This month’s FM spotlight is Saeid Garebaglow, the Vice President of Strategy and Development at WeWork. Saeid is responsible for the strategy and development of WeWork’s integrated platform of Plan, Design and Build services for enterprise clients globally. Working with various team members, Saeid develops portfolio and space strategies, and technology solutions to enable plans for flexible real estate solutions. Saeid’s extensive resume includes executive level positions at Citi, Morgan Stanley, Faithful+Gould and WeWork. Saeid is a registered architect and prior to joining WeWork, his career highlights included Lead Strategic Planner for Citi’s global portfolio, founding partner at REplan, Vice President of Capital Project Management at Morgan Stanley and Head of Americas Corporate Real Estate Sector. Saeid has served on the Board of the CoreNet Global NYC Chapter. His recent articles and interviews include Davos Economic Forum on real estate and technology and American Builders Quarterly on Morgan Stanley’s HQ transformation.
"Saeid is a leader and a dedicated professional. His diverse experience and knowledge in planning, design, project management, construction and real estate has afforded him the ability to provide clients with trusted advice and guidance on their projects. He consistently participates and develops relationships throughout the real estate community. With many successful initiatives under his lead, Saeid has never leaned on his accolades and accomplishments. He is a passionate individual who is always striving to add client value and seeking to do things better. He is truly a professional and continues to be highly respected in the industry." – William Wong, Managing Partner, Principle Project Management, LLC
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“While I was going to school for my architecture degree, I worked at an Italian restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper Westside, first as a waiter then as the manager. I got to meet many interesting people (and some challenging ones!) and learned to cook Italian food. The experience made cooking a lifelong passion and it was an opportunity to hone my people skills. To date, both come in very handy.”
How did you get into the Facilities field?
“Earlier in my career, I worked for a number of great architectural firms in New York. A colleague recommended me for a position with Citi. It was a strategic planning role for the New York Metro portfolio. Citi was going through a major transformation and was assembling expertise to develop a robust strategic planning group. It turned out to be an amazing role interacting with every level of the organization. It has been an incredible journey ever since.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight?
“Come to think of it, there are many! Morgan Stanley’s Midtown and Downtown Strategy Initiative was a great example of team work, collaboration and delivering a successful project. Consolidation of New York portfolio and redevelopment of Morgan Stanley’s midtown HQ and downtown campus at One New York Plaza, created the opportunity to establish new open collaborative work environments as well as amenities such as a fitness center, conference center and refined food services. It was a multi-million dollar project transforming over 1 million square feet of space and relocating close to 8,000 people. The project was unique and provided the opportunity to manage diverse teams of consultants and contractors, procurement, close business participation and the ability to make a profound impact on the design and operations of the new facilities.”
What is your greatest success story?
“For most of my career, I have been in the Corporate Real Estate and Facilities for the financial industry. One of the areas where I lacked 'inside knowledge' was the service side: understanding the dynamics of the industry, resources and costs was somewhat of a mystery. I decided to join the management consultancy firm, Faithful+Gould, in 2015 to lead the new CRE growth sector. It provided me with front row experience and introduced the challenges facing service providers. Having the perspective of an 'End-User' and 'Service Provider,' I have gained invaluable insight into the Corporate Real Estate ecosystem and how to innovate and create value for clients.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“Corporate Real Estate is going through a huge transformation with space as a service, big data analytics and demand by the clients for agile real estate solutions. The biggest challenges are the integration of services, user experience and engagement. The facilities teams have to collaborate closely to create a seamless delivery organization. In the process, it translates to efficient services delivery, better cost management and enhanced client satisfaction.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“Learning never stops! Thrive to be the best at what you do by learning, innovating and 're-inventing' yourself. We are in the midst of rapid workplace change and the Facilities Managers have to fulfill many roles in the organization to succeed and provide value.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary