As an educator and qualified instructor, Alana F. Dunoff is helping train the facilities management professionals of the future.
As for Dunoff, herself, she has been a practicing FM pro for 30 years (“Yikes!” she joked) and wears many proverbial hats. She’s an Adjunct Professor teaching the B.S. Facility Management Program at Temple University; Principal and Owner of consultancy AFD Professionals Services LLC; Qualified Instructor for the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) FMP and ProFM credentials; and Director of Women in Facilities Management, an organization dedicated to industry diversity and advancement.
Dunoff’s degrees include a B.S. from Boston University and M.S. from Cornell University.
She has taught at Temple University since the Architecture department launched its undergraduate FM program and accepted the first students in 2011. She noted, “I was also on the team of IFMA Philadelphia members who spent years prior working with Temple University and other academic institutions to help bring FM education to the Philadelphia region.”
In Facilities Management Advisor‘s latest “Faces of Facilities” interview below, Dunoff revealed lessons both learned and taught throughout her career. She also chimed in on the topic of healthy buildings in honor of our Healthy Buildings 2022 event.
How did you get your start in the facilities management field?
I was a psychology major in college who also loved the built environment. My concentration in psychology was environmental and social psych, which focuses on the relationship between people and spaces and places. I was interested in urban planning but then stumbled on this program at Cornell University called Design & Environmental Analysis—it was a blend of so many of my seemingly unrelated interests like psychology, buildings, design, management, real estate, and construction. If there was a program and a career that “brought them all together,” then it must be my path. I had no idea what facility management was at the time (nor did most people)—but I knew I had found my place.
Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry, and why?
IFMA, the International Facility Management Association, is probably my biggest influence. In graduate school, I received the first IFMA Student Scholarship, which afforded me the opportunity to attend their annual conference. It was at that event that I had the privilege to meet the FMs who helped to shape and form our profession, the trailblazing men and women far too numerous to mention, who inspired a young, fresh-out-of-school woman to follow her passion. IFMA also provided me with volunteer leadership opportunities that allowed me to hone my skills and grow.
What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?
My best mistake was thinking that I had all the answers. What I have learned over the years is that while I definitely do not have all the answers, what I do have is the ability to create a process to find the answers. I often say to clients that your organization already knows the answer to the problem; my job is pulling the data together in a way that the organization can actually recognize the solution.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts about working in the FM industry?
The people who are drawn to the FM profession are some of the most amazing folks that I know—they are often the unsung heroes of their organizations, and their depth of knowledge is incredible.
My least favorite part? The constant struggle to get senior leadership to recognize the value that FMs bring—that our insights and perspective are far greater than the supporting role we play on a daily basis. We have the ability to be both strategic and tactical, to pivot and adapt quickly, and we know every square inch of our buildings and the people inside them.
Let’s talk healthy buildings. What do you think FMs and building owners can do (technology, policy, or otherwise) to make their facilities healthier?
There are a few ways to answer this question. From a daily operations perspective, healthy buildings need well- maintained buildings and building systems that are properly cleaned and cared for. (emphasis on the period)
From an occupant perspective, healthy buildings are places that allow an individual to be at their best; providing spaces and places that allow you to be productive, to engage and to retreat. Healthy buildings can nourish your body and mind with ample natural light, biophilia, access to green space, water features, and food. Healthy buildings abandon the notion that “one size” must fit all and instead create a variety of places and spaces that look and feel different, spaces that encourage innovation, creation, production, downtime, quiet, fun, and engagement.
When we were young kids first going off to kindergarten, we were introduced into a structured environment that was intentionally designed to have different kinds of learning spaces: circle time on the floor, group tables, quiet spaces, technology labs, play areas, a space for directed learning with the teacher, etc. These spaces in our early formidable years allowed us to thrive, to be creative, to learn to read, and to share with others. There was time for quiet work and time for socialization.
Somewhere along the way this intentionally engaging classroom morphed into rows of uncomfortable desks and chairs, and that in turn changed into a sea of workstation cubicles, and we were told work only “here” in this cold, hard, uncomfortable environment and be really productive. The shift to open office work environments tried to counter this culture by creating entire spaces that were all open and exposed. And this did not fully work for everyone either.
What does work is recognizing that old adage that “everything we need to know, we learned in kindergarten”—successful healthy buildings and spaces offer variety and choice. On any given day, work needs change and, therefore, we need spaces that are flexible and adaptable. The pandemic has been a massive experiment that has demonstrate that we can work in a “hybrid” world and be healthy and productive.
Do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting effects on the FM profession or somehow change the industry forever? If so, how?
Yes and no. Yes, because the pandemic has forced people to think about what it means to work and how we can create a better work-life balance. Working remotely also showed companies that it is possible to not be in the office and be productive, efficient, and effective. I think it demonstrated that there are times when quiet workspaces are valuable and other times that face-to-face engagement is critical for things like problem solving, knowledge transfer, and collaboration.
And no, because in our profession, the pendulum is always swinging. There are always new events, new technologies, and new trends that force us to adapt and change. Sustainability, terrorism, anthrax, Y2K, ADA, Mother Nature, and the internet of things have all had lasting impacts on our profession, and so too will this pandemic. But then in another few years, something else will come along that will also have a dramatic effect on how we work.
The pandemic is forcing some shifts and changes, but the FM industry is designed to bend and twist. I also think that the pendulum will swing again, and organizations will realize that not having people in the office can be detrimental to innovation and a sense of belonging and connection, as well as the transfer of institutional knowledge—all of which are critical to an organization’s stability and growth. I predict in the coming year or two companies will find more and more reasons to bring their people back in to the office and perhaps create a bit more of a framework for where people work and when.
How can company leaders make facilities management a value within their organization?
FM leaders have to educate senior management and the entire organization on the value that FM brings to the organization. FM leaders should consider creating their own FM mission statement that aligns with their organization and should also have strategic and tactical plans that illustrate how their work benefits the entire organization. Some FMs even have their own “marketing” plans that utilize company intranet sites, signage, or other mediums to communicate their value.
Where do you see the FM industry heading in five years? Are you noticing any major trends?
The only trend is that we will always be ready to accept the next big thing—whatever it is. I said this before, but as I look back on 30 years in FM, the only thing certain is change and our need to be adaptable. The pendulum always swings, and as FMs we need to be swinging with the pendulum and not running behind it.
As an educator and instructor, what’s the No. 1 lesson or words of advice you give to someone entering the FM profession?
My students know that I am always saying it’s all about the process. That you can solve any problem, even things you don’t know anything about, as long as you follow a wholistic and comprehensive process for gathering, analyzing, and sharing data. Having good information where you ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers—and then ask some more questions and listen some more—is the foundation to solving problems.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud that I have had the privilege to teach, speak, present, and instruct to thousands of FM professionals over the span of my career. That my knowledge and passion for our industry resonates with FM professionals, has sparked a new generation of emerging leaders learning FM, and has helped to build the confidence of seasoned FMs looking for career growth. It is an honor to be a part of my students’ journeys, providing them with a little inspiration and thought leadership in our ever-evolving industry.
Are you or a colleague an FM professional interested in being profiled for the “Faces of Facilities” series? Please contact Editor Joe Bebon at JBebon@BLR.com