Women in FM

Women in FM: Sharon Jaye


Sharon Jaye, D. Ed., SFP

Director of Sustainability

New York City Department of Education

For the first six months after hiring her, Sharon Jaye's boss at the New York City Department of Education made a point of introducing her by her full title: Dr. Sharon Jaye. Jaye, director of sustainability for the school district, has a doctorate in education, education and leadership, among several other degrees. She told him it was ok to introduce her just by her first name and he refused, saying that having a doctor on his staff legitimized what they were doing.

That kind of clout was not the reason Jaye pursued her doctorate, but she knew it would open the doors she wanted as she thought about advancing her career. Jaye has always been pretty practical and savvy about her education choices as they relate to her career. After having discovered the world of facility management coincidentally through a different position, she got her masters in project management. "The things that are taught in project management degrees can be applied to anything," Jaye says. "That's why I was interested in that degree, not because I was going to stay in construction forever."

She was working in the world of higher education, but recognized that in that world there's not much opportunity to move up the career ladder unless there's a Dr. in front of your name, she says. Looking ten years into the future, she didn't see herself pursuing a director of facilities position, but instead wanted to be in sustainability, her passion within FM.  "I love facility management and the importance of it, but I wanted to open up myself to whatever job was possible and I didn't want a degree to get in the way," she says. So she approached her doctorate from the administrative side, and focused all of her graduate research on sustainability in the built environment. "I could always learn what I needed to do on the sustainability side," says Jaye. "I'm not a scientist. I don't want to go into the nitty gritty. It's not what interested me. Learning about the leadership skills and management skills, and learning how educational institutions run was more important in figuring out how to implement these initiatives. So no matter where I went had the core skills needed to lead me forward."

Jaye points way back into her childhood for the origin of her path to leadership: Girl Scouts. "It's basically leadership training, if the program is done properly," she says. "I was put on a path very early on in leadership and doing public speaking at age 15." Another aspect she credits for her leadership is her personality. Basically, she says, she's confident in her self, but she also knows how to stop and listen for what others have to say. " I'm not going to seek another person's approval, but I seek others' opinions," she says.  

When considering what other factors have brought her to her current position and success, Jaye says her volunteer activities on IFMA sustainability committees played a part. There she authored a sustainability how-to guide on carbon footprinting and co-wrote a guide on waste management, specifically geared for facility managers. Jaye says these guides and 12 others are available for free at http://www.ifma.org/know-base/how-to-guides

Networking as well has been very important in her development. Facility managers can network to build a sounding board for ideas, to create connections to advance their careers, or just for moral support. "What they don't realize is that by taking one hour out of their month to connect with other facility managers, they get so much more back," Jaye says.

Jaye contributed to the April 2015 Building Operating Management cover story, "Women in FM: How women are reaching leadership roles, and how companies can help them grow." Look for more from the women feature in the article to be posted in this forum over the coming weeks. Naomi Millán is senior editor of Building Operating Management. She can be reached directly at naomi.millan@tradepress.com.

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