How managers can move their organization from reactive emergencies to planned activities
Angela Testa, senior vice president of operations at American Campus Communities, strengthens operations without compromising a healthy work environment
Rosalind Harris has faced a variety of challenges throughout her career. One challenge in particular is the preconceived notion women face in the facility management.
Harris discovered her passion for facility management as a U.S. Navy officer. During her naval career, Harris gained valuable experience in architectural and engineering design contract management, construction management, and facility planning and maintenance. As Harris has progressed through her career, she has learned that with patience and professionalism, she can overcome challenges.
Today we are speaking with:
County of Ventura, Calif
Q) Describe the beginning of your facility management career.
A) Graduate of USC; received Navy Commission; was the Facility Liaison as a collateral duty during my first job. Transferred into the Civil Engineer Corps shortly afterwards I earned a post graduate certificate from the Civil Engineer Corps Officer School. I studied A/E design contract management, construction management, facility planning and maintenance. I enjoyed the diversity, and the science. As a naval officer, I worked in the above areas.
Q) How has your career progressed from there and tell us a little about your current role.
A) Hired by the County of Ventura, General Service facilities department.
Engineer Facility Operations Specialist II to III Security and Special Events Manager Facility Manager
Q) What is the most challenging aspect of your current role?
A) Aging infrastructure (maintenance, repair, predicting replacement) and competing with private industry for staffing.
Q) What is the most rewarding aspect of your current role?
A) Leading a team. I have impact and I provide valuable services. The County operates smoothly because of the work my department does. Sharing my knowledge and experience. Making a difference in the lives of other.
Q) As a woman in a predominantly male profession, what challenges have you faced throughout your career?
A) Overcoming my diversity:
Acceptance of the unknown. I am different and one of the first of my type to enter into the field. I am different physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. The unfamiliarity made others uncomfortable. They did know what to expect or how to interact with me. Imagine meeting a new coworker that had green skin and four nose. It would just takes some getting used to. Your behavior would not be typical.
Preconceived notions about women: Being discounted on face value. The archaic thought that women are less. Some people see me and immediately conclude that I could not possibly have something to offer. They are harsh, condescending and difficult to work with. They resist or refuse to listen to me or do the things I ask them to do. Sometimes it is hard to provide the right answer to a problem and not have it considered until it is brought to the table by someone else. What a waste of time.
The challenge for me is to be patient and professional with those individuals. They distract and waste everyone's time on things that have no value. I try not to react. I am not in the workplace to argue or debate the paradigms. I am there to do the job that has been entrusted in me by the county and my community.
Balancing family and work was a challenge. Making and finding the time during the day to attend school functions and meetings, taking the time off to take care of sick children while juggling milestones in the office. I am fortunate. I work for people who value family. My husband and I partnered and take turns handling personal matters. It is important and I am glad I did. With more women entering the workplace, I am seeing more of the partnering which provides my male counter parts with immediate understanding in this area.
Q) What have you learned from those challenges and how have those lessons helped you get to where you're at now?
A) I have learned to appreciate and embrace my diversity. It adds value and brings a different point of view to the table. It gives the team balance. I have learned how not to listen to the outside noise of negative nonproductive criticism and biased statements. Instead, I listen to the call of purpose and the voice of those who hired and believe in me. I focus on the mission and not the ill doing of others.
I stopped trying to prove myself worthy and right. I focus on the job and the people that I lead and work with. They are amazing. I come to the table applying certification, education, experience and female intuition. I have learned to use them and trust in them. I make selfless decisions and solutions. Selfish decisions are small, without impact. The insightful leaders hear me the first time when I speak. Though not always agreed with it, I am appreciated.
I have been treated unjust and unfairly in my career. But I have also been treated well and have been successful. I dwell on the positive and have made myself immune to the negative. My faith compels me to loves those that do not love me. That is what I am most proud of.
I don't chase the money and have turned down opportunities. I seek and value balance between home and work. I don't apologize for having a family. Everyone is entitled to a life. It is most important that the job is compatible with your personal values and goals.
Q) What is the best piece of advice you have received from somebody in your career?
A) Choose the right battle. You can't fight them all. Fight the important ones that are worth your time and effort.
Be an asset and be easy to work with.