Cheryl Andrews had a peripatetic start to life; born in Penang to an air force family, she spent her early years shuttling between various bases in Sydney, Melbourne and Malaysia.
“I was a typical RAAF brat,” she laughs. “And, at the time, I remember relocating [was] very hard; however, I couldn’t be more grateful now to have been exposed to that experience. It has taught me a lot about the need to adapt to different people and environments.”
Andrews is the operations manager for Melbourne Facilities Management (MFM) and Asian Pacific Car Parking (APCP), part of the Asian Pacific Group, a highly successful property development company that has been in existence for over 150 years. She leads the MFM and APCP teams looking after several mixed use commercial buildings including St Kilda Road Towers, Exchange Tower, Kings Business Park and The Peninsula on the Bay and admits there are times she needs to juggle a lot of tasks and priorities.
“My career started with a computer company specialising in imaging and data capture solutions. After eight years, I moved into the legal industry; it was there, around 2003, that I took on my first role as a facility manager, with Gadens Lawyers.”
It was a move that surprised Andrews. “I was struck by the fact that buildings really do function like living and breathing things. They need to be nurtured and cared for in the same way we look after our own personal health.
“I didn’t expect the role to be quite as hands-on and I was able to develop an exceptional team of around 10 managing the back of house operations, including event management, reception, office services, catering, deeds, archiving and procurement.
Although responsible for operational functioning of the tenancy, I realised that effectively I was in a profession about people. My teams have always been my biggest asset and the ability they have to connect, engage and inspire those around them is just as essential as their technical ability.”
Andrews enjoyed a number of stints with commercial law firms. “In 2007 I moved to Dibbs Abbott Stillman Lawyers (now known as Thomson Geer). Over the years with the firm, I was fortunate enough to be tasked with the responsibility of identifying new office space and coordinating a major office relocation, including a substantial fitout across three floors at the Rialto in Melbourne. This exposure further sparked my passion for the property industry.
“I have an appreciation of client expectations – I’ve been on the other side of the fence as a tenant in five-star commercial buildings. Now that my team is responsible for maintaining these buildings I can definitely empathise with my clients and understand what they need. Managing and meeting our clients’ expectations is something our team focus on as a priority.”
With a large number of tenants across a range of practices and industry sectors in MFM’s portfolio, Andrews says attracting and retaining clients is essential. “At all times, we’re charged with ensuring our clients inhabit a stable and functional building that suits their needs and is presented at its very best.”
Andrews says while she appreciates and is excited about ongoing technology advances, she still gets most enjoyment and satisfaction from the people relationships. “I love innovation, but it’s still the people that keep the facility management industry afloat.”
This article also appears in the February/March issue of Facility Management magazine.