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Women in FM: 5 mins with… Cheryl-Anne Sanderson

What is your role at Churchill and what does it involve day to day?

As regional director for the South West, I look after a ten-million-pound portfolio of contracts, spanning over 300 sites with over 900 operatives. When working in FM, no day is the same, which is even more true when working in operations. My daily focus is working with my team to deliver excellent customer requirements as well as making sure our colleagues on the ground are safe and doing what they need to do. Outside of the day-to-day, I also focus heavily on strategic operations, driving the region and the business forward.

I like to think of myself as a real people person and this reflects in what I do. Positive communication is key when connecting and nurturing my teams, as well as creating strong partnerships with clients. This means I’m in regular contact and strongly believe in creating and supporting career development opportunities for them. To me, it’s essential to empower my colleagues and give them the guidance they need to make their own decisions for the good of the business.

How did you find your way into FM? (Tell us a bit about your background)

As much as I don`t like the cliché, I simply fell into the industry and haven’t looked back since. I started my career 14 years ago, working for Ministry of Justice as a Coordinator. I quickly made my mark and progressed through the ranks before finally deciding to take the leap from the public sector. Prior to joining Churchill, I spent 8 years working for G4S. Once again, I worked my way up from Delivery Manager to Regional Manager, eventually reaching Operations Director.

I’m a very strong believer in networking, it’s how I connected with James Bradley and Antony Law and started my career with Churchill in July 2019 as a Regional Director. Even during a global lockdown, there are still ways to network, whether it’s social media or virtual conferences. In fact, I’m very passionate and committed to attracting future talent to work in FM. It’s a fantastic industry and unlike me, I hope others don`t just ‘fall into it’ but see FM as an attractive career path.

What is your favourite thing about your job/the industry?

Two of my favourite things about my job is that no day is the same and I get to work with so many amazing people. Being able to have an impact from the ground up, both on a strategic and personal level, is a really great feeling.

My favourite thing about the FM industry is being able to fly the flag of FM and use my own experience and story to inspire young people. As someone who didn’t go to university yet still achieved great things through determination and hard work, I want to show what can be accomplished if you just put your mind to it. You don`t necessarily need a degree to have a successful career in FM. The industry offers so many opportunities and avenues for someone to grow, develop, and discover a path they’re passionate about.

As a woman in FM, what are your biggest frustrations?

There aren’t enough females in senior roles. The same applies for many other sectors, but the fact is that there’s still more that needs to be done to empower women in FM. In truth, we need to do more empowering regardless of gender, age, or background. You don’t just recruit someone to fill quotas and targets but because they can bring real value and expertise to an organisation.

FM needs to do more to support the education sector and generate awareness amongst young people that this is a very attractive career path. I have attended many career fairs in the past and consistently students/young people don’t know what FM is. It’s clear to me we need to be doing more to share our success stories and inspire the next generation, informing them that they can achieve anything they put their heart and soul into. FM has enabled so many people to enjoy successful and fulfilling careers, we just need to shout about it more.

What are your key predictions for/the biggest issues facing the FM market over the next year?

Of course, I have to mention Covid-19. Like so many, we have had to face the challenge of the pandemic head on. Going forward, it’s critical to maintain our flexibility and agility in everything we do. Additionally, the virus has really pushed the cleaning profession into the spotlight, it’s vital to ensure that frontline workers are properly recognised and rewarded for their services.

Technology has been a very positive change. We’ve all realised that investment in technology needs to happen, with the pandemic increasing the advancement of technology by several years. I have no doubt we’ll see more uptake for innovation from clients which is really encouraging.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m very passionate about getting next and upcoming talent to join FM. This is a goal for us and something I’m really pushing over the next year.