With a head for business and an eye for design, it was practically in the stars for Sandra S. Kloth to seek out a career in facility management. During her undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin, Kloth attended her first International Facility Management Association (IFMA) meeting. In 1996, she completed the Facilities Design and Management Master's program at Michigan State University. While working on her graduate degree, Kloth was awarded an internship with the Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), the world's largest credit union with more than 2.1 million members.
Following on the heels of an architect and business manager, Kloth may have been the first facility manager to fill the position of manager, Field Office Facility Management at the NFCU - but she was certainly not stepping into unknown territory. Responsible for 93 field offices and 245 ATMs worldwide, her education was fortified by the advice and guidance from mentors and peers as she advanced from intern to manager. "My peers are my most valued resources. Why reinvent the wheel when the guy down the street is already doing it, and you can give him a call?" she explains.
Provided the opportunity, Kloth's career highlights began with a large-scale relocation of the NFCU's credit card division into a building near the Virginia headquarters, which also served as the focus of her Master's thesis. Her impact on facility management at the NFCU did not cease there. A proactive approach to maintenance and upkeep - one of Kloth's initiatives - is beginning to show big payback. "It's hard to track over so many small buildings around the country and the world," she says. "However, we're starting to see our reactive repairs to systems decreasing."
Managing 25 overseas offices can be a challenge - especially during war times such as now. Although 63 percent of the member service centers (field offices) are on Navy or Marine Corp bases, problems still arise. "We've had ATMs that have been 'hostage' in customs in Italy for weeks on end," Kloth says. Finding suppliers to deliver to international offices has also proved difficult. "We just had a furniture installation in our Yokosuka office in Japan; we had to go through weeks of planning to get that truck on base," she says.
As one of a five-person team, Kloth's year includes visiting many of the field offices and interacting with the managers (who aren't facility professionals) she relies on to report changes, problems, and requests. "There are a lot of experienced managers that we learn from - that's the fun part, the interaction," notes Kloth. Her dedication and commitment to managing these offices effectively and efficiently is, without a doubt, commendable. "The travel can wear on you. I ended up having my appendix taken out in Seattle one weekend when I was relocating an office," she says, chuckling.
The ambition that led her to form pre-graduate aspirations of climbing the corporate ladder and becoming a VP is an energy that still thrives in Sandra. However, as she explains, "I'm very content at this moment in time. I love my job and what I do. There's a lot of diversity here."Up Close and Personal
Sandra, what is your personal motto?
Work to live, don't live to work. If that impacts where I get to, as far as my evolution or one more tier up the ladder, I don't think I'll be devastated.
What advice do you have for your peers?
Keep reading. Make an effort to keep updated on what's going on. Things are changing at a fast rate. Don't look at that as something you can do in your spare time - integrate it into your work life. Get involved in a network - whatever professional organization you can. I'm involved in IFMA - that's my toolbox of resources. They're not just faceless names that you call; they're people you interact with at these functions.
What challenges do you see in the coming year?
What are some of your hobbies?
I am a gardener and I really enjoy crossword puzzles. I'm not very good at them, but I love them.
Who are a few of your favorite authors?
I used to read a lot of Tom Clancy. Now, I'm reading more Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, and James Patterson. I just got done reading The Horse Whisperer, and I would have to say that is one of my favorite books.
What are your favorite websites?
cnn.com and schwab.com.
What is your most important tool?
If you weren't in your current position, what alternative occupation would you choose?
I think I would be an accountant who wishes she could be a landscape designer.
What is your least favorite buzzword/phrase?
Out of the box.
If you could meet anyone, who would it be?
Jana J. Madsen ([email protected]) is senior associate editor at Buildings magazine.