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Graduate Portrait Sarah Chapatte swissnex San Fransisco

Master’s graduates in Facility Management talk about themselves and what they have been doing since their studies.

swissnex San Francisco office space Photo: © by Edouard Reat Noch
swissnex San Francisco office space Photo: © by Irene Arnold
swissnex San Francisco office space Photo: © by Irene Arnold

Facilities and Operations Manager for swissnex San Francisco, part of a Swiss global network for innovation

«Facility Management is encompassing such a wide umbrella of fields and support services, I think it can only have a positive managerial influence. When providing support (whether outsourced or not), it is always with the goal to make things smoother and help others in many ways (whether financial analysis leading to cost savings, managing logistics and vendors relationship, providing the appropriate built-in environment and the right settings…)».

Sarah Chapatte, Facilities & Operations Manager, swissnex

Professional Career

  • 18 Communications and Marketing School in Paris with regular internship sessions (EFAP Paris)
  • 22 Bachelor in Communication Arts at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), NY, USA
  • 24 Scientific Collaborator for Alps4EU, a European Project
  • 28 MSc in Facility Management ZFH
  • 28 Facilities & Operations Manager Swissnex, San Fransisco

About the masters programme

Education

  • Why did you choose the FM Master's programme at the ZHAW in Switzerland? What were the main factors that influenced your decision?

The Master’s program was attractive because it was the only program in Facilities Management. With a background in communication and agency/business management, I wanted to complete my studies in a complementary field that would enable me to have a competitive advantage not only for myself, but also on the job market. FM seemed to be a great addition, especially as it encompasses a better understanding of the support services umbrella within an organization.

  • What was your experience of the international Master's programme and working together with students of different nationalities?

Very good and working with students from all around the world enables to take cultural differences into account and to embrace diversity in a professional setting.

  • Which situation during your studies particularly stays in your memory?

Having lecturers that are active professionals in the field is very inspiring. Also, the opportunity to do a FM week abroad, in a different context and to meet with professionals is a real asset.

  • What competences are needed to be successful in Facility Management, in your opinion?

I think it depends on the position that is being held and of the organization you are working with, but in my opinion, a good facility manager needs to:

  1. Have excellent planning skills
  2. Be a good observer and analyst
  3. Be comfortable with numbers and negotiation
  4. Listen. Always.
  5. Be a communicator
  6. Value the people within his/her organization and evaluate their resources

How would you explain the profession of Facility Manager?

Again, this highly depends on the position and the organization, but the profession of Facility Manager is:

  1. Making sure to manage a healthy building with all its technology and making sure to maintain it on an on-going basis: often (if not always!), small details make the difference
  2. Managing services and operations
  3. Improving constantly by gathering feedback and adjusting (and sometimes re-inventing) processes and procedures
  4. Variable and flexible: every support service is different whether working in Operations, HR, Marketing, Software Engineering, Architecture, and many more…

Profession or career after your studies

Sarah's tasks and activities

  • Where are you working now?

I am currently working at swissnex San Francisco, in SF, California. swissnex SF is an initiative of the Swiss Secretariat for Education, Research, and Innovation, and is both privately and publicly funded. We are connecting the dots between Switzerland and San Francisco in education, research, innovation and the arts — and are a platform for exchange as part of a Global Network (swissnex is located in SF, Boston, Rio de Janeiro, Bangalore and Shanghai!). Our mission is to support the outreach and active engagement of knowledge, ideas and talents, to strengthen Switzerland’s profile as a world-leading innovation hotspot.

  • What are your current areas of activity and responsibilities?

I am in charge of the building and all the operations/logistics from hospitality (welcome experience), planning (including events logistics and capacity planning management overview) to safety and security planning. We are now a full Operations team with distinct tasks, but in the past I was also in charge of Accounting (including accounts payable and receivable, employee reimbursements), Events Coordination (relationship with vendors and events production).

swissnex San Francisco did move office location 1 year after I started. I did manage and coordinate (internally and externally) all the move logistics since we decided to move our offices with very limited external help (we did collaborate with a moving company fort the transportation aspect). We are currently located at Pier 17 at the waterfront and I am managing 12,000m2 of a mix of open office space, gallery space, event spaces and conference rooms and making sure to integrate people within that space. We share our office space with residents from Swiss companies, startups, universities, artists, and designers, who have a desk in our office. This requires a unique level of communication to keep our space operational but also to contribute to a shared sense of community.

The Operations team has recent additions of a Head of Operations and an Events Productions Coordinator, in order to be able to support the organization and its many activities at its best, but also a Receptionist and a 50% intern until July 2018 (Junior Project Manager) that shares the other 50% with the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, as Ambassador. The total swissnex team is made of 21 passionate individuals, that we, as operations team, support on a daily basis.

  • What do you particularly like about your job? What motivates you to do this work?

The fact that every day is different and that I get to meet different people with different backgrounds, learning from their experience on-going and inspiring myself to constantly improve and innovate in order to keep our space alive and user-friendly.

  • What company did you previously work in and what was your position?

I worked in PR in the fashion for kids and cosmetics industry, in events management as production manager, but also as Scientific Collaborator for a European Project that was in charge of fostering the Alpine Region (Alps4U Project, to promote economic development and innovation in the Alpine Space) and working with 5 other countries (Austria, Italy, Slovenia, France, Germany).

  • Routes and detours to where you are now: how did you come to your current job?

Through a close friend of mine who told me about swissnex San Francisco and their amazing work. It is rare, but it did end up working out, and mainly because of my background in Facility Management!

  • What knowledge and skills from your studies are you using today in your professional life?

Time management, change management (we moved to a new location one year after I started, and trust me, there is much more skills in psychology needed than expected!), but also project management learnings.

  • In your view what positive influences can FM have or how can it make a difference, for example in your company or in society?

FM is encompassing such a wide umbrella of fields and support services, I think it can only have a positive managerial influence. When providing support (whether outsourced or not), it is always with the goal to make things smoother and help others in many ways (whether financial analysis leading to cost savings, managing logistics and vendors relationship, providing the appropriate built-in environment and the right settings…)

Recommendations

  • What advice would you give to people studying now?

Never stop exploring your field, the opportunities within the field, and do not hesitate to think outside of the box.

Private

  • What do you do in your free time to achieve work-life balance?

I like artistic and creative activities such as jewellery making or interior design scouting in order to do home staging. I like design in general and find that very inspiring. Most oft he time, being able to create something from scratch is very rewarding.

Links to further information and contact details

About Swissnex

swissnex San Francisco is part of a global network with nodes in the world’s most innovative hubs—Bangalore, Boston, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Rio de Janeiro—where the future is being shaped. In San Francisco, we have over a decade of experience connecting Switzerland and North America through knowledge sharing.

swissnex is an initiative of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), managed in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs. In San Francisco, swissnex is an annex of the Consulate General of Switzerland. A public-private venture, vital financial support is provided by partners, sponsors, and donors sharing swissnex San Francisco’s commitment to connecting the dots.