Career Ladder: Jacqueline Walpole, Company Product Manager, FSI

Facilities Management is known to be a career that people fall into from other sectors.  In this regular column, FMJ chats to a facilities professional about how they got into the sector and takes a look at their career path. This month we talk to Jacqueline Walpole from FSI (FM Solutions) Ltd.

Name: Jacqueline Walpole
Current role: Company Product Manager, FSI 
Born: Cheam, Surrey
Lives: Hindhead, Surrey

What was your first ever job?
I did an undergraduate engineering apprenticeship with British Aerospace (Military Aircraft ) Ltd for five years. I worked with them for a year with day release to Surrey University & Guildford College of Technology; I then spent three years studying Electronic & Electrical Engineering at Kings College, London, with work placements at BAe during vacations; then one year post qualification in Safety Critical Systems Advanced Design, Instrumentation & Electronics.

What was your first job in the FM sector?
I became involved in FM before it really existed and was still just maintenance, when the Crown Estates subcontracted this part of their operations. One of the tender requirements was for electronic log books. This was new for the maintenance companies, so I started designing electronic systems to enable them to tender for the Crown work.

When did you first hear the term facilities management? And what did you think it meant then?
In the early 1990s, tenders for maintenance companies moved from fulfilling a simple caretaker role to a requirement for FM services - including building fabric, cleaning, security, printer services, catering etc - as companies looked to find one provider to oversee the operations they were beginning to outsource. So the term then meant covering all the support services that enabled a business to operate.

What made you choose FM as a career?
Having spent a lot of time working on purely technical military aircraft systems in a niche market that were detached from everyday life, the opportunity to get involved with real people's workplaces and to assist in making those operate more smoothly was very satisfying.

How did you progress through the profession to your current role?
I gained a lot of experience as a consultant working for a variety of clients. I progressed from inputting data that other people had collected to asset register gathering and condition surveying myself - my engineering background meant I understood all the hard services. I was also able to understand all the regulatory requirements, therefore I implemented CAFM systems to manage hard services.  This led to me playing the lead technical role for some large enterprise systems; for example, creating a single system for a large FM company to replace the disparate systems that they had across the country. The software of choice for my clients was the Concept range from FSI and I developed a good rapport with my future colleagues at FSI. It was at this stage that I was approached by FSI to help them shape their future products.

Do you have any qualifications or training in FM? And how have you benefited from them?
I have no formal FM qualifications, however I have completed and indeed delivered a range of occupational FM courses during my career.

What is your greatest contribution to the FM sector, or your current role?
What gives me the most satisfaction is improving the lives of end users - the people who go in and out of the buildings we're helping to manage, who have enough to stress about just making money and moving their companies forward. If I can facilitate it so that the engineers can pick up problems before they start upsetting people or so that they can run the operations more efficiently to reduce costs and improve the bottom line, that is a really powerful thing. 

As part of my ongoing role of refining FSI's CAFM products, I was delighted that Live View won the FMJ Innovation Award. It's a great example of my remit to extend the capabilities of existing systems.

Live View is a natural extension of FSI's Concept's Visual Booking interactive room and hot-desk module. It provides a graphical view of performance data across an estate, highlighting where attention is required and enabling users to make fast, accurate decisions.

What's changed most since you started in FM?
The trend of who owns the CAFM systems and the data. Initially, owners/ occupiers owned and operated their own systems, but there was then a major phase of sub-contracting this out as part of the FM service. However, it is increasingly being brought back in to the owners again. Three things have been key in triggering this reversal: the advent of Building Information Modelling (giving owners/occupiers 3D models of their buildings), smart building integration and sustainability directives. More often now there is simply integration with their suppliers' works management systems.

What would make the biggest difference to the FM sector? And how can that be achieved?
More recognition in the boardrooms of the large organisations of FM as a career and a profession, and of the role FM can play in contributing to the success of a business.

What advice would you give to young people coming into the profession now?
Get formal qualifications, but also get experience in how workplaces function and what everyday life is like for all levels of staff . My apprenticeship gave me experience in all areas of the BAe business, from administrative roles to production line. Having an understanding of what matters to normal people trying to carry out their work functions means that you can empathise and potentially understand their business processes better, with a view to improving them.

What qualities should a good FM possess?
A certain amount of empathy and an analytical ability to gain an understanding of needs and processes in order to come up with the optimal solutions to satisfy both the board and the workforce.

What are your long-term goals for the next seven to ten years?
We have a very exciting future here at FSI - the leaps and bounds in technology are going to enable me to keep on helping the wheels of industry turn a bit more smoothly.

What matters more: challenging/ interesting work, the opportunity to work flexibly by time or location or job security?
Definitely challenging/interesting work - that's why I'm with FSI based in Essex, even though I live beyond the opposite side of the M25 in Surrey, it's worth travelling for. But also, as a company FSI are flexible regarding time in the HQ office, and we have enough tech to make remote working seamless.