Planning, Design, and Construction
Health Sciences Center
University of New Mexico
Mary Gauer, group manager in the health sciences center with
the University of New Mexico's planning, design, and construction department,
has been in facilities management even before the field existed. She has seen
how the industry, her own career, and herself in the field have evolved over
time. Gauer was one of the two women founding members of IFMA.
I was lucky to be able to speak with Gauer for my April
cover story in Building Operating Management. Below are some excerpts from our
Naomi Millán: Tell me about your career, how you
got to where you are now.
Mary Gauer: "Like a lot of women my age, I started out
as an interior designer. It's the time. I graduated from UW Madison in 1972. I
spent until 1976 working as an interior designer in Milwaukee for a furniture
dealership. I got married, moved to Michigan, and went to work for Kellogg at
their headquarters. This is right in the heart of the discussion of women
entering the workplace in more professional roles — John Molloy, 'Dress for Success'
— There was a very ingrained perception of how women had to function. They had
to 'become men' in how they how they worked with people and how they dressed in
order to be perceived as professional and successful.
I had the opportunity to be a part of some of the very
earliest discussions about what facilities management was, which was not named at
that point. It wasn't identified as a profession. I was very fortunate to be
involved in IFMA at its formation in 1980. I'm a founding member of the
association. There were only two women who were there at the beginning, which
shows you the lopsided way the profession started out. It's a non-traditional
career for women, or it used to be."
Gauer left the Kellogg Company in '83 and moved to New
Mexico where she went to work for a company that eventually became Honeywell
Aerospace. She was there for nearly 24 years, heading up design and
construction in the facilities department. In 2008, she went to work for the
University of New Mexico.
Naomi Millán: What are some smart strategies you have used
to develop your career?
Mary Gauer: "I
would have to say that people do change over the course of time. They modify
their behavior to serve themselves in the work they do. I'm an introvert. Most
people would not believe that, because I've had to adapt my behaviors to
support the work that I do."
However, in my conversation with Gauer it became evident
there is a difference between modifying your behavior to be a better manager,
for example, and projecting a false persona.
Mary Gauer: "The other thing that works for men and
women in business is being authentic. Always telling the truth, no matter how
painful it is. My philosophy is I will not lie to you and you cannot lie to me.
If you have a problem, you have to tell me and identify what it is so we can
work through it. Don't tell me what I want to hear, tell me the truth. That's
what I discovered. The need to be authentic, so that who I am on the inside
matched my behavior on the outside.
I was sending mixed messages to my employees and to myself.
Being powerful and having someone be afraid of me is not appropriate. I work
with some big numbers in terms of the work that I do and I work with some
extremely intelligent and wonderful contractors and architectural and
engineering professionals and subcontractors. I cannot envision behaving the
way I did back in the mid-90s to how I do business today. I am a very powerful
woman. I do lead very distinctly. I do dominate. I take over. But I think that
I've learned how to do that without making people feel afraid of me. It comes
through in my authenticity and my respect for them.
All qualities of good leadership come from a position of
respect. You may not like someone, you may not want to work with them. That
doesn't mean you can't respect who they are and what they are doing. One of the
things that I have learned as I've had some very great challenges in my life
the last few years is that I have to be true, I have to be honest and authentic
or I can not make it through."
Mary Gauer 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
Look for more from the
women featured 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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