Workplace Unplugged

World Workplace: What’s Your FM Story?

Moira vandenAkker
September 9th, 2016

Kim_for_WU.jpgTJ_for_WU.jpgWill you be at World Workplace 2016 in San Diego in October? With the event just around the corner, we decided to sit down with Kim Coffey and TJ Mendieta to get you the inside scoop on this year’s hottest FM event.

In this Workplace Unplugged interview, we had the pleasure of chatting with Kim Coffey, Manager of Corporate Programs and TJ Mendieta, the World Workplace Expo Manager at International Facility Management Association (IFMA). Kim has been with IFMA for more than 13 years and TJ almost 20 years – and they both share a passion for building relationships in their roles. Working with their team, they help to facilitate connections between product and service providers and the FM professionals, the practitioners who manage and run their built environments.

KC: What has kept me at IFMA for this amount of time is really the relationship building; being an association we all wear a lot of different hats. In a way, it is kind of similar to what attracts our facilities managers to their job. Every day is different, there are different challenges each day. I love the relationships we build with all of our stakeholders. The passion that our members have for the profession, the fact that so many of them are volunteers and what they do they do out of a love for their profession, for their career. And being able to support that and to help them find the tools and resources that they need to be successful in their career and running their facilities, that has a lot of meaning. IFMA is really a family and being able to see and meet new people who have a shared vision and direction of what they want to do is really motivating.


The IFMA organization was founded in 1980 and the World Workplace event – in one form or another – has been around almost as long. What has driven the event’s success for more than 35 years? And what should returning attendees be most excited for this year?

TJM: What World Workplace means to our facility management community is really – not to be a cheeseball – but it’s like a family reunion. These are people who come from all over the country – all over the world actually – they have a common interest, they have common issues and they come together to network and connect and share their stories. Actually, the theme for this year’s conference is Share Your FM Story. With IFMA being the originating association for this profession, the one and only globally recognized association, we have been there since the beginning and we are going to continue to lead and develop the profession and be there hand-in-hand with our members and attendees.The share your story theme filters throughout the entire conference. It is IFMA staff, sharing our story helping theattendees, it’s the facility manager attendees, sharing their story helping each other and then, of course, the exhibitors and sponsors sharing their stories about what they provide to support the community?

We asked TJ to tell us more about the Share Your Story theme of this year’s event.

TJM: Well, the Share Your Story is really the overall theme. As a matter fact our opening general session, instead of doing a traditional keynote, is going to feature several facilities managers in various stages of their careers: The Student, The Newcomer, The Unintended FM, The Over Achiever, The Conqueror, and The Veteran. Each speaker will spend 10 minutes sharing their story with the entire conference for the opening general session. So that is how we are kicking off the event and that’s really going to filter through to the rest of the conference.

Education IFMA World Workplace Facilities Management

This year’s World Workplace event offers more than 100 education sessions over a three day period – enabling an abundance of knowledge and networking opportunities that encompass everything for the built environment – from furniture to walls, to ceilings, floors and everything in between. The IFMA World Workplace education sessions focus on the complete range of competencies for the modern facilities manager. 

KC: It really is, it is the entire building envelope. It is anything you can imagine needing to be managed for a facility. Whether it is walking into a parking garage and feeling safe because it is well lit, you’ve got the appropriate security, you have the measures in place for emergency preparedness. Technology is huge and that is something we have seen – I think since TJ and I have been here for so long we do see different cycles of products and services that come to the forefront and then maybe go to the background for a bit. It used to be that sustainability was a really key factor that our product and service providers were pushing out to the forefront and now what we see is that has become so integrated into everything that we do that it is not necessary to say ‘hey! We are sustainable’ because it is almost assumed that you are going to have a sustainable product or service.

business card networking IFMA share your story

So what can you expect from attending IFMA’s World Workplace event? Nothing short of the whole shebang!

KC: I think our attendees come to IFMA’s World Workplace because it is not just one facet of what their job is. They are challenged to keep the facilities going at optimal operational excellence, but with the eye of the people who are working within it. So, it’s not just maintaining an asset, it is making sure people can function and work to the best of their abilities within that facility. It is that whole gamut of is it too hot or too cold, but also are people safe in their environment? Are they able to do the work that they have with the workstations? If somebody has a physical challenge, whether it is a disability or they are sitting too much, facilities managers look at all of it.

Heading to a conference, it is sometimes hard to take it all in. We asked TJ for the top four recommendations of must see’s and must do’s for attendees at this year’s event.

1. Must-Do at IFMA’s World Workplace Event: First Timer’s Orientation Breakfast

TJ: The First-time Attendee Orientation Breakfast is held the morning that the show starts, just prior to our opening general session. We get about 500 attendees there and that is really a great introduction to our event and to IFMA itself. So, if you are coming to IFMA for the first time that definitely should be on your to-do list.

