Faces of Facilities

Faces of Facilities: Carla Gonzalez from ESFM

With two years of experience in facilities management, Carla Gonzalez is relatively new to the industry. But she is already a strong leader, loves her job, and plays a major role in sustainability.

Gonzalez is an operations manager at ESFM, the corporate integrated facilities management division of Compass Group USA. The company provides FM services for clients across various industries, and in her role, Gonzalez manages a client’s lab facility in South San Francisco, Calif.

As the operations manager, she directly oversees the facility’s sustainability, safety, and janitorial programs. She also supports the site by being a part of the on-call team and responding to alarms and emergencies, as well as managing all kinds of vendors and contracts.

Notably, one of Gonzalez’s responsibilities is overseeing the site’s Platinum TRUE Certification for Zero Waste, which has been upheld year-after-year. The rigorous process requires a strong commitment from both the onsite team and client to keep outgoing waste designated for landfill at less than 10%. The facility also has a number of other sustainability initiatives, including My Green Lab certification.

Prior to her current role, Gonzalez managed a private club for homeowners living in North Lake Tahoe, Calif. To learn more about Gonzalez and her take on industry issues, please read the “Faces of Facilities” interview below:

How did you get your start in the field?

I have a diverse background of experience in hospitality, event management, and sales. When the operations manager position became available, I was very fortunate that I had a few great peers and mentors who pushed me to see that not only was I capable of filling the role, but I was the right person to lead the team.

I love my job, and I now recognize that not everyone has to have a maintenance or hard services background to excel in the world of facilities management. There are a lot of customer service, vendor management, and organizational skills that are paramount to succeeding as an operations manager.

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry, and why?

I had a director named Paul Long who I worked with for three years. He left a lasting positive impression on me and the whole site because of his genuine love for his work and employees. He is a very kind and intelligent leader who always has good advice to share. He was one of my biggest supporters for the role of operations manager, and he told me that my skills, demeanor, and my unique perspective as a woman were something that the facilities management industry was lacking. I always think of his words, and I try to stay true to my values because he made me see how important that is in this industry.

What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

When we were down a janitorial lead, I had to cover for ordering janitorial supplies. In an effort to do inventory less often, I ordered a ton of supplies, not realizing how much I actually ordered. When the order arrived, the pallet had to be driven into my stock room. I spent hours unpacking, sweating, and finding places to put all the supplies. I learned that day how important a well-kept inventory and storage space is to a facility.

What are some of the biggest facilities management issues at your organization?

We struggle like most facilities to source reliable vendors. After COVID hit, the entire industry was affected when it comes to providing hard services. Often, we can’t find the necessary parts or equipment to complete essential repairs, and it has made our maintenance schedule very hard to manage, as supply chain issues are unfortunately out of our hands.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry?

My favorite part of working in FM is that every day is different, and it is never a boring job. Running a facility means managing weather emergencies, handling day-to-day operations, and always looking for ways to better the site. My job is fun because every day is a new challenge and forces me to learn and grow significantly.

What changes would you like to see in the FM industry?

I would like to see more leaders in FM with a background in hospitality. I think the marriage of customer service and the unwavering commitment it takes to make it in hospitality can make a person a better facilities manager. Very often we see facilities managers that rise through the hard services side, but I think diversity in experience would benefit the industry.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Are you noticing any major trends?

I see the industry focusing much more on sustainability in the next five years. I have already noticed the trend of reporting sustainability KPIs, and I believe more and more facilities leaders will recognize that we can play a big part in carbon reduction and waste management.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of cultivating a team of diverse employees who take their work seriously and have respect for each other and our site. It’s not always easy to come in as a new manager and gain respect, but I took a lot of time to get to know my team members and pitch in to help in whatever capacity was needed. By being available to my team and showing them that I am not above any task, I gained their respect and set the tone of what kind of work ethic I expect from everyone on my team.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

My advice to new talent in FM is to stay true to your values and put in the work to know your site. It can be daunting when you first start in this profession how many departments you must oversee and have knowledge about. Take the time to work alongside your team and learn the day-to-day responsibilities of each department, be present for your staff, and always lead with respect and compassion.

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.

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