Compiled by Facility Executive Staff
From the October 2023 Issue
Shalita Myrick always knew that she wanted to help people.
Initially, this passion led her to pursue a law career. She went on to earn a degree in political science and government at Spelman College in Atlanta. Then, like many other college graduates, Myrick realized law school wasn’t the best fit for her. Still motivated to help people in whatever capacity she could, Myrick welcomed the chance to explore new opportunities in tech and data infrastructure. She was with AT&T doing business-to-business sales when she discovered the opportunity she was looking for.
Myrick attended a one-day event for the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute. It was here that she heard a woman named Jamila Veasley speak about her job in external affairs. Veasley, who worked with Kaiser, a healthcare company, spoke passionately about her organization and how much she believed in its mission and vision. For Myrick, seeing someone so passionate about their role was inspiring. It was exactly what she was looking for in a career—something that could lead to a purposeful role, and not just a job.
“When she spoke, it didn’t sound like she was talking about a job,” says Myrick. “It didn’t even sound like she was talking about a career. She was presenting it as a passion: here’s what I do, and here’s how I help people using my skill set.” As she sat and listened to Veasley, all she could think was: “I want that feeling as well.” She had to be honest with herself and consider: “What do you want, and what brings you purpose and moments of fulfillment?”
For Myrick, it came down her desire to help people, but she wasn’t sure how her current skill sets would apply in the hospital or healthcare environment. Despite this initial hesitation, she reached out to Veasley anyway. “I put myself out there and said, ‘I heard what you said today, and that’s what I’m looking for. If this is what you get from everything that you do every day in your organization, I would love to explore opportunities with [Kaiser].’”
Myrick scored an interview with Kaiser, and found out during the interview process that they were hiring for a brand-new position: an engineering and facilities project manager. Kaiser offered her the role, and she accepted her first role in the facilities management world.
Intro To The FM World
As a FM in the healthcare space, Myrick quickly recognized the critical role she would play in facility operations. “[With healthcare] you hope to never really need it, but when you’re [at a hospital], you want to have an experience that makes you feel better, and not just physically, because there’s a lot of emotional up and down, too,” she says.
“We are people only noticed if we aren’t doing our job. There’s something beautiful in helping people without an expectation to receive anything back.”
Every time she stepped into work, she was learning new things, could see the tangible results of the work the Kaiser team was doing, and saw the importance of protecting the built environment to protect your community. “I saw how everything I did, and every project that we worked on, had a direct impact in people’s lives. They would never see us, we are like the secret ninjas of the healthcare world. We are people only noticed if we aren’t doing our job. There’s something beautiful in helping people without an expectation to receive anything back.”
She acknowledges that while she does receive a paycheck for her work, putting time and energy into the role makes a difference. “My skill set aligns with something that makes this feel purposeful, and adds to the value of my life, and the lives of people around me.”
Myrick was the engineering project manager for Kaiser for two years, and then moved on to a role with University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) in Dallas. She was interested in the role with UTSW because its director of the facilities and engineering department was a woman—something she hadn’t seen before.
Pursing A Master’s Degree
While working at UTSW, Myrick began exploring opportunities to further her education, and was especially motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was looking for a way to be invaluable to an industry I know I already loved. [In addition,] we all needed new information and new perspective on our rapidly-changing world and industry. How do we maintain the built environment if there’s no one here to exist in it?”
In May 2020, she heard about a new, online-only master’s of science in facility management program that the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) was offering, and decided to take this program based on the curriculum and that it aligned with her personal and professional goals.
According to Dave Riker, coordinator for the Online Graduate Facility Management Program: “This program was inspired by the fact that there is a great need for fully qualified facility managers in the world, especially with an aging workforce and the projected retirement in the next 5—15 years of 50% of the 25 million facility managers worldwide. The program was developed to provide formal facility management education allowing our subject matter expert faculty to give back to the next generation of facilities leaders, by providing them in-depth education in the eleven core competencies of professional facility managers, with an emphasis on excellence and best practices.”
UTSA’s online classes don’t have designated meeting times, providing flexibility to learn on your own time. The online classes are taught through Canvas, UTSA’s Learning Management System (LMS). Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report ranked UTSA Online in the top quarter of all online bachelor’s degree programs, jumping from No. 246 in 2021 to No. 85 in 2023 for an overall 65% increase in its rank in two years.
“As we’re looking at losing a large part of our knowledge base, we have a rapidly changing world,” says Myrick. “We have aging infrastructure. We have technological advances. You can add the dramatic changes in how healthcare is being provided both in a pre- and post- COVID world. All of these necessitate major expansion and renovations, replacement of existing facilities, the maintaining of existing facilities, etc. I am excited and apprehensive moving forward knowing that we may be a little bit behind preparing the next set of folks to manage this type of environment.
“I greatly appreciate that UTSA saw this, and created a program that’s accessible wherever [aspiring FMs] are.” Myrick went on to get her masters in August 2022, and was the program’s first graduate.
Focusing On The Future
After graduating with her masters, she took on the role of Project Manager for Texas Children’s Hospital. Today, she is the Principal Facilities Project Manager, Building Systems, MD Anderson Cancer Center. Looking back on her journey into facility management, she acknowledges that she had incredible mentors that helped guide her to where she is today.
“I’ve had a lot of support from a lot of different people along the way,” she says. “These things have only happened because people have asked me how they can help me reach this goal.”
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She reflects on how what surprised her most about facilities management was the similarities between her FM roles and her background in political science/IT. “I think facilities management is science, its engineering, its architecture, and it encompasses all these different things that are very real and tangible—there is a right and wrong answer,” she says. “They’re still analyzing the needs of stakeholders and patients, the budgets and scope, what parameters you can work within. All of those things really translate between the two. I was surprised that what I had learned for so long, and had applied in my life up to that point, could translate to something in the STEM field.”
Her experience stumbling into a facility management role is one many FMs can relate to.
“I hope more people can appreciate being led astray from their plans, and what they thought was for them, and to embrace it,” says Myrick. “I have no idea how I ended up here, but I am so glad that I did.”
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