How I Got Here: Cushman and Wakefield’s senior account director Kristy Megaw

by Sophie Berrill
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Kirsty Megaw

“You can take the girl out of facilities management, but you can’t take it out of the girl.”

Some people think facilities managers just make sure the lifts are running and lights are on, but, in reality, an FM wears many hats. From space management to sustainability and security in the built environment, responsibilities can vary from FM to FM. It’s a career full of opportunity that takes people down different paths.

Facility Management’s ‘How I Got Here’ series chats to impressive people who have worked in the field to map out some of the paths taken, and demystify this often-misunderstood yet essential profession.

This week, we speak to Kristy Megaw, the senior account director of National Australia Bank (NAB)’s portfolio at Cushman and Wakefield. She has climbed the ranks of the organisation to now manage a team of 140 employees across 600-plus sites, and is the president of the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee for Australia and New Zealand. A wide-ranging work background has prepared Megaw to manage diverse activities for her clients. 

Facility Management: What sort of work had you done prior to becoming a facilities manager, and how do you think it prepared you for your career in FM?

Kristy Megaw: I attended the University of South Australia and got a degree in arts and professional communication. Once I completed my degree, I commenced a role with a national retailer working in a business analyst capacity, so I learned a lot about the operations of shopping centres and retailers, including turnover of stock, wages and maximising of efficiencies.

I found an interest in the property realm of that organisation and started to muscle my way in from a finance lens by auditing invoices and so on. I got to know things like average rates of trades, fit out costs, energy billing, and out of this, began my career in facilities management.

FM: When you were studying, did you know what facilities management was?

KM: No, absolutely not. I was studying my chosen degree because I had a background in radio. I was an on-air presenter for a number of years and had the intent of going back into radio, and had no idea what FM was. In fact, I probably didn’t have exposure to facilities management until around three years into my analyst career when I started working with FMs to talk about capitalising assets and so on.

FM: What does your current role entail as senior director of NAB’s portfolio at Cushman and Wakefield?

KM: I no longer work directly in facilities management, but as senior account director I oversee facilities management across NAB’s portfolio as part of my remit. Cushman and Wakefield look after NAB’s retail portfolio, which is its banking branches, as well as ATMs, the commercial building portfolio and a small residential portion. It’s exceptionally diverse.

Cushman and Wakefield looks after end-to-end occupier services, which includes everything from facilities management through to workplace experience or workplace management. It also includes corporate real estate, transaction services, lease management services, health and safety consultation, management of minor works projects and occupancy management.

We’ve got around 140 employees over the account. I’m lucky to have a very talented team, who do a wonderful job delivering the above streams. 

From my perspective, I focus on strategy, mitigation of risk, best practice, process efficiencies, client relationship and team leadership. It’s a wide lens, but I certainly still have that FM background and passion.

FM: What’s your favourite part of the job?

KM: You can take the girl out of facilities management, but you can’t take it out of the girl.I still enjoy that operational aspect of the role. I love to do building walks. I like to ensure that we’re representing the client to an A-plus-plus standard. 

We have some beautiful buildings within our portfolio – 395 Bourke Street is a good example. I enjoy walking the buildings with the team, reviewing not only our performance and customer service, but also vendor performance and so on.

The customer lounge at NAB Place Melbourne, 395 Bourke Street. Image: NAB.

FM: What important skills do you need to be a facilities manager?

KM: I think you need a passion for it. 

From a skillset perspective, it’s a very rounded role. The more skills you can bring to the job, the better. We’ve got facility managers that have come out of workplace management, so they’ve got an understanding of workplace experience. Others have come out of call centres, who understand high volumes and turnover of work, and some come from military backgrounds. 

What I find is that there is a focus in the FM industry of employing ex-trade related people. There is a requirement for this in some cases, but I encourage a wider breadth of search for our teams.

I’m quite particular about job advertisements that we put out, because the reality is customer service is probably the driving skill set that you now need to be a facilities manager. You’ve got vendors that can manage critical infrastructure and you can lean on them and you will learn along the way. You’ve got other people like health and safety professionals and subject matter experts that you can lean on. But if you are providing a service either internally or to your external stakeholders, customer service is vital. 

“…the reality is customer service is probably the driving skill set that you now need to be a facilities manager.”

I think being organised is helpful. It’s important to understand high workload, and understand that it’s a 24/7 job, you don’t just turn off if you’re an FM. 

FM: We just recently had the Easter long weekend. Is an FM able to take that long weekend or are they always on call?

KM: It’s the luck of the draw, unfortunately. I could nearly guarantee every one of my FMs would’ve had a call over this long weekend. You just have to expect the unexpected.

What I try to drill into the team is that each one of their sites should be treated like it’s their home. If you wouldn’t accept a standard in your home, then you don’t accept it in your sites. We spent more time in our workplace pre-, and potentially post-COVID than we do at our own homes, so we want to ensure that our clients’ facilities are operating at the highest level for them to enjoy.

FM: What are some of the important trends you see in FM at the moment? 

KM: It’s still hard to escape the COVID impact. Work-from-home preference is still in full force, but a number of organisations are starting to mandate time back in the office. The biggest challenge for us as property professionals is to understand what a post-COVID world looks like, and to understand asset usage around that. 

Coming back to that customer service piece, we’re also starting to see a bit of a trend of people with customer service backgrounds coming into FM. 

Another upcoming trend is considering neurodivergence within the workplace. I think that we’re still finding our feet in relationship to what that might look like, but I’ve seen some fantastic work done in inclusive offices where the fitout uses lower arousal colours. They’ve also reviewed lighting and sound and how they can be adjusted, and understood what sort of fitout or furniture might be appropriate. Considering all employee requirements is part and parcel of getting people back into the office.

FM: You are the president of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion for AU/NZ for Cushman and Wakefield. What does that involve?

 KM: We have Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) across Australia and New Zealand. They are company-funded, employee-led teams of volunteers that contribute to advancing the DEI strategy, help to raise DEI awareness and foster engagement and inclusion.

The ERGs provide the president of Australia/New Zealand information to help inform our APAC colleagues on the wonderful activities and strategies going on throughout the year. Our ERGs consist of Women’s Integrated Network (WIN), LGBTQ+ Integrated Network (UNITY), Leading with Education and Awareness of Disabilities (LEAD), Indigenous Engagement, CushWake Cares, Military and Veterans Program (MVP). 

FM: In your experience, would you say that facilities management generally has a diversity, equity and inclusion problem?

KM: Yes I would, and I think that’s evident throughout a number of different areas that I’ve been involved in within FM.

International Women’s Day is very relevant – especially from an FM perspective – because the reality is gender diversity still isn’t well-represented in FM. I know that gender diversity issues are systemic across a number of different property industry streams. 

Within the FM industry, I think that there is still a focus on employing people with trades-related backgrounds as facilities managers, and as we know, there is a lack of gender equity within those trades environments.

I’m seeing things turn around. I’m really proud of the fact that within my account team, I have a balanced ratio of gender. I am so proud of the team and in particular, some of the women that have come up through the ranks and are doing very important work with some very important clients and buildings. 

“Within the FM industry, I think that there is still a focus on employing people with trades-related backgrounds as facilities managers, and as we know, there is a lack of gender equity within those trades environments.”

Gender equality is obviously important to me, being a female who started her career in FM and who, at times, found the lack of gender equality challenging. As I have grown older and wiser, I have ensured that if I am faced with any roadblocks related to gender, I won’t find that acceptable.

While I think gender in balance is an important part of DEI, the FM industry needs to drive DEI awareness across all areas. For example, I think disability awareness and inclusion is lacking. There is a lack of representation of a number of varied identities within facilities management.

The benefit of having a diversity and inclusion lens within your team, is that it brings that life experience into the workplace, which is the most effective way to get people passionate about doing what they do.

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