2. Must-Do at IFMA’s World Workplace Event: The Expo

TJ: The Expo, that’s where you are going to find all your solutions and you are going to be able to network and make connections. It might not be finding something you have on your shopping list this year, but it is definitely something people are going to remember and stay connected with for their future needs.

3. Must-Do at IFMA’s World Workplace Event: Attend the Education Sessions

TJ: The World Workplace education session program is top notch! Compared to other organizations that promote their events as free, IFMA has registration fees but that just tells you how invested our attendees are. They come to World Workplace because of the un-paralleled idea-sharing and knowledge-exchange, they come because they know and they recognize the value of what our conference is and by attending these education sessions it is going to elevate them in their profession and in their personal lives.

4. Must-Do at IFMA’s World Workplace Event: The Welcome Reception

TJ: One of the other things that we do is a big welcome reception event on Wednesday evening after the Expo closes – and IFMA does this like no one else. We always do an off-site event. We give the 4,000 attendees that come a chance to really experience the flavor of the city. This year we are hosting the event on the USS Midway, one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers. It’s going to be amazing and our welcome reception events are always the talk of the town for the next few weeks. This is one of the main functions that many of our World Workplace attendees look forward to every year.

With so many moving parts, putting an event like IFMA’s World Workplace together isn’t easy. We wanted to know what the biggest challenges were in making an event like World Workplace happen?

TJ: Our goal as IFMA staff is to make the World Workplace event the best experience that the attendees have had that year, and not just the attendees but the exhibitors and sponsors as well and we really focus on that. It can be challenging with the amount of people we are dealing with and all the parties involved. Our events team does an amazing job putting together the logistics, our programming team going through 300 to 400 plus submissions for the educational program and then working with the committee to whittle them down to the 100+ that actually make the program. 

Our focus is really on top quality – top quality educational programming and top quality experience. Whether it is pre-registering online to the best hotel experiences, to getting people back and forth and, of course, on the exhibitor and sponsor side we really focus on trying to make sure our exhibitors and sponsors have everything that they need to make this the easiest conference they ever participate in and to make sure that they really are getting a true ROI out of their investment of time and money. Working this hard to try to ensure all of that is challenging but at the end, it’s all worth it.

travel world workplace IFMA

IFMA holds several World Workplaces all over the world – they have hosted a World Workplace Asia for several years, are doing World Workplace India for the first time this year in November and are doing World Workplace UAE and World Workplace Europe next year.

TJ: When I started here back in 1997, we were already the International Facility Management Association and we are continuing every year to expand our global reach. So, while we’ve always had members or attendees coming from other countries and other parts of the globe every year, it is growing. And not only are we just growing organically, we are also making strides in reaching out to other organizations across the globe – whether it is in Europe in Asia in the Middle East in Africa or South America. IFMA is making a concentrated effort to reach out to other organizations and work together and partner with them to make sure that we are elevating this profession on a global level.


Kim and TJ tell us how the top issue in facilities management right now is the aging workforce. Facility managers who entered the profession 20 to 30 years ago are ready to retire and there is not enough new blood coming in to fill the gaps.

KC: One thing that has been a major shift is making FM the career of choice. A lot of what we will be hearing and sharing the stories is how people never set out to become a facility manager in their career. In the last 35 years that has been one of the biggest challenges that we’ve faced as an association is to define the profession and who is a facility manager because there are so many different ways to become a facility manager. The position is gaining recognition that it well deserves – but because there are so many different hats that the facility manager wears, sometimes they have so many different titles. It’s not always facility manager, it could be building engineer, it could supervisor it could be however that position came into being for that facility. But what we are really striving to do (and we’ve made some great strides in the last few years) is focusing on making FM the career of choice. For people to specifically go to college to come into this profession. To really shine a spotlight on the fact that the majority of the experienced facility managers will be retiring in the next five to ten years.

There is a huge need in this profession for more people to come in – and I am not going to be dramatic and say it is a crisis – but it really is for people to come in and be an experienced facility manager, there is a true need for that. And our IFMA foundation has been doing quite a bit of research on that and have been looking at it through different pilot efforts in California and are finding out ‘how do people become facility managers?’ And while there is an upswing in people getting an accredited degree in facility management, more companies are promoting from within because there is such a challenge in finding people with that experience that they need. So. I would say to me that is the biggest change is people actively pursuing FM as the career of choice.

For more information about IFMA’s World Workplace event taking place October 5 to 7th in San Diego visit:
For OfficeSpace Software, this will be our 7th World Workplace and one of our favorite events of the year – we hope to see you there! 

Do you already have your tickets to World Workplace 2016? What are you most looking forward to about this year’s event?


Photos: Michal Jarmoluk,, Stephan Stephancik