What does a typical day look like in your role, and how has that changed over time?

I started my career in facilities management working for Parks Victoria. Over my years there I worked with technical project management on some very interesting projects, including artist in residence and Y2K.

 

My background in IT helped me to develop a deep understanding of the product when I came to work for FMI. I’m a subject matter expert in the FMI product, which means I get to work with clients at various stages of their journey.

 

A lot of what I do at the moment is work with clients who want to implement an FM solution, but aren’t sure where to start. What I’ve learned over many different clients, is that organisations tend to share a similar set of facilities management challenges.

 

In my role now, I can leverage my experience and expertise to dig deeper with clients, and tailor their use of the solution to their maturity level.

What is something you’re particularly passionate about in your career?

I love the connections I’m able to make with people, both co-workers and clients. There are clients here I’ve been working with for over a decade. You become like a work friend to them, even though you’re not working for the same organisation.

 

I love being able to share my experience with new customers, offering them specialist advice on getting the most out of the product. It’s so rewarding when you help someone overcome a challenge that seemed insurmountable at the start.

How have you seen facilities management change over your career?

Societies and cultural norms change a bit over time, and I’ve really noticed that throughout my career.

 

There used to be a culture of arrogance, complete disbelief that a non-technical person could know anything about facilities management and processes.

 

Now I’m finding we’re seeing a fresh new generation of managers, who are more apt with their communication. They’re more used to seeing women in the workforce, and they’re more software-savvy.

 

The other thing that has changed is now we see facilities management as a profession of choice, not just something you fall into. We’re seeing more people choose and pursue a career in facilities management.

How do you think facilities management will change in the next 5-10 years?

It’s going to become a lot more reliant on technology. I think we’ll see less human resources, and the ones we do see will be specialised. More specialised, but less technical in terms of how specific machines work.

 

We’ll see an emergence of machine-to-machine. Instead of someone manually triaging work orders, we’ll have systems that automatically trigger work orders and things like that.

 

People will need to be super comfortable with technology and knowing how different systems work.

 

We’ll also see more uptake of technologies like geofencing. As soon as a tradie or someone enters the site geofence, it’ll show work orders as in progress, and when they leave it’ll automatically close.

 

The technology already exists, it’ll take some work to get real uptake, but I think that’s where the industry will go.

How do you see industry evolution reflected in organisations generally?

One of the other big changes I think we’re already seeing, is that facilities managers are being elevated in the business.

 

Now, businesses are looking at FM and thinking “well this is quite an expensive outlay” and paying more attention to those budgets and budgetary controls.

 

Boards have a new awareness of their obligations and responsibilities, and liability if something goes seriously wrong.

 

The combination of the risk management, and the clearer control of budgets is really working to positively change organisations attitudes towards facilities management.

What’s been the biggest challenge in your career so far?

Ensuring you’re flexible with your career is quite the challenge. Try new things, you don’t want to get stuck on a trajectory only to find out it’s not what you actually enjoy doing.

 

It’s easy to get panicked, and forget you always have the option to create change, make choices, or change your mind. Look at what’s in your circle of influence, and how you respond to that.

What has been the best thing in your career so far?

It’s the things you don’t expect, in particular the relationships you build over the years. Some of my closest friends are ex colleagues!

It is also very rewarding to see clients happy, who have achieved their goals despite challenges they might be facing.

 

Has there been anything over your career that has surprised or shocked you?

Some of those legacy attitudes are probably the most surprising or shocking.

That is definitely changing, we’re seeing new managers come through who understand what is acceptable and what is not.

If you could go back, and give yourself some advice before you started your career, what would it be?

Be very flexible and fluid, don’t get stuck thinking your career trajectory is the set path you think it is. You sometimes have to go with the flow.

 

Over the years I’ve become more comfortable with myself, and I’m not as sensitive as I might have been years ago. I would also tell myself it’s only work, there are other things in life that are just as important.

 

I think work life balance is really important. Evaluate what the end game is, is that top of ladder position nirvana or is something more important?

What do you love about what you do?

The twists and turns that happens through your career are very exciting.

 

Everything you do, you learn from, and you can always carry those skills in your mental backpack, and when you need it, you pull it out. I like collecting knowledge and applying it across different scenarios.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

For me, travel is the very consistent theme throughout my life. I’ve been to 22 countries so far, and more on my list! I’ve been to almost all of the major cities in the world, and lived overseas for a few years.

 

My dad worked for Shell, so we lived in Brunei for many years. I went to an English speaking school there, and I’ll never forget the headmaster wearing a safari suit and a monocle!

 

I think that defined who I was, travelling and learning about different cultures. Even when I was very young, seeing extreme poverty, going out into jungles etc. has shaped who I am today.

Have you got a favourite destination?

They all have their merits! I was really surprised at Japan. Japan is just SO clean and beautiful, and everything there is so precise and planned.

 

I travelled from one side of America to the other, and I got to see a lot of America most Aussies don’t get to see, which gave me an interesting perspective.

 

I did nine weeks travelling through South America, the main highlight there being the hike up Maccu Piccu.

What was really incredible though was going to the Galapagos Islands. The animals there aren’t fearful at all, so you can walk right up to them. It is absolutely incredible, particularly if you like wildlife and that sort of natural attraction.

What’s your travel token? The thing you do everywhere you go

I love jewellery, so I always have to buy a piece from wherever I’m visiting. I love that when you wear it, you feel all the memories flooding back

What are some things people might not know about you?

I’m a big foodie! When I’m travelling I get to combine my love of travel and food.

 

While I was in South America, I got to try Alpaca, which was actually gorgeous, quite similar to lamb.

 

In Japan, the food was such an experience. It’s a feast for your eyes too, the presentation is just amazing, it’s just a completely different way of eating.

Has there been one meal that really blew you away?

When I was in Copenhagen, we walked past this little café that had just opened for the day.

 

We noticed they were putting all these beautiful pastries out and just had to go in. I ended up getting this beautiful apricot danish. It was so flaky and buttery and had just come out of the oven, so it was still warm!