Erick Velez has been with Yext since 2012 and has helped create the Facilities Department from the ground up. His responsibilities include overseeing Facilities Operations, Space Planning and Construction for all Yext offices. His focus is to ensure that Facilities is continually looking to improve processes, increase levels of service and evolve as the workplace strategy continues to change.
“Erick has dedicated six years to help build Yext’s facilities standard, and I don’t use the word “dedicated” loosely; of Erick’s many strengths are his strong work ethic and service skills. Managing our 95,000 square foot NYC headquarters, Erick has worked with leadership to keep up with a growing headcount, orchestrating the logistics to occupy our current space and nimbly adapting to changing needs to continually shift teams to support effective workplace strategies. Additionally, he’s taken the lead to open our Chicago and San Francisco offices.” John Houfe, Senior Director, Real Estate & Facilities at Yext
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I have a deep love for rescuing animals in Puerto Rico. Every year, I volunteer my time to work with a sanctuary to rescue strays from the streets—including my dog, Fe (Faith in Spanish).
Something else that people don’t know about me is that I was born and raised in Chelsea, New York. Growing up, I worked in the Meatpacking District, when it was still an actual Meatpacking District and my greatest memory was working at Frank’s Meat, where the Apple store is now!”
How did you get into the Facilities/Real Estate field?
“When I started as a maintenance worker for Time Inc. supporting all of the Magazine Groups, I was gifted the opportunity to see firsthand what it entailed to manage 40 floors and was always thinking of ways to improve the level of customer service we provided for the company. Right there, I knew then that I wanted to have a career in Facilities. It felt so natural to me. So, to understand the full scope and help me take it to the next level, I took jobs as a receptionist, Facilities coordinator and studio manager to learn the business of Facilities from the ground up and I never looked back!”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“One of my favorite projects was helping to visualize and build a video studio for the Yext marketing team, along with being the first to be interviewed by the video producer! Since I managed a photo studio previously, my decision making came natural in the buildout process on everything from vignettes to video to photography – what a great experience!”
What is your greatest success story?
“I would say simply, the trajectory of my career at Yext. When I joined in December 2012, there were roughly 100 employees at our then Chelsea Market home. I was tasked with a move that would take place that January 2013 in a space that was only 25,000 square feet of space, so I only had a few weeks to prepare. Then afterwards, I was tasked to assist in building out 75,000 square feet of raw office space while still managing the remaining 25,000 square feet of occupied space; having no disruption to the business and meeting all deadlines, along with building out a team from scratch.
Fast forward, we are now over 1,000 employees and growing fast. The secret is not to take any day for granted. Stay humble and continue to challenge yourself daily to exceed expectations to support the growth of the company.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“The biggest challenge I face as a Facilities Manager is continuing to establish a real estate plan when new teams and products are developed, and forecasting is not in place. In a growing company you hope that all stakeholders subscribe to your vision when putting in a plan of action for space.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“Stay humble and respect all building services, security guards, coordinators and cleaning staff. At the end of the day, you need their support to be successful.
I would also say my advice is to have honest conversations, treat everyone you meet like a family member and always remember that everyone has loved ones like you do. We are humans. Dig deep and reflect. We are all the same at the end of the day.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary