Facility Management – What is it?

Final year IFM student, Grace Tham Peck Yee, was attached to Chambers International, a facilities management firm which handles commercial, industrial and residential sites, from April to September 2015.  She shares her experience.

I was attached to Chambers and deployed at Mid View Building; an industrial site is primarily used for Light Industrial activities, sales and rental.  During my 3-month internship there, I did admin jobs such as filing of petty cash receipts and car park label cheque deposits, handling phone calls and walk-in complaints, updating the car park label records as well as the Strata Title Roll every 2 days and helping in the issuing of car park labels to new tenants of the building, among others.

Caroline Wong, the Building Manager, guided me patiently through the internship period. She frequently took time out to check if I needed help.  She was very approachable and I never hesitated to ask her burning questions that most people will find senseless.  Also, she is always willing and delighted to share her work experiences in the office!  To be able to share fun stories with your manager makes working life easier!  With nice colleagues, it really makes the working environment more enjoyable.  It actually makes me motivated for work every single day!

During one of the council meetings we had, I was tasked to be at the reception, to greet the council members and request them to sign for their attendance.  I was also the scribe who took down some important points during the discussions.  Throughout my internship, I attended 4 council meetings and helped to update the Strata Title Roll and the car park label records for the council members to review.  I was also tasked to print and sort the documents needed for the meetings.  As you know, it is hard to take down minutes quickly during meetings.  Hence, Caroline advised me to use a recorder to tape down all the conversations, and then transcribe them later on in the comfort of my arm chair office! That was really efficient! Weeks before the Annual General Meeting (AGM), I helped to cut the polling cards, calculate the number of proxy forms submitted, tabulate the top 10 proxy names, and calculated the number of vehicles owned by each unit.  On the AGM day itself, I helped out with the logistics, venue set up and registration.

As there was a resolution discussed and voting was needed, I collected, collated and counted the votes, in the presence of two scrutineers.  It felt so much like the General Elections, to be honest!  I am actually very amazed as my job did not only allow me to learn more about FM, but it also helped me to understand that working life is so different from the books!

Covering at Heritage View
Midway during my attachment, I was posted to Heritage View for a few weeks due to shortage of manpower.  While there, there was a council meeting held on 2 July 2015, which I helped to organise.  There were so many tasks that I needed to do!  I felt so stressed out and tired, yet happy as I felt recognised!  The various tasks were filling up the bank signatory form, updating the Strata Title Roll, helping the auditor to do assets auditing, stapling of the meeting minutes and setting up tables and chairs.  Not only that, the Condo Manager even brought me to the nearby shopping mall to purchase some cakes and drinks for the council members.  It  was the kind of nitty gritty that we need to look into when organising an event, and it’s something I learnt as well.

My internship officially ended on 28 August 2015, but the following day after my internship, I decided to go back to the office to help out with the AGM at Heritage View.  I feel like part of their big family when I am working with them, so I was more than happy to put in the extra work voluntarily!  The staffs of Chambers really made me feel at ease.

What I learnt
One aspect about facility management which I learnt during the internship about was how car parks are managed.   At Mid View, as there was no Electronic Parking System implemented, the Building Manager has to issue car park labels manually.  There were a total of 550 labels issued by the end of August 2015.  The issuing was easy but keeping track of the records was tough.  Some of the tenants are engaged in car sales business, so the cars that are parked in the building change frequently LOL.  So it gave us such a headache.  But well, it was part of the job; we have to serve our tenants well. 

In order to keep track of the cars and control the system, I helped to update the car park label record every 1 or 2 days.  For instance, if the owner of the vehicle wants to park his new car in the building, he needs to apply for the car park label and fill up a form, giving his unit number, company name, personal name and vehicle number.  This was necessary to allow us to keep tabs on the vehicles in our building.  So for all your car owners out there, applying for the car labels is easy, but spare a thought for people in the back-end like us doing the paperwork!

I have learnt many things from my internship. Besides the skills which I acquired on the job, I have learnt a lot from observing my Building Manager’s working style; responsible, helpful and nurturing – these are what makes a good boss, I discovered.  Sometimes, it also means sticking out your neck to help your customers (in this case, our tenants), even if it means getting scolded by our Council Members.  And when a proposed initiative is not approved, she still does her best to find alternative avenues to help our customers.  I hope I can be such a good Manager one day.

Mahadir, a technician, is also someone whom I learnt a lot from.  I picked up many technical skill-sets from him, such as the different ways to identify the cause of water seepage in buildings, how to fix the door handle, how to change the light bulb and the use of different types of nails for different purposes – all rather simple you may think, but believe you me, it makes a lot of difference.  Really, I feel that this internship has actually allowed me to learn many other skills that cannot be gained from textbooks!

Grace (2nd), with Mahadir, Caroline, and the security officer

In conclusion, it was a great learning experience.  The internship allowed me to learn more about Strata Title Rolls and car park management, as well as the operation, maintenance management and the organisation structure of a facility management company. It would have been more exciting if I had been rotated around the different buildings.  But nevertheless, it was still an awesome experience and I am glad that I have reached my own expectations and achieved the goals which I had set at the start of this internship.  I feel that internships allow us to see and feel the real working world and how it is managed, something very different from being in class and just memorising from our books.  I really loved the experience! 

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