November 2013

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Pursuing Facilities Management Credentials

The Right Tools In Your Toolbox

Marc Walker
Marc Walker,

Sales Engineer and trainer
Dynamic CAFM
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Can I ask a question: how did you become a Facility Manager?  At what point of your career did you look into the mirror and say, “Wow, I’m a facility manager, I have been working for this for years and finally I have achieved my goal!”  If you are like most people you more likely looked in the mirror one day and said “Wow, I’m a facility manager, I better find out what that is before I get fired!”  Surprisingly, many people in the industry are more than a little amazed that they are a Facility Manager and just a little confused as to how they actually got there. I recently attended the International Facility Managers Association (IFMA) Conference in San Antonio, Texas and during a round table discussion discovered that out of 10 people at the table, only 2 sought out that specific career path.  Out of the two that were specifically seeking a career in facility management one happened to be from Nigeria!  (Not that is significant, but he did win the “I had to travel the farthest to get here” Award.)  Therefore, my guess is that as of right now facility management is more a career of serendipity than of design. 

Now, I know that there are some of you out there that would sit at home as a bright eyed 12 year old, not dreaming of being a major league baseball player; football star; rock star or a world class fashion model; but instead yearned for the day you would be the facility manager of a Bloomberg Top 1000 company.  I also know that many of you out there began your working lives as construction workers; heating and air contractors; office operations managers; architects; lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!  Suddenly one day the CEO came up to you and said, “How would you like to be a facility manager!  We just had to send the other guy to the third floor at Bellevue and there is an extinction level project due in three days, so how about it?” 

Even though more colleges are beginning to offer facility manager courses and even degrees in facility management, currently the bellwether organization for facility managers IFMA (International Facility Managers Association) lists only eight Colleges with an IFMA Accredited Bachelor’s Degree in Facility Management in North America.  This is out of a total of 2,774 institutions that grant four year degrees (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics).  So make that roughly 1/3 of 1% or .00288 of schools that offer an accredited degree in Facility Management.  Given those numbers it is not hard to see how so many FM’s “fell” into their careers.  However, you have now arrived and surprisingly you like the job and you are wondering how to advance in your career.  The first option, of course, would be to go back to school and get a degree in facility management, however for most of us that is a not a legitimate option.  Therefore, the other option open to those of us that want to stand out in the increasingly lively crowd is to become credentialed.  You might be surprised how much the letters CFM, FMP or SFP might increase your career prospects.   You might even be surprised to know what they actually mean.  What it means is that should you add the title(s) of a Facility Management Professional; Sustainability Facility Professional and finally a Certified Facility Manager; to your business card you have just taken a major step towards securing your future as a FM. 

You know you want to lay a foundation of competence and differentiate yourself from the mob but how would you attain such a lofty goal?  The first step might be to join a fraternal organization such as the previously mentioned IFMA.  Formed in 1980 IFMA currently supports nearly 23,000 members in 78 countries.  Currently IFMA grants certifications in all three disciplines. 

Now you have some suggestions on how to manage your career and add certifications that will help further your aspirations, but you still need tools along with the knowledge that will make it happen.  Just as a carpenter needs a saw, hammer and chisel, an FM professional must have his own trove of implements.  These “tool box” will contain the trappings that you will use every day to perform you job and make an impact on the organization.  Of course you need the right tools for the job and if you are going to help guide executive decisions, cut down waste and ensure compliance with government regulations then those tools most normally consist of superior computer software with a healthy mix of your own experience and foresight.  Now, not just any software will work of course. You can't just open up an Excel spreadsheet and think that you will be able to manage facilities you need specialized building management software.  You need software that will perform capital budgeting; help the organization become environmentally sustainable; ensure regulatory compliance; take care of work order management; jump start emergency preparedness and (if needed) recovery; manage your workspace and personnel occupancy issues.

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It has been my experience that when making these decisions one needs to depend upon the knowledge of professionals that are not only sales people but that are willing to be your partners.  Question your peers, consult mentors, seek the advice of experts, but then make your own decision.  In the end the quality of your research and the wisdom of your selections will stand in evidence to not only your innate ability; but your professional capability.  

About the Author

By Marc Walker, Sales Engineer and trainer at
Dynamic CAFM, a Pearland Texas based facilities management software provider.


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