Published on: January 22, 2021
With more than 34 years of healthcare experience, Steve Carbery is the senior system administrator for the Corporate Facilities Division of the Yale New Haven Health System and oversees the safe and efficient operation of approximately 12 million square feet of hospital and real estate space. The Corporate Facilities Division includes direct reports in Facilities Engineering, Facilities Design and Construction and the Corporate Real Estate department. His team of 280 full-time employees are responsible for directing and overseeing the design, renovation and implementation of all construction projects across the health system, as well as the operation and maintenance of those facilities. Steve is responsible for an annual system capital improvement budget of approximately $285 million and an annual operating budget of more than $75 million.
“I’ve known and worked with Steve Carbery for the past eight years, and I am continually impressed at the bandwidth he possesses, coupled with the technical knowledge and experience he brings to the table. He is just as comfortable walking through a boiler room or a boardroom, engaging everyone he comes in contact, with the same level of respect. Healthcare is a highly complex business, and healthcare facilities are some of the most complicated and highly regulated buildings on the planet. It takes a special breed of leader to keep them running in top condition. We all appreciate Steve’s commitment to maintaining our environment in a safe and comfortable manner for our patients and staff.” - Christopher O’Connor, President at Yale New Haven Health System
What is one thing no one knows about you?
“I am a qualified Zamboni driver. What’s a Zamboni? It’s an ice resurfacing machine. I worked at an ice hockey rink throughout high school and college. I am a huge ice hockey fan. I grew up as a Rangers fan and then my son converted me into a Devils fan!”
How did you get into the Facilities/Workplace field?
“I started out in the maritime field with a degree in Marine Mechanical Engineering. My first job was as an engineering officer on a container ship. When my time at sea ended, I was able to get a job as a Marine Surveyor, where I investigated marine casualties and high-value cargo. It was a great job that allowed me to travel all over the United States. Through connections in my college’s alumni association, I was able to get a job as an Assistant Director of Engineering with Greenwich Hospital in June of 1986.
I started out in Engineering and then became the Director of Facilities Management. I started to do construction projects and became fascinated with the Design and Construction process. I learned so much and had the opportunity to interact with so many departments, which allowed me to get to know the business from different aspects. I really developed an affinity for it and took the role on in conjunction with my engineering responsibilities.
As ambulatory in healthcare has grown, the real estate component had to develop as that side of the business became more complex.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“When I was at Greenwich Hospital, where I started my career, I helped lead a multi-disciplinary team completely transform a 9.6-acre site in 13.5 years. We never shut down any departments during the process, which was done in several phases. Looking at the before and after, it was a true accomplishment. My favorite highlight would have been that I took over the project from other project executives. Twenty years later, the design of the building is still holding up. The design and systems are still state of the art!”
What is your greatest success story?
“My greatest success story is also my most proud moment. I was able to save my colleague Charlie’s career. He was working in the boiler room, which was not automated. Charlie grew up in that power plant, and we were building a new digitally controlled power plant. Charlie was intimidated and was ready to quit. After 20 years, I wasn’t going to let him quit and told him that I would find him another job at the hospital. Charlie became a Maintenance Mechanic and promised to give me six months. He wound up staying for another 10 years. Everyone was in tears when he was leaving. He really appreciated and loved the new job. It’s all about the people!”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“In the present world, some of the challenges that we have faced in the Real Estate/Facilities Management world are changing the rules on how we treat leases on the accounting books. A current challenge is how we work with our finance counterparts as we look at projects. It’s interesting how something in the finance world can change how we do business in real estate and construction.
What learning experience would you pass onto future FMs?
“I do a fair amount of mentoring with my team and I always try to tell them that it’s not always the technical savvy that gets you ahead. It’s the soft skills that you need to master, and those are hard to teach. You have to make people aware of them. Value and integrity are things that we look for when hiring. You can be the smartest technical people when it comes to building codes and technology, but you have to be able to translate that into a language that others can understand. Don’t use codes as a way to kill ideas, but instead find the ideas that solve the problems for your peers, subordinates and the C-suite.
I also tell folks to learn the financial terms and learn how to speak to the CFO. Learn how to hire correctly. One of my favorite quotes is from Warren Buffett, which then-Disney-CEO Bob Iger relayed to the New York Times on what he looks for when hiring someone. Mr. Buffett’s answer always stuck with me: ‘When you hire someone, you look for brains, energy and integrity, and if they don’t have the third, integrity, you better watch out, because the first two will kill you.’”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny, MCR, Operations Director of Business Development in the Americas at Mace Group, IFMA NYC Secretary & Executive Committee Oversight for the Communications Committee