It can sometimes appear that civil engineers have an overwhelming number of options after graduating. Some choose to work in their core stream, others get placed in IT companies, while even others work in sectors completely unrelated to their core field of study.
Close examination of these options, however, reveals that this seeming multitude of options is deceptive. For instance, civil engineers who work on site have to not only work in grueling conditions, but their scope for professional advancement in the technical field is limited unless they do an MTech. Meanwhile, civil engineers working in IT or other fields do not use the knowledge they gained during their studies, which means that they need to pick up a completely new set of skills in order to succeed.
An option for civil engineers facing a dilemma is a career in the field of facilities management. A career in this field not only utilizes the technical skills that engineers learn during their course of study, but also offers scope to rise in a field that is relatively untapped.
What is facilities management and why does it matter to me?
Facilities management is the practice of coordinating the physical workplace with the people and the work of the organisation. It integrates the principles of business administration, architecture, and the behavioural and engineering sciences.
As a profession, it encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology.
While it requires professionals to be good communicators and develop excellent leadership skills, employers also require facilities managers to have well-honed technical skills. These are important since the work of a facilities manager involves overseeing the seamless function of all building services. As engineers who have a bent towards the technical functioning of things, this is a fit that works very well!
Stay in-demand with globally viable skills
Since facilities management involves the management of buildings, this is a relatively recession-proof field: existing real estate will always need to be managed, and managed well. Real estate is an important component of the expenditure of any organization’s overall costs, and every company wants to optimize this kind of large expenditure. This is why the demand for skilled facilities managers is on the rise. There is currently an annual demand of 20,000 professionals in this field at the managerial level in India.
Another reason for this high demand is the fact the international companies are setting up base in India, and Indian companies are working at international standards, and their workspaces are reflecting this change. Facilities managers thus get to work in exciting, modern workplaces including malls, high-rises, and company headquarters.
For civil engineers, many of the skills required to be an excellent facilities manager are derived from and build upon the skills they already possess – for example, excellent knowledge of the building’s structural requirements, and a keen understanding of technology and its applications.
Some of the other competencies that employers expect from facilities managers include real estate management and strategy, operations and maintenance, project management, finance and business, business continuity and risk, sustainability, and leadership and communication. Taken in totality, these skills are what make an all-rounded professional.
What are civil engineers saying?
Civil engineers who have chosen to specialize in facilities management have said that one of the most evident benefits of this field, when compared to working on-site as a civil engineer, is the more organizational and corporate nature of the job as a facilities manager. Facilities managers do not have to work in harsh weather conditions or deal with other hurdles (many of them bureaucratic) that a civil engineers faces on site.
While there are differences, there are also many skills that are common to both roles, which works to the advantage of civil engineers. Some of these skills and subjects include cost estimation, quantity estimation and project management. Management aspects—such as great communication skills (since a facilities manager needs to be able to communicate effectively with both senior management and daily wage workers)—are common to both fields, and civil engineers find that they are able to build on their existing knowledge to achieve better results, and as a result, better career progress, as facilities managers.
Be a part of an exciting new future
Facilities management requires professionals working in the field to stay in touch with the latest developments in workspace technology and trends. With the skills that a facilities manager gains and the value that they bring to the table, they are increasingly part of top-level management, playing an advisory role and helping define business strategy.
When hiring for these roles, most employers today look for professionals with an engineering background, which not only helps professionals better analyse problems and provide solutions, but is also invaluable in leading a team of people (which includes engineers), since they have the skills to do the actual job.
To be a part of the profession of facilities management is to work at the cutting edge of what it means to live and work in a world that is changing rapidly and in ways that we cannot predict. Ultimately: it is helping shape the very future of our work and lives.