This month’s FM spotlight is Brigitte Zaki, Director of Corporate Services and Head of Administrative Support at a leading global alternative asset manager – Apollo Global Management, LLC. At Apollo, Brigitte oversees over 190,000 square feet and the day-to-day management of corporate services in the New York City and Westchester offices. She manages nearly 100 employees and all administrative, mailroom, food, reception, and conference services. She oversees the office operations in the other regional U.S. locations and helps lead global facilities initiatives and best practices across the firm.
“Brigitte is an extremely talented, enthusiastic results-oriented Leader. She is passionate about providing Best-in-Class service for Apollo’s New York office. Brigitte is collaborative in her approach and consistently shares best practices globally. She has been instrumental with managing large projects and effecting positive change within all of our facilities programs. Brigitte has an amazingly positive attitude and is an asset to our Apollo team.”- Lisa Aull, Global Head of Corporate Services, Apollo Global Management, LLC
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“I have dual U.S. and French citizenship. I've lived in Paris and Madrid, and during the time I lived in Europe I developed a love for art. I’ve studied art history on my own, some of my favorite painters are Caravaggio, Caspar David Friedrich, Dante Rossetti, Velasquez, and Claude Lorrain. My favorite museum in NYC is the Frick. If you haven’t been, it’s a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours.”
How did you get into the Facilities field?
“I moved to Manhattan from California to go to graduate school