Nadine Palombo transitioned into facilities management from a career in interior design, where her positions with architectural companies put her in close contact with facility managers.
“As a facility manager, you really have to be educated because there are so many different materials and finishes, and different requirements for work facilities versus residential. As a designer, I learned about different codes—like fire codes—when laying out furniture, different types of flooring, carpeting, and wall coverings. I learned how to read blueprints,” she said. “Those skills really helped me evolve from interior design, to project management, and then into building services.”
As senior manager of facilities operations at consumer goods and beverage company PepsiCo, Palombo currently manages five facilities. In addition to housekeeping, she oversees shuttle services, food services, and meetings. These services often overlap. “If one of my facilities has a dinner with 150 people, that not only impacts food services, but also transportation as well as my housekeeping staff for the night,” she explained.
This crossover is what keeps facilities management interesting to Palombo. “It’s a very exciting field because no two days are the same,” she said. “You need to be open-minded because you can come in one day thinking you’re going to work on one thing, then realize later that day you didn’t do anything on your list because other things came up.”
Although Palombo has noticed her gender puts her in the minority among industry colleagues, she believes her close relationships with her business partners has helped her overcome any problems. “It’s definitely still a male-dominated industry, but I have looked at it as an opportunity to make myself smarter because as a facility manager, you can’t leave it up to your vendors to have all the knowledge,” she said. “I believe what I have with my vendors and business partners is a partnership and that we’re all striving toward the same goal—to deliver a positive experience to our building occupants.”
How she elevates other women in the industry:
Palombo stresses the importance of mentoring, listing it as a favorite perk of her senior management position. “What I enjoy most is working with my team. I like to mentor, I like to share experiences and knowledge, and to guide,” Palombo said. “I was fortunate to have good mentors in my previous employment and am fortunate to be at a place in my career where I can help people grow.”
Her advice for women considering the field is to be open-minded and strategic, and to realize they will often have to improvise instead of always following industry standards. “Standards are a great outline, but you can’t always follow them exactly. You need to adapt them to your situation.”