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19 October 2018
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Newcomer of the year - Finalist - katie sparrow

Four women made up the finalists for the Newcomer of the Year award this year. Here, we catch up with this new generation of FMs to find out more about the people set to take the profession forward in the next 10 years.

Katie Sparrow
Katie Sparrow, G4S FM

23 November 2016

What challenges do you think remain for women coming in to a historically male-dominated profession? 

KS: As an independent female working in the industry, I personally see no challenges for women joining and being seen as an equal in the FM world. In my opinion you have summed it up in the question by referring to it as “historically male dominated”.  I’m privileged to be on my journey at a time where I feel women are thriving in our industry. 

Looking back, is there anything you wish you knew about being an FM before becoming one?

I only wish I had known the how big and varied the industry is and what opportunities are out there to connect and network with the wider FM community. 

What has been your biggest career challenge to date – and how did you overcome it?

The aspect of my career I have found most challenging has to be the transition from domestic level to management, letting go of being an active person taking instruction and the comfort of someone else making the decisions, to suddenly being the one in the driving seat.

It took me a good few months to accept and learn that it was perfectly acceptable to delegate and share the workload as long as you know that the ownership and responsibility ultimately still lies with you. Once I got into this frame of mind I really settled into my role as a manager.  

You’ve worked on the Lister hospital site for more than 10 years, working your way from cleaner to duty manager and beyond. Does that give you the advantage of knowing that contract inside out, and also understanding each role from operative to supervisor to account manager? Is this one of the best ways to develop transferrable FM skills, by becoming an expert for all aspects of one particular contract?

I am a huge fan of developing new and raw talent and I feel that I have an advantage when it comes to understanding the importance of FM at all levels of the business. Being at Lister Hospital for 10 years has certainly given me a wealth of information and a deep understanding of staff needs to client relations. Earning trust and respect doesn’t come overnight, it takes time, so I firmly believe this is one of the best ways to develop transferable skills. Having said that, this career path isn’t without its challenges; when you have been in a certain position for some time it can be difficult to establish yourself at a new level and for people to accept you in a more senior role. 

Do you believe your end-user client is an ‘intelligent’ one? In your experience, is understanding of FM’s value to the wider organisation changing?

We are very privileged here at Lister Hospital to have a client who has a close understanding of the importance of FM services and the value of all staff. They know that having a strong mutual relationship with G4S FM as a contractor will ultimately deliver a more efficient service. The client has invested a great deal of time in recent months working in partnership with us to get the message out to the workforce that domestics are valued members of the wider Trust team. Although we don’t work for the Trust directly, we are all here for the same reason, to improve the patient service. 

Which individual would you name as the most important to you in your career thus far, and why?

There are so many people who have helped me develop myself over the years and played an important part in my career. However, if I had to name one then it would be my partner Dave, who has always believed in my ability and told me I was destined for great things! I think it takes a special type of person to be with an FM professional as it is such a demanding job and certainly not 9-5, but he has always been understanding. We have two young children which can be difficult when managing a job that has non-standard hours, but he has always been flexible which has allowed me to have the best of both worlds and be totally committed to the industry and my position.

How would you like to see the FM sector to change during your lifetime?

I would love to see the FM sector continue to accelerate at rapid speeds, and see more young people choosing FM as a career path, rather than stumbling into the industry as a lot of people do. FM is a fantastic Industry which can give such a wide and diverse range of opportunities - we just need to invest more time and effort bringing it in to the education system and giving it the PR it deserves!  

How would you sell FM to other young people considering it as a profession?

It is a great career option for young people who are unsure about which direction to choose, but if you are a people person, it’s a brilliant place to start. It’s also so diverse, covering many areas from IT, engineering, catering and cleaning to name but a few. It is simply a career option that can offer you more opportunities under one umbrella. 

What is your next personal professional development priority? What training is going to be important for you?

So far in my journey I have climbed the ladder on good old fashioned hard work and merit, but I now know that to reach the next level and open myself up to more opportunities; I need to get some additional qualifications behind me. With that in mind, I would very much like start studying FM. I would like to also keep up with mentoring and maybe offer my services as a mentor in the near future.

What’s your next career step?

To be honest I haven’t put too much thought into this in terms of my next role; my thoughts are focused on what steps I need to take to be in a position to be ready for my next career move and continue to strive to be the best at what I do. 

Emma Potter