Industry Insights: Nadia Zeini

Insights of the Industry template featuring Nadia Zeini

Nadia Zeini is the facilities manager for Hobart City Mission, an organisation that provides support for people facing hardship and homelessness in Southern Tasmania. Nadia has decades of experience in property management, and has an incredible understanding of compliance and regulation. We sat down with Nadia in July 2023 to get her insights of the industry.

How did you get into facilities management?

I have almost always worked in property. I have a degree in law with business studies, and worked briefly with a commerical law firm in Dubai, before realising it was not what I wanted to do. I returned to the UK and worked in property development before moving into property management.

I moved to Australia in 2014 and managed self funded retirement villages in the Northern Territory for nearly 4 years, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I then jumped into the not- for-profit industry, working with a NRAS provider in Darwin before moving to Hobart in 2021. Since then, I have dedicated my career to not-for-profit organisations, and have no regrets!

What is unique about facilities management in not for profits?

Funding and ever tightening of budgets is definitely the biggest challenge in the not-for-profit sector. Often the money required to meet all maintenance requirements just isn’t there, which can make it hard.

Preventive maintenance is really important in this sector, as it helps to reduce longer term capital cost, but of course you need the budget to enable this to happen! Leveraging FMI Works is going to be critical for us to get that visibility over preventative maintenance costs, and from there we can see where our weaknesses are and forecast what capital costs need to happen.

This year, our focus is on compliance. It is incredibly important for us, as we deal with many vulnerable people across our organisation, through programs and crisis accommodation. There’s often a mix of trauma, mental health and complex needs that we need to manage appropriately, so we have to make sure we are doing everything possible to support our participants and keep them safe whilst in our care. That includes keeping properties fit for purpose, and making sure contractors align with our values.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see in facilities management?

At the moment, the biggest challenge is that the cost of everything is going up, and we are getting less for our budget. Procurement has been essential part of this role, making sure we are getting value for money throughout most of our services. However, due to the delicate nature of our organisation and the participants we have, procurement is not always about going with the “cheapest” contractors - it’s about finding contractors who understand the needs of our organisation and show a willingness to align to our values. We are incredibly lucky to be working with some fantastic providers who are dedicated and committed to our cause.

Having visibility over all our expenditure is critical to making sure that budget goes as far as possible. We need to ensure we’re getting value out of our contracts, and have to be smart about prioritising which jobs need to be done now, vs what can be deferred.

Maintenance materials and costs of services keep increasing, so proper visibility and smart prioritisation is critical to controlling costs going forward.

What are some of the core skills needed to succeed in facilities management?

Patience and tolerance I think is a big one. It can be a very frustrating role, you definitely have to enjoy the role to do the role well! You have to be able to communicate with a wide range of people and be able to show resilience and poise, whilst also showing compassion and respect, often simultaneously. It’s quite a balancing act! 

Being self-assured and confident in your own ability is also essential in this role. 

You also need to be really organised and be able to manage a heavy workload. Often, I’m juggling multiple projects at any point in time, having to switch between them simultaneously whilst giving them all the appropriate attention they need. Being able to prioritise work is really key.

A lot of the role is administrative, there’s a lot of putting together scopes of work, contracts, service agreements, performance reviews, and other more back-end business skills. For me, my degree has provided me with transferable skills that equips and enables me to translate legislation and regulations and understand what is required in order to establish and retain compliance within our organisation.

With all this being said, I am lucky enough to be incredibly well supported in my role, which allows me to professionally develop and grow- and for that I am very grateful.

What changes do you expect to see in facilities management in the next decade?

I think we can see in many organisations that different people within an organisation take on parts of facilities management, and things can look a bit messy because elements of infrastructure are scattered across an organisation, rather than have a team dedicated to facilities and asset management.

I think most organisations are moving over to cloud based systems to help mitigate the risk of data loss- and so most aspects of facilities management will be moved over from excel spreadsheets and paper folders, to more paperless and readily accessible online data clouds.

What changes would you like to see in facilities management?

I would love to see more vocational education training courses be available in Tasmania to help unite facilities managers and provide a universal standard of practice for them to abide by.

What do you love about being a facilities manager?

In the not for profit space, I think it it’s rewarding to be able to support people who need it. Everyone at this organisation is so unified and committed to that common cause, and everything we do in some way helps people who are facing homelessness.

The people we support too are always so grateful. We help them to get a roof over their head and give them a safe place to go, and that’s incredibly refreshing, and rewarding.