Published on: June 30, 2020
Carmen oversees the delivery of US, Bermuda and Caribbean real estate and facilities operations at Aspen Insurance with annual costs of approximately $16M. Her overview of daily activities includes working with executive management to understand and plan leased-space occupancy and efficiency requirements. In addition, she leads the management of ensuring safe, secure, environmentally sustainable operations while reducing expenses.
“Carmen has responsibility for all US and Caribbean CRE and Facilities. Carmen also has responsibility for business continuity along with being the lead on our US workplace sustainability and diversity initiatives. Her role is very demanding and requires great tact, discretion, communication skills and a deep understanding of how a building and office actually work, all traits which Carmen has gathered and built upon over her 20 years in the industry.” — Patrick O’Flinn, Group Head of Facilities & CRE at Aspen Insurance
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“Every New Year’s Day I apply a specific theme to my personal and business goals. One year my theme was ‘Aiming High,’ so I decided to put that to a test and, for about six months, I took flying lessons. I’ll be completely honest; it was a terrifying experience, but I would definitely do it again!”
How did you get into the Facilities/Workplace field?
“I was the department receptionist/assistant, and one of the managers went on maternity leave. It was in the middle of a construction relocation project, and the Vice President needed help fast. He asked me to assist him at the site and schedule the trades. Admittedly I was clueless; but I love a good challenge, so I did my homework, put in long hours and asked a lot of questions. We completed the construction on time and the relocation was successful. Thereafter I knew what my career choice should be. To this day I always thank and credit Bill Lavin and Karen Cox for taking the time to believe in, teach, mentor and introduce me to the world of facilities and construction. That opportunity empowered me to make the jump into Facilities and express my love of architecture, design, branding and even photography in office space.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“As I look back over the years, there are many favorite moments; it’s hard to pinpoint just one, but I will share a few that come to mind. First, there was a tenant lease renegotiation that resulted in a $200K yearly savings, as well as a lot of high fives! Second, during my time at Planned Parenthood, there was a period of increased protests, media attacks and controversy. So we responded by developing a security strategy that included an extensive overhaul, software system upgrades, enhanced security training, increased screenings and investigations. And our plan was designed to not only respond to incidents but also to help prevent them. Third, I executed the design and buildout of a $4.3M expansion project, delivering it on time and on budget. That was a challenging project as we migrated to open space and support was divided, but upon delivery the space was embraced by management with great positive feedback. More recently, as a member of the Aspen Green Team, we gathered extensive data to determine our company's 2019 carbon footprint based on power consumption, water, waste, heating and corporate miles flown to calculate our carbon footprint. We achieved our goal to be carbon neutral for 2019 – a first for Aspen!”
What is your greatest success story?
“Believing in myself. Looking back at my career, I never expected it would be in this field where I actually do a little bit of everything. During the course of the day, I take on a myriad of roles, such as designer, people manager, problem solver, confidant, ergonomics, security and/or diversity ambassador, to list a few. I also have the opportunity to travel to our global offices and work with amazing, talented and diverse people.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“Since March 2020 the majority of us began to work remotely as a response to COVID-19. As the pandemic continues, how do we respond and adapt to the new normal? The workplace is dramatically shifting, and I find myself asking what seems to be never-ending questions on how do we best ensure the health and safety of staff. Over the last few weeks, I have been rethinking and planning our physical workplaces, developing rigorous cleaning and hygiene schedules, developing workplace controls, and reviewing infrastructure needs, all while addressing and communicating with confidence and transparency that we are doing all that needs to be done for the safety and wellness of our staff.
Being able to quickly adapt to ever-changing regulations, fears, quarantine restrictions, testing and privacy concerns, etc., amid continued uncertainty will be a challenge that will continue into unforeseeable future.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FMs?
“Continually learn and adapt to industry changes; it is a disservice to yourself if you stay stagnant. Always give feedback and recognize and promote individual and team wins. Finally, mentor someone and watch them fly. Nothing is more fulfilling and rewarding!”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny, IFMA NYC Secretary.