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Women Blazing Paths in Facilities and Engineering Careers

By Amber Almeida, Executive Recruiter and Lisa Curry, Senior Recruiter

Originally posted in the March issue of C@reer Connections. You may sign up to receive this monthly e-newsletter. 

Early this year, we celebrated Women's History Month and featured these women in Facilities Management in our monthly newsletter. It is exciting to see how, at Sodexo, we have trailblazers who are making their presence felt in engineering roles – an area that was once almost completely dominated by males.

Through our interview sessions with each, we learn about the world of opportunities from their perspective.  Check it out!

Gabriela Stephenson, VP, Brand Management Facility Solutions*

As an Electronic Engineer, I always had a passion for automated systems; therefore, I mastered in Control Systems. I didn't really decide to pursue a career in Facilities Management. However, I started working with control systems, building automation, emergency management systems fire alarms and detection systems, and I just fell in love with the insides of a building. The possibilities were amazing! The contribution that Facility Management can have on an infrastructure, the environment and the end user has kept me in the field since my early career. It is such a holistic approach to what engineering is.

Jerri Neese, Director of Technical Services

I have always enjoyed the opportunity to solve problems and fix broken equipment, as well as had a fascination with electrical systems. I served in the U.S Navy and that afforded me the opportunity to attend college. I served as a cryptologic technician and decided to pursue electrical engineering. I love the creative process of engineering. And, as an Engineer, I have the ability to understand and explain systems that are useful to my company and our clients. It is exciting to make changes and see something that you recommended and developed working!

Karen E. Lovelund, District Manager, Campus Services

Typically, women get overlooked for Facilities Management positions because they don't have the "Hard FM" (Facilities Management) background. In today's world, more colleges and professional organizations have Facilities Management Programs, and women need to look at these certifications and other areas or opportunities to gain that "Hard FM" background. Women need to get involved in summer internships that are field-related. Field experience and training will give you credibility in the FM Industry.

Tina Reitsma, District Manager, School Services

The future for women in Facilities Management and/or Engineering is booming. There are so many opportunities for women in Facilities Management. There are definitely leadership opportunities in healthcare, schools and campus. More and more, our clients are looking for the facilities expert who can also be a strong leader. Women can excel with knowledge in areas like safety, regulatory compliance, capital planning and engineering design.

Are you considering a career in Engineering?

If so, Neese offers this advice: "It is an exciting field with endless possibilities. Engineering is a field that requires a commitment of lifelong learning. Be committed and do not be intimidated by a room full of men. Women's roles are constantly evolving, allowing many opportunities to seize the moment and pursue your dreams. Also, it is important to get a good education and to pursue internship opportunities. The experience will help shape your creativity and help you think of the global difference you make as an individual through your work and passion."

* Gabriela recently participated in the Women in Facilities Forum at the National Facilities Management & Technology NFMT Conference in March.  You can connect with her directly about her experience!

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