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Insights of the Industry: Kristiana Greenwood

kris greenwood headshot on a dark coloured background

The Director of Strategic Relationships at GJK Facility Services, Kristiana Greenwood has had an incredible 25-year career in facilities management. While her career in facilities management might have happened “by accident”, she’s risen to astronomical heights, even serving a four-year term as chair of industry body FMA.

We recently had the opportunity to sit with Kristiana and pick her brains on all things facilities management.

How did you get started in facilities management? 

Completely by accident! When I first came to Australia, I came with no history in facilities management. In Luxemburg, I’d worked mostly in marketing and business development.

Initially I got a role as a marketing director, but it didn’t take long for me to decide that it was time to try something different.  

I decided to pursue market research and consulting at the time. This led me to a role with an IT company, who were importing facilities management software to Australia.

Unfortunately, they eventually went into liquidation, but what that led to, was the opportunity for me and one of the partners to start our own IT company. Having conducted market research for the previous company, we knew there was an appetite for FM software in Australia.

One thing led to another, and we started developing our own software, which is how FMI came to be.

What have been the biggest challenges of your career in facilities management?

Initially, the biggest challenge was being a woman in a man’s industry, trying to find acceptance and stop being referred to as “love” and “doll”. When I started out, women in the FM industry were only at 18%. I don’t think this was a conscious decision, but just the nature of the role at the time.

I remember going to an event at the Rialto towers, and after catching the lift up, I stepped into a sea of men in business suits.

I was standing in the doorway, mustering the courage to go out and network. Then, suddenly, I feel a tap on my shoulder, and a very lovely gentleman asks me “excuse me love, do you think I could get a beer?”.

To which my response was, “I am sure you can, and while you’re there, would you mind getting me a glass of wine?”. In his defence, I was wearing all black, and he was certainly very embarrassed at the time, but we went on to become good friends.

Back in the day, a lot of facilities managers had come in from the army or from trades, which historically are male-dominated fields. But I decided we needed a new lens on that, and so I joined the Victorian FMA committee, to have a bit more female representation.

I had a lot of trepidation in those first few years, fear that people would look at me and think “who is she, what does she know about FM?”.

But I was fortunate to meet some wonderful, forward-thinking men, who have encouraged and supported me to get to where I am today. These days, we’re getting much closer to an even split between men and women, which is wonderful to see, women make great facilities managers!

Is there anything happening in the industry to support this shift?

It is largely an organic shift. The FMA is doing a lot to support women through the industry, as are FM recruitment agencies.

To be a good facilities manager now, you need to be well organised and prepared, have professional ethics, leadership skills, empathy, flexibility and be proactive and driven. So now it’s not about your gender, but about your skill set.

There are many support systems for women in our industry, one of them is an industry group that I am a part of, that is doing wonderful things to support women in FM, property and construction called “TEN Women”.

Can you tell me a little bit about TEN?

TEN Women is a group of high-profile women in facilities management, property, and construction, whose mandate it is to provide opportunities for senior women to broaden their networks both from within the industry and from other sectors. We facilitate opportunities for emerging senior women to meet professional decision makers and provide a safe and inspiring environment to discuss issues in the workplace or outside of it .

We also facilitate empowerment of women through business or philanthropic opportunities.

We organise 10 lunches per year, attended by 5 TEN Directors who each bring along one guest, for a group of 10. At these lunches, each hosted by a different member, meaningful conversations about our industry and life in general can happen in a knowledgeable and safe space.

The entire network is now up to about 300 people, and that group is doing some amazing things.

For example, TEN is passionate about philanthropy. In 2019 we decided to hold a fundraiser for Housing all Australians (HAA) to raise money to build pop-up shelters for women over 55 escaping domestic violence. We didn’t engage any paid promotion, just leveraged our network.

In three weeks, we’d sold all sponsorships, and had sold 530 tickets to attend the event. Not only that, but we had donations for silent and live auctions and celebrity involvement in kind. At the lunch, the room was completely electric, and we ended up raising $250K for HAA.

We’ve currently got another fundraiser in the works for Lighthouse Australia, which is very exciting.

After 25 years in facilities management, what are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the industry?

Facilities management used to be something a lot of people accidentally got into, but now it is an actual career path you can follow. There are now formalised qualifications and professional development, and a greater need for soft skills, rather than trade skills.

I remember my first ever meeting with a facilities manager, I had to put on a hard hat and descend to the basement to get to his office. And then when maintenance works popped up, someone would phone him, on a phone with a cord, and he’d physically go up and perform the work.

It’s a very different picture these days, certainly a bit more glamourous.  

Facilities management has gone from the basement to the boardroom. There’s increasingly a realisation that the facilities manager is among the most important people in the building.

As facilities managers, we must be aware of all the health and safety requirements, OHS, maintenance works, and evolving legal requirements.  

