This month’s FM spotlight is Gabrielle Rubin Deveaux, Sr. Director of Corporate Real Estate & Facilities for the internet media company BuzzFeed.
Gabrielle is responsible for the procurement, fit-outs and facility operations for BuzzFeed's Global Real Estate. She is based in New York City and manages the portfolio spanning over 350,000 sq. ft. with 19 locations worldwide and counting.
“Gabi is a perfect blend of owner's rep and project manager. Her project experience, flair for design and organizational skills make her the ideal team leader. She speaks the language, understands the process, knows her clients and culture, and moves quickly and efficiently to get the job done. It has been my pleasure to collaborate with Gabi on several complex projects that were completed on time and within budget.” - Christopher J. Spano, President - CJS Builders
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“Most people don't know that I own a self-defense business. I have been a martial artist for most of my life and this is my way of paying it forward. The business wasn’t planned, as most of the best things in life aren’t, they just happen. It organically came to light when my mom, a real estate broker, wanted to teach her colleagues how to be safe when showing apartments. The whole point is to be ahead of a bad situation, not learn how to protect yourself once someone already has their hands on you. It feels good to make people feel empowered and more confident. I find that my martial arts background helps me to feel grounded in the fast paced world of real estate and facilities.”
How did you get into the Facilities field?
“I fell into it. I went to school with a focus on Media Arts. I landed my dream job at MTV and quickly moved into the world of producing events. When my career brought me to 19 Entertainment (American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance), we were undergoing an expansion and renovation. I raised my hand to oversee the project as we didn’t have anyone in house to handle it. I quickly realized that the same skillset of making decisions quickly, troubleshooting on the fly, managing a bunch of people and a budget was very closely related to the world of producing events. I never looked back.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“I am really proud of the BuzzFeed NY office project. I was recruited to BuzzFeed when they had procured the lease of the office but hadn’t started any work on the buildout. We had a year left on the current office so I already had my deadline. I quickly rolled up my sleeves, put the team together, programmed the fit-out, and got to work. We cut a four-story staircase, a 1500 sq. ft. atrium, and completed six floors and 166,000 sq. ft. in only 22 weeks of construction. I am so proud to say that a year from when I started was the exact day we moved into our new office. When my boss told me he wanted to schedule my one year review I told him we were standing in it!”
What is your greatest success story?
“I would simply say the trajectory of my career. The best success stories are the ones when the hero has no clue what he is going to do next, doesn’t have it all figured out, but dares to be great. You have to believe in yourself, not hear the voices of others who doubt you, yourself included, and jump in with both feet with a huge splash. If you told me on the day I was holding my diploma, thinking I was going to be making movies, that down the line I would be running facilities and real estate and doing office interiors I would have side-kicked you.”
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“I think one of the hardest things is getting your arms around just how much space you are going to need. In a growing company it is difficult to know how you are going to ramp up. Will we continue to hire this many people at this rate or will we let it bake? You also don’t want to secure an office that is more space than you need. If it looks/feels empty, it is not cost effective and doesn’t allow your office to have a certain buzz.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FMs?
“Be organized and be ahead of it. You are the nucleus of your organization and are the wizard behind the scenes. When people ask what my job entails I tell them, "if you don't know then I'm doing a good job". Meaning, if there is a rodent problem, busted A/C, or broken furniture, they would know very quickly who to come to. Make contacts and network. I pride myself on sharing best practices, trading info on vendors, services, and programs with other people in this industry. I am always happy to talk shop either to learn or mentor. I hope to connect with everyone reading this!”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.