Meet Emily, Facilities Manager

Related career Interior Designer

Full Name: Emily Yee
Title: Facilities Operations Tenant Services, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield 

I started a career as an interior designer and then have taken on project management and facilities operations over a period of years with different roles in the company.

In your own words, describe your career story. 
Currently as a Facilities Manager that’s something that I never thought I’d end up as a career role. I started out going to school to become an interior designer after transferring to about 6 colleges and 5 majors later. I decided to select a career that I wanted to love going to everyday. To support myself through college I worked as a retail manager since the schedule was flexible for me to still attend classes. It was a challenge to have the 2 days off of work to be on a college campus over 8 hours going to school full time. After graduating, I realized the design role I loved was retail design after working in that industry for years and moving up in those positions. My first job was in office design and I took it as I needed to get my foot in the door but had my eye on retail design firms as well. It was difficult to start out as an entry level designer after moving up in the retail management world through the years but I know that I need to start somewhere. After 3 months at the office design firm, a retail design firm called me back and I landed a job there for many years. The economy took a turn and was laid off from there but getting the job at Westfield was a different experience within my field. I was on a different side working with the retailers and designing for them. I saw a different way of design as it was on the approach of the Landlord and it’s been very eye opening and a learning experience.

Who/what influenced or inspired you? 
Actually it was my sister. She was working for new home construction and loved what she was doing. She’s been able to follow a career where she enjoys what she does and doesn’t make it feel like work. That’s what inspired me to select a career doing something that I love and am passionate about.

What do you love most about your job? What are its biggest challenges?
What I used to love is how a design of a space could change the outlook or outcome of something. It would make me so happy to see an idea I came up with and executed to help a retailer or get a story across. If was able to deliver that to be better for the environment and low impact on cost that would be even better. Currently, what I like is the relationships I’ve been making with different teams to work towards a goal. The biggest challenges are this pandemic and the lack of support or funds since we’re being stretched thin. That’s everywhere lately.

How did you gain entry into the industry? What was your big break?
My big break was getting in with the retail design firm. I had an architect that worked there that would explain things that needed to be done and the processes and steps we took. It was a great learning tool for me as I was starting out but also it helped him as well on projects to have someone that wanted to learn and help. I think since he was someone that took the time out to do that, it helped me gain more knowledge in the industry.

What barriers have you faced and how did you overcome them?
While I was in retail management, I was leaving a city to move back to Chicago. I was tasked to find and hire my replacement. I was with the company for over 5 years, I started and moved around with and started as a temp seasonal and worked my way up to Store Manager. When I found out how much my replacement was going to make compared to what my salary was, I realized that being a woman is always a disadvantage when it comes to salary, as my replacement didn’t have as much experience as me.

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?
Running and Hiking outside, spending time with my dog, traveling to gain new experiences to learn cultures firsthand.

Do you have any words of advice?
I wish I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up when I was younger. I wouldn’t have changed my journey, but it would have been nice to know what the end goal was earlier in life vs later. The life experiences I’ve had shaped this journey of mine, but if I started my career earlier, I feel like I could have made a different impact.