facilities management

The Road from Silicon Valley to Managing Facilities

Patrick Crowley's career started in Silicon Valley and moved to facility design and construction.

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor  

Patrick Crowley's career started in Silicon Valley and moved to facility design and construction. But the desire for a more hands-on experience soon took him into the facilities management profession.

FacilitiesNet: When you entered the job market, did you think you would end up in facilities management? 

Crowley: I entered the job market in 1980 working in Silicon Valley for start-up companies on electrical/mechanical machines and fabrication. After several years, I hit a glass ceiling, since I did not have a diploma from an educational institution of higher learning and had to make the decision to go back for a formal education or be limited in my career growth. 

I attended San Jose State University and received my BS degree in mechanical engineering. I obtained a paid internship through the city of San Jose to afford college, and after graduation I was offered a permanent position in the mechanical/electrical section of the architectural engineering division. At this time, facilities management was a known career path, as I was involved in the building design and construction side of the industry, participating in building new assets and renovating existing buildings for the city of San Jose. 

FacilitiesNet: What was your first facilities management job? 

Crowley: My first official facilities management position started in November 2008. I was the assistant facility manager, although the position title was unique to the airport and city of San Jose – building management administrator for the San Jose International Airport’s facilities and engineering division. 

I accepted this position as it was an opportunity to be involved in running, maintaining and managing buildings instead of turning the keys over to someone else, losing touch with all the efforts to bring a building out of the ground and moving on to other construction projects. This was also an opportunity to be on the inside of the day-to-day operations of an airport and provide for the approximately 5,000 employees from the airlines and 250 in-house employees and to provide an exceptional experience to 14 million travelers. It's not something many people get to experience. 

FacilitiesNet: What is your proudest accomplishment in facilities management? 

Crowley: I would say it occurred in the early morning hours of Dec.15, 2013. During the grave-yard shift, an expansion joint for the hot water heating loop failed in the ticket lobby on the second floor of the airport’s Terminal A. The entire airport team – the San Jose Fire Department, airport operations, finance, engineering development, risk management and facilities and engineering – pulled together to minimize the impact to the traveling public and air carrier operations. 

In facilities management, we were able to pull from our incident command system training and preparations to pull in third-party vendors and augment in-house trades. Our electricians and HVAC specialist isolated the leak, shut off electrical service to prevent accidental electrocution, and combined with maintenance staff to dry out the ticketing area. 

With constant communications, all-hands participation and third-party support, we mitigated the damage. Although the area was not restored 100 percent, the comments from business travelers returning at the end of the day indicated they would have never known that flood waters had been cascading down the stairs. Being part of the hands-on clean-up, managing coordination of vendors and staff, and minimizing any impact to customers would probably be an event that made all of us quite proud. 

FacilitiesNet: What is the biggest myth or misconception about facility managers? 

Crowley: Thanks to many highly dedicated individuals, facility management is better understood today. But there are a couple myths to debunk. 

The first myth is that facilities management is an expenditure ledger business unit costing the company money. Facilities management is a profession and should be involved in the C-suite to assist with leading the growth of a firm. The core of any successful firm is its people. Facility assets and real estate holdings are the second most costly element of a company, but they are also assets that attract and retain talent, directly impact productivity, and provide the company branding for corporate social responsibility. These decisions drive revenue and expand the presence of a firm within the business community. 

The second myth is that facilities management is just a maintenance function. Facility management is much more involved in the success of a business than fixing what is broken. Today’s society is much more aware of sustainability, energy consumption and the social impacts from their operations. As such, the direct impact on the bottom line is starting to provide facilities management the opportunity to show the potential impacts of reducing expenditures and increasing personnel retention and firm marketability. 

FacilitiesNet: What do you know about facilities management now that you wish you had known when you started? 

Crowley: Facilities management is much more encompassing than I initially understood. Real estate transactions and human resource skills were probably less prevalent in the career path I travelled as the exposure to these disciplines were not business elements that impacted areas of my influence to accomplish the goals and objectives until my career progressed from manufacturing, design/construction and project management to today as a member of facilities management. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.

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  posted on 7/10/2023   Article Use Policy

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