Trash & Travel with an FM Expert: Why You Should Follow His Lead
If you glance at his LinkedIn profile or resume, it won’t take you long before you’re impressed with Tushar Patel’s experience. He has nearly two decades of facilities management experience and was most recently brought on with Uber Technologies.
Tushar is Northwest Facility Management Consultant for Uber’s Seattle region locations which consist of a rapidly booming R&D Engineering and City Operations Offices as well as the Partner Service Center. Prior to joining Uber, Tushar was brought on by The Boeing Company during a hiring freeze, as the company’s Major Capital Projects Management Consultant for Site Infrastructure projects at Boeing’s 100 year-old 100 acre R&D site based in Seattle.
He has made a great impact with his industry leadership on corporate social responsibility.
TP: I believe the facilities manager has a large stake in tying in with the corporate social responsibility program. Of course every FM role is different, and depending on how the company is structured, their responsibility could change, and they could have little or no impact. I think part of the FM training, the CFM training, the bachelor’s degrees in FM, the master’s degrees, all of them have a sustainable facilities component and the new wave of educated academic facilities managers are preprogrammed to scientifically approach the role and seek out socially responsible means and methods to do their job.
He recently presented at the IFMA Facility Fusion Conference in Vancouver. There, he spoke of 11 initiatives he made while working at Edifecs as a Senior Manager of Facilities Management & Business Operations. Though he was hired as a Senior Operations Manager, this wasn’t the title he originally wanted. He knew he could make the right changes to transform the company for the better, with a new approach.
TP: They had no idea what I was talking about when I told them that they needed a facilities manager. They really liked me and that’s why they hired me. They sought me out as a business operations manager even though I have the FM background. I kept talking about FM, they thought it was a hobby and it was cute, but I kept doing my thing. I put myself through a full-time master’s degree while working in a high energy role. I started the green initiatives while I was there, and I started the corporate social responsibility program. I funded my trips to IFMA conferences, and I took the initiative to give presentations on what I know to my peers. It’s because of my own initiative that all of this stuff happened, and only once that happened, the company said ‘Wow you’re really a leader in the facility management industry and you’re doing a great job, let’s make it happen, we’ll support your annual plan for your business operations department, and we want you to start up your own Real Estate & Facilities department too.’ But it really started with me as a grassroots thing.
Tushar says FMs are fundamental in introducing and executing these initiatives.
TP: Facility managers are definitely a key hub in that whole process because they’re the interface that works with energy systems, maintenance, and all of those trades that support the performance of the building, such as waste management. They see where the dollars go, they know how projects are funded, and they have the ability to make recommendations to put in better systems that will improve the lifecycle performance of the facilities. So FMs have a lot of responsibility, it just takes a facility manager to really open their mouth and create value because the role is a pretty hefty role and I think a shy facility manager might not capture the full value of the role.
Now, digging further into the actual CSR initiative he introduced, we asked Tushar about the specifics of how he was able to implement this change.
TP: When I rolled out the green initiative, I rolled it out as part of my annual operations plan that I wrote for my department, and I had several components of it, and being a socially responsible company was one of them. I pitched it to our senior staff at our senior leadership offsite meeting, and they bought off on it for my next annual plan – that’s’ how I got the seal of approval. Then, they basically said ‘this is great, we want you to implement all of your ideas simultaneously’ so that basically meant, go do all of the programs, and I had 11 initiatives.
The initiatives included:
• Replacing the fleet of vehicles with electric vehicles.
• Removing all of the unique office printers, and moving to a network printer program
where employees had to use their key cards.
• Removing clunky high-performance desktop machines and virtualized them so
programmers only had a little box on their desk to save energy and easier data
• Rebuilding and implementing a multi-stream waste management services program:
composting, recycling, e-cycling, donate
• Energy tracking and reduction program
• LED lightbulb conversion
• Green moving and expansion as the company grew
• Virtual server configuration in data center environment
• Flex work program
TP: We ended up saving the company money with each of those initiatives but I had to show them why my ideas were viable, why they made business sense, and so I showed how each of them created value for the company, both tangible and intangible.
Tushar says implementing these was a success for the most part. Except for one unsuspecting initiative.
TP: I remember when I took away every employee’s black landfill waste bin from their desk, these are folks who made well over a six figure salary, and when I took away their trash can they were really really angry. We didn’t just take it away, we made a big announcement and it was planned, we had brown bag meetings, the whole 9 yards [however] we had a few interesting situations where people dumped their trash in the middle of the office because they didn’t want to get up. It was a great experience because we went through our period of ripping the band-aid off while the Edifecs experienced organizational change. It was good for the employees, for the company, and the CEO Sunny Singh fully backed all of my inventive ideas.
After this ‘trash trauma’ settled down, Edifecs ended up on Seattle Business Magazine’s 2013 Washington Green 50 List. This was one year after Tushar created and launched Edifecs’ Green Initiatives and Corporate Social Responsibility Program!
From trash talk to travel, we switched gears and learned the most important thing Tushar says he did during his career that had the largest impact on his success. Taking a break.
TP: The best thing about my career is what you’re not seeing in my resume or on LinkedIn. It’s the 3-month trip that I took between the JLL job and the Edifecs job.
The reason why it’s important to me is because I had to make a tough decision in my life about a plan I made with my wife 10 years prior, about traveling the world for a few months before we move on with our lives and have a family. So we had set that goal and we lived up to it. My company didn’t have an extended leave policy so I was forced to quit my job, I took that 3 months off, I traveled the world and while on that trip, coming up to the end of it, I was really fueled to go do my master’s degree.
Feeling balanced and clear headed, Tushar didn’t hesitate to jump right back in to the thick of things when he returned from his travels.
TP: The week I came back I found the degree program I wanted to enroll in so I contacted my professor Jeff Rogers and told him I wanted to be in the cohort for the program that was starting in 3 weeks. Somehow we were able to make it happen! So really, that was the best part of my career. It was putting it on hold so that I could make sure that I’ve balanced the other part of my life so I could be better at the professional side of my life. I came back from my big trip and I really elevated myself because I started my master’s degree, and I got my amazing job at booming software startup Edifecs. I was able to create a good balance.
That’s the most important thing, it’s focusing on self, not just career and I think that’s always been the hardest thing for me to explain to people, especially the more mature colleagues, telling people that you’re taking a break, people don’t get it, but man, it makes you a better person.