This month’s FM spotlight is Lorien Olsen, Facilities Manager for the largest online small business lender in the U.S. – OnDeck.
Lorien oversees a real estate portfolio consisting of 174,000 square feet located in three states. This includes designing and building out new spaces, procurement, space planning, food services, contract negotiations, vendor management, maintenance, repairs and leasehold improvements, budgeting, lease management and managing a team of Facilities professionals. She is also responsible for the security in all three offices including emergency action planning.
“Lorien brings several different lenses to her role that have made her an incredible asset to our company. First, she tackles project management with a laser focus. She’s efficient, on track, under budget and generally just on it. One of our core values is impact, and she definitely makes one with all of her projects. The second is a curiosity lens. She’s the first to ask questions about long standing practices to find more efficient ways for us to run our facilities. And the last, though most important, is a lens toward team member productivity and engagement. She endeavors to work with my Talent and People teams to understand the current needs of the business and our learning strategy in order to provide spaces that allow for creativity and collaboration.” -Lorna Hagen , Senior Vice President of People Operations, OnDeck
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“Most people don’t know that I have a two-year degree in medical laboratory technology. A medical laboratory technologist collects samples, such as body fluids, tissue and other substances, and tests them in the lab for hospitals. I changed gears after I got that degree because I anticipated future automation might make that career either extinct or way less challenging and exciting than it was at the time. It also never really felt like what I was meant to be doing.”
How did you get into the Facilities field?.
“As a child space was always really important to me. I am highly affected by lighting, layout, color and design. I moved the furnishings in my childhood bedroom around every year or so. I never thought there was a career for me related to that as this was pre-HGTV days. It was hard to know I could be an interior designer, architect, space planner, Facility Manager or any number of other options. When I graduated, I got a job as a receptionist, then quickly moved into the administrative field. While working at a printing house within a well-known financial institution I had an upper level colleague who promoted me to Office Manager. This person, much like my current manager Lorna Hagen, changed my life. This change catapulted me into a field that allowed me to express my deep love of space, interior design, architecture and management. Over the course of my career I have always been very unafraid to make changes within spaces and spearhead projects to improve space efficiency and utilization. This hard work and initiative eventually led me to being the lead project manager on large construction projects and the field I am in today. Sometimes life takes you where it needs to and the starting point doesn't necessarily have to be glamorous.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“When I was sourcing new space for OnDeck in Denver I went into the two-story office we now occupy. The decor was dated and it was very dark because the perimeter of the space was blocked by private offices but I was able to spot a gem. I quickly noticed the amazing views of the Rockies that were hidden behind the private office doors. The architects from Fogarty Finger and I had the same thought – these offices must be removed. Seeing the space open up was breathtaking. Currently everyone in the office gets to enjoy the views and the space is flooded with light. We have three balconies, a large roof deck and 360 degrees of floor to ceiling windows. The transformation was astounding.”
What is your greatest success story?
“I simultaneously worked on a 73,000 square foot build out in Denver, Colorado and a 34,000 square foot build out in New York City in 2015 and 2016. This not only included project managing the actual construction and managing the budget but it also included selecting all of the furnishings, working on design with the architects and sourcing and project managing sub-contractors for cabling, security and AV. I like to be very hands on in my projects. The lease for the Denver office was up on Tuesday, January 31, 2016. The project was down to the wire having only spanned 16 weeks. I moved everyone out of the old office by Monday, January 25, 2016 and had only one week to get the furniture in the old office dismantled, brought to the new office and rebuilt. We successfully moved into the space on time and under budget. This was all happening while the New York project was wrapping up. When I got back I had to quickly make a 320-person seat swap happen, clean out two temporary offices and get the new floor in New York up and running. This all went off without a hitch. The company suffered no downtime from this and I was able to also still attend to the rest of my many non-construction related tasks while making all of this happen. It was quite challenging to do projects in two states at the same time. I live for build outs and consider these two a great success.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“Real Estate decisions take time to research, negotiate and implement. Also, they aren’t short term decisions and are one of a company’s biggest expenditures next to payroll. Most importantly they completely rely on headcount forecasts which most of the time are not easy to acquire and can change at a moment’s notice. Planning your facilities register accordingly with these obstacles is very challenging.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“Try to be a part of a large construction project as early as possible in your career. Until you understand each step it takes to transform a large space into something completely different than it was you can't totally understand how space works and what it takes to maintain it. What you learn during a project like this is invaluable to your career.
In addition, be to someone else who you wish people would be to you. If it weren’t for two key managers in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Uplifting your team is important. Everyone in life deserves a chance to have a fulfilling career.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.