The FMA has had an enormous amount to do with this. Advocating the industry to a point where government is paying attention, which creates opportunities for lobbying.  

Of course, as we spoke about earlier, we’ve also seen progressively more female representation over the years.

How has technology disrupted the way facilities managers work?

Technology has certainly been the single biggest disruptor in facilities management over my career.

When I first started, we barely had email, only dial-up internet connections. At that time, facilities management software was reserved for only the most sophisticated operators.

It would have been unimaginable back then to imagine FM systems that handle ad hoc maintenance, planned maintenance, track costs, track contractors etc.

Data has made a huge difference, it makes facilities managers more responsible, and offers more opportunity to make a big difference to an organisation.

Technology is changing the way we do things all the time. Not just in terms of systems but robotics and AI. We can get robots to clean things for us and can leverage AI to analyse huge amounts of data which, for example, can track foot traffic and allow us to predict maintenance and cleaning schedules – enabling us to cut costs and save time.

This is all a healthy, welcome change, and it helps us to embrace efficiencies that we couldn’t have dreamed of in years gone by.

What technologies do you see having a big impact on facilities management in the future?

We are definitely going to see technology continue to evolve. We’ll find new efficiencies and we’ll see buildings become much smarter.

COVID has changed the way we see facilities management for good and changed the way we think. Cleaning, for example, is now one of the biggest points of focus for facilities teams. It’s not a matter of hiring a cleaner to come in a couple of times a week. There’s a focus on high-touch areas and the products used are under immense scrutiny.

Technologies like being able to turn on lights or open doors with your phone, to minimise those touch points are starting to pop up and will become more common.  

We are in a very difficult period at the moment in terms of facilities management. There’s no mandates to go back to offices, so facilities managers are having to adapt to a hybrid model, while having to predict how many people will be in the office, and when.

What other changes do you expect to see in facilities management in the coming years?

I think the hybrid work model is here to stay, which means the way we use space is going to be very different. We have to keep offices running, even when they are not at full capacity, and rethink what offices look like to encourage people to come back in together.

We used to see space taken up mostly by offices, but now we are seeing buildings comprised of open spaces for collaboration. These different spaces come with different cleaning and management protocols, changing the way we work.

This repurposing of space is something that has to happen, but I think it will be a positive thing. It’ll increase collaboration, which in turn will improve creativity and generate new ideas,which is a healthy thing.

Similarly, there will be big changes in what buildings look like and what is expected of them. There are some incredible designs coming out that really are the buildings of the future.

With the net zero commitment, we’re seeing an increasing focus on reducing waste, bringing in green elements, saving energy etc. Buildings themselves and the energy and products used in them will have a more circular lifecycle.

What all of this will hopefully lead to, is facilities managers having a seat at the table when these design decisions are made. Having that input at the start of the process to ensure buildings are practical, not just pretty.

It will be interesting to see what happens in terms of the responsibility too for things like disability accessibility. If the board, business owners, architects, designers and facilities managers are all in the room in the first phase, it could make a big difference towards improving that accessibility.

What do you hope will become standard faciliites management practice in the future?

We are getting much better I think at standardising things, as facilities management is getting more recognition for its importance. The industry has developed from having no real guidelines or best practice available to having ISO standards and protocols.

The FMA has done a lot of work in this space, putting together whitepapers, lobbying and providing that educational material to standardise best practice.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to embark on a career in facilities management? 

Get involved with industry groups (FMA) and get involved in state or national committees.

Step outside your comfort zone, start meeting people, start doing work and learning about the industry.

Put your hand up to present a paper at a conference! Most of us don’t like public speaking, but it does a lot for your personal brand which is so important.  

Look into doing some professional development, accumulate knowledge, and if you want to take it to the next level, maybe look at formal qualifications.  

The other thing that is incredibly helpful for career development is finding someone in the industry who can mentor you. Anybody you’re comfortable to run things by, who understands – remember, no question is a dumb question.

There’s no formal process for this at the moment, which is why that networking is so important. You have to seek out people in the industry who can help you, and look for who will talk to you.

What has been the highlight of your facilities management career so far? 

Definitely being elected as chair for the FMA. The amount of support, and messages I received, it was just such a wonderful feeling.

Finally, what do you love about your career in facilities management? 

The people primarily. Facilities management and property is comprised of real salt of the earth, kind people.

The support that I have seen in things like fundraising, really shows off a good heart for the industry. Everybody there is willing to roll up their sleeves and help, which is a wonderful thing.

 

The other thing I love about facilities management, is the diversity. The diversity of the role, all the places it will take you, and the different work involved. And also the diversity of the people, not just in the people themselves, but in what they’re willing to accept and adapt for others.

Disability accessibility, including neurodiversity, is a huge focus in our industry, and it’s about making life better for everyone. We seem to have an understanding that making accessible for diverse needs isn’t a huge adaption on our part, but can make a huge difference in peoples lives.