FM Spotlight

Jill Zunshine

Published on: September 1, 2016

This month’s FM spotlight is Jill Zunshine, Former Head of Global Real Estate & Facilities Management at Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) when HP was a Global Fortune 50 Company with $110 billion in annual revenue.

As Head of Global Real Estate and HP’s Vice President, Jill was responsible for all corporate real estate functions at HP worldwide, including developing and implementing real estate and energy strategies as well as selecting, designing, building, and managing all HP facilities including offices, manufacturing plants, warehouses, labs, and data centers totaling 60 million square feet for HP's workforce of 300,000.

"Jill Zunshine is a remarkable leader who combines deep experience leading global procurement functions with commercial real estate. She brings leading sourcing skills, strategic engagement with business leaders and suppliers, and an innovative approach to leading change across global organizations." - William Concannon, Chief Executive Officer, Global Workplace Solutions at CBRE.

How did you get into the Real Estate & Facilities Management field?
“When I was offered the job as Head of Global Real Estate & Facilities Management at HP, I said yes. My background was in supply chain, procurement, shared services, and outsourcing, not in corporate real estate. The opportunity to get into real estate and facilities management came when I was HP’s chief negotiator for my largest deal, upwards of $600 million a year in revenue. General Motors (GM) was insourcing its IT. As HP’s chief negotiator on the GM deal, I got exposure to the highest levels of the company, including its CEO and Chairman of the Board. The deal we negotiated was good for both HP and GM. And, that’s how I got the job.

Why did I say yes? I thought I could make a difference. I thought I could add value for the company, its employees, customers, and investors. I knew it would be a big challenge. I thrive on big challenges. I thought it would be fun. Looking back on it, I’m pleased to say that it was the right decision. As it turned out, I had the right building blocks for this field, being an engineer, an MBA and a well-rounded corporate executive.”

Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“With my team and service providers, celebrating the on-time completion of a Customer Experience Center and HP East Coast HQ in NYC. What a milestone. It was the perfect storm, literally and figuratively. It was a tough project, full of many obstacles which required leadership and collaboration to overcome, including the redevelopment of an old building in a major urban area, new building codes and technical innovations after Hurricane Sandy, a new workplace strategy, a new C-Level sponsor, not to mention one of the coldest, snowiest winters in NYC in 150 years. The weather caused numerous delays. It was hard, really hard. We did not plan on the weather being so bad. We had to do many things faster (much faster) to ensure that we delivered on-time, and we did.

When we celebrated our success, I learned that the only one who thought it could be done on-time was me. I’m pleased to say that this project was nominated for CoreNet Global NYC Chapter’s 2015 Redevelopment Project of the Year.”

What is your greatest success story?
“My time as Head of Global Real Estate at HP. Developing and implementing a new operating model. Developing and implementing brand new strategies for location, workplace, project management, facilities management, and energy and sustainability, all at the same time, and at a massive, global scale. Balancing time, resources, and investments in running the portfolio (operations) and changing the portfolio (innovation). Launching a brand new capabilities organization to develop talent at all levels through technical and leadership programs including university hiring, on-boarding, mentoring, and succession planning. Increasing customer satisfaction and employee engagement. Contributing to improved operating margin and earning praise for it from the company’s CEO.”

Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate & Facilities world.
“For an end user, one of the challenges is to enable service providers to deliver peak performance. I quickly realized that to enable my service providers, I needed to apply the lessons I learned in shared services and outsourcing, namely, vision, balanced valued proposition, strategic relationships, and vigilance. Applying these lessons and teaching them to others, I significantly improved the performance of our most critical suppliers.”

What learning experience would you pass onto future FMs?
“A career in real estate and facilities management is exciting. You get to wear many hats and develop a lot of skills. On any given day, you can be a Chief Strategist, creating a compelling vision of the future, a Consultant, collaborating inside and outside your company, a CFO, using your company’s capital and operating expense wisely, a COO, running a complex global operation, and a Talent Developer, building capabilities of individuals and organizations. Plus much more. If you’re energized by technology, complexity, and the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives at work, then real estate and facilities management may be the right decision for you, too.”

What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I was a little bit of a trailblazer without even realizing it. When I was nine, I was the first girl to play in an all-boy ice hockey league. I wanted to play because my older brother had been playing for some time and I was tired of sitting on the sidelines rooting for him. The boys on the team and in the league were great to me.

My experience on the ice had life-long benefits. I learned how to be part of a team, how to work hard, how to accept challenges and loss. I’m sure that it had a fundamental impact on how I operate as a woman executive.”

Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.