The latest blogs from BIFM, and from guest bloggers, and all things facilities and beyond.
60 seconds with...Simi Gandhi-Whitaker
For our latest blog, Simi Gandhi-Whitaker, Work Winning Director at EMCOR UK and chairman of Women in FM (WiFM), answers a series of quick-fire questions in our 60 Seconds With...interview.
Q. What made you choose FM as a career?
A. Like many others I have met in the industry, I didn't specifically choose FM. I left university with a German and Business degree and got a temp job as a PA in a large international construction company. Having spent almost 10 years there, I was approached for a role in Work Winning within facilities management, which I've not looked back on. My career in FM has naturally evolved and has been more about playing to my strengths, working hard and being credible to my customers.
Q. What do you wish you'd known about the industry before you joined?
A. That FM offers such diverse career opportunities for women and that you don't, for example, have to be a technically qualified engineer to be successful in this industry. Equally that FM touches almost everyone in the UK and as such we are all responsible for playing a role in enhancing the lives of everyone.
Q. What does it take to be successful in FM?
A. My role has taught me that being tenacious, positive and hardworking are really important and to just keep going, but equally understanding that, regardless of whether you're a cleaner or the CEO, everybody has a purpose and an important part to play in making our customers' lives easier.
Q. What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
A. I love that every day is really different and I am lucky enough to have a role that is based on output and deliverables. I particularly enjoy interacting with customers and meeting people within the sector who inspire me all the time, which I get to do more of in my role as Chair of WiFM which has been a recent addition. Doing my role as volunteer to BIFM gives me the opportunity in my own way to give back and hopefully inspire people to do the same. I am particularly excited about today's annual WiFM conference, where I have people both from within and out of our sector on the stage, challenging the status quo - something that I am all about!
Q. What aspects of your job didn't you expect?
A. I did not expect I'd enjoy the challenge and satisfaction so much. Whilst it can be relentless at times, it is incredibly rewarding to nurture the seedling of a professional relationship into one that becomes a long-term customer.
Q. What are you predictions for the FM industry in 2017?
A. The role of FM is continually evolving and I think this coming year is going to be very much about not just maintaining buildings but looking at how we can provide further innovations to our customers and be true partners to them, particularly around workplace productivity, the Internet of Things and analysing data to provide real tangible solutions for them. People will still be important but technology will take FM to another level and we have to be ready for that.
Q. Describe yourself in three words.
A. Driven, tenacious, memorable.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I worked at a McDonald's when I was 16 where I learned that I was a natural at and loved the customer service element and interaction with people. Ironically, this is a key element of my job today.
Q. Who's influenced your career most and why?
A. I've been really lucky to have met so many inspiring people throughout my career, and in some cases I probably didn't realise how much of an inspiration they had been until later. So having had some really great mentors along the way it would be unfair to name just one person. However, my family has also been a really important influence and if I didn't have the support that I get at home then I wouldn't be where I am today.
Q. What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
A. To focus on your own work and do the best possible job that you can and be the best possible version of yourself and not to worry about what other people are doing. Also there will be times when the balance of work and life is tipped too much towards work, but if you truly want to be good at what you do then sacrifice will eventually pay off - even though at the time you won't feel that way. Success comes to those who deserve it and I am a strong believer of that.
Q. What's the skill you'd most like to have?
A. Be a plumber! Having recently moved to a 150 year-old house, I wish I had a trade skill which would save me a lot of money!!
Q. What's on your desk?
A. A coffee cup that constantly needs replenishing, some wireless 'Earin' earphones that my friend designed which I use when I need to really concentrate, and a magnetic chalkboard in front of the desk with lots of notes, photos and things to remember on it.
Q. What are you passionate about?
A. Being credible in the industry and a positive role model as well as working hard to win work in the right way. I'm also passionate about diversity and, as the Lead for EMCOR UK's 'Creating Balance' steering group, believe it is really important to recognise and embrace difference. It's something I want to support throughout my career.
Q. Who's your business hero?
A. My business heroes are those who inspire and recognise the importance of their people, who promote work and home life and those who are playing their part in creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. Again I don't think it is fair to name anybody because I am fortunate to have met, and will continue to meet amazing, inspiring business leaders. However, one example is Liv Garfield, the CEO of FTSE 100 Severn Trent, who is the youngest female boss in the footsie at 41. Balancing such a meteoric rise with two children and married life at such a young age is something to be admired by everyone.
Q. Describe your perfect day away from work.
A. My job involves quite a lot of early starts, so I'd wake up naturally without my alarm and have a leisurely coffee in bed. I'd then go on a long walk in the countryside with my husband Simon and our Cockapoo Rosie before stopping at our local pub for a glass or two of Prosecco and a nice lunch. #bliss
Q. What's your greatest work achievement?
A. When I left a previous job I was told that I would never be a director by one of the MDs, and then a year later I became one at the age of 32. There's something nice about internally proving people wrong!
Q. What's your favourite quote/motto?
A. Here are two that I live by for example, with one being on my Twitter page:
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." - Steve Jobs
"Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness." - Oprah Winfrey
Q. What's the best/worst quality in a leader?
A. The best quality is recognising people's individual strengths and encouraging them in their personal development without trying to change them to be a certain way. The worst quality is not being thankful to the people around them who help them be good leaders.
Q. What can't you live without?
A. My family, my dog Rosie and currently my Charlotte Tilbury eyebrow filler!
Q. What are your career ambitions?
A. I would say to be CEO of EMCOR UK but that's too cliché! Ultimately to continue to work hard, keep doing my annual plan (pictorially) and see where that leads to, but most importantly to love what I do!
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