World FM Day: Behind the scenes with GPT's Murielle Gillmann

May 7, 2023

World FM Day serves to acknowledge and celebrate the vital contributions of Facilities Managers, expressing our thanks for their dedication to maintaining safe, healthy, and efficient environments. At CIM, we appreciate the significance of this function, with most of our valued PEAK Platform users being integral members of the facilities management industry. It’s a pleasure working with a community that is so passionate about progressing the built environment. This special content series shines a well-deserved spotlight on some of its members.

We are delighted to introduce Murielle Gillmann as the featured professional in this edition of our Q&A series. Murielle is a Building Services Manager for The GPT Group (GPT), a leading Australian property group and long standing CIM partner. In this conversation, Murielle provides insight into her career journey, experiences and challenges against the ever-evolving backdrop of facilities management, highlighting the role of technology and the importance of meaningful diversity.

Building a professional foundation

Q. Talk us through your career path so far?

A. I’m from a civil engineering background and worked for the French Government before I moved to Australia in 2012. My first position in facilities management was as a Building Services Coordinator for Channel 7 in Melbourne. After a few years I was promoted to Operations Manager, while still working for Channel 7. I then joined the Operations team at Highpoint Shopping Centre in June 2022. Overnight, I moved from a small mixed-use building (broadcasting centre, studios, and office) to one of Australia’s largest retail centres. Safe to say this was a new challenge, but well worth it!

Q. Why did you choose facilities management as a career?

A. I’m a late bloomer in facilities management. As a public servant, I worked in town planning and construction project management. When I moved to Australia, I thought it would be interesting to see what happens once a building is handed to its occupants, which is when it really comes to life. What kept me in this type of role is the variety of situations, challenges, and the fast pace. There’s never a dull day in facilities management, especially in a large retail asset like Highpoint.

Getting to know the essence of facilities management

Q. What are the top few things that you love about facilities management?

A. The variety of situations, challenges, and the fast pace that ensure no two days are the same. I’m a technically oriented person and I enjoy translating complex concepts into easily understandable (and quoted) actions.

Q. How do you drive sustainability and operational efficiency in your role as a Building Services Manager?

A. I am a lucky Building Services Manager as I’m working with excellent contractors and The GPT Group has a leading Sustainability team that continue to push me and offer precious guidance and feedback as the Group continues to deliver on its ambitious sustainability targets.

Q. This year’s theme is ‘Making a real difference’. Why do you think your role is impactful and important?

A. The role of a Building Services Manager, and Operations in general, is crucial in implementing and monitoring initiatives. Working towards better practices and driving change impacts everyone on every level at the centre. For instance, reducing energy consumption can be detrimental to our tenants and visitors’ comfort (heating and cooling) or safety (lighting). This is particularly true in a shopping centre environment, where the public nature of a centre means any change must be carefully handled. That’s probably what makes my job so interesting!

Q. Can you talk me through any examples in your role at GPT where you’ve made a real difference?

A. I’m still relatively new to this asset. It would be presumptuous to say that I have already made a real difference, but I have taken some time to understand how the asset works and which projects that were put on hold during the pandemic need to be resurrected. With the help of my contractors and the support of management, we have reassessed the major maintenance and plants replacement program.

Empowering female FM’s

Q. Have you faced any challenges professionally as a female is a historically male-oriented industry? And what advice do you have for younger women to help them navigate these?

A. While it is evident good progress is being made, there is still work to be done. Women, especially in “male-oriented industries”, can at times have to prove they can do what men are assumed to be naturally good at. I’ve always worked in technical fields and am quite comfortable navigating the facilities management environment. My advice to younger women is to be self-confident, not to be impressed by self-proclaimed “experts” and to understand that you don’t need to be “one of the guys” to succeed in this role. Diversity of genders and of backgrounds is what makes this industry evolve and thrive.

Q. What do you think the industry is doing well right now to encourage females to join the industry?

A. I think we’re slowly getting out of the “trades background will be highly regarded” zone. The industry has partnered with universities and now offers formal training in facilities management, which should help to reset the prerequisites.

Q. Can you tell me about some of the initiatives driven by GPT to empower female FM’s and encourage greater female participation in facilities management?

A. I think The GPT Group has already passed that stage and concentrates on hiring the right person for the right job. Most of GPT’s initiatives to empower their staff are not necessarily oriented towards only benefitting women or facilities managers. The GPT Group has strong female representation in leadership and rather technical roles, and provides a safe environment where anyone, male or female, can grow. GPT is also very active in the property industry and participates in programs such as 500 Women in Property, and was recently ranked in the top ten organisations globally in the annual Gender Equality Global Report & Ranking released by Equileap.

Skills to shape a successful FM

Q. What skills do you think are most important to be successful in facilities management?

Being able to communicate at every level. Having a great ability to multitask and prioritise jobs, and… managing to stay calm and collected, no matter what happens.

A. How do you think these will evolve in the next 5 or 10 years?

The facilities management industry will become more and more environmental sustainability and risk oriented. The scarcity of resources, the growing cost of energy and climate change are already fast tracking that shift.

Embracing technology

Q. How important is technology in helping you fulfil your role?

A. The monitoring of utilities and equipment and data analysis are key. When you work in an asset such as Highpoint it is impossible to be across everything 24/7, you must rely on your building management and control systems.

Q.What role does the PEAK Platform play in your day-to-day?

A. PEAK is a great tool to identify potential faults and to understand how they can be addressed. The platform is user friendly and allows easy communication and follow up with contractors. The CIM support team is always online to assist with understanding issues, and eventually with making decisions.

Head to our blog for more great World FM Day content.

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Chris Joannides
May 7, 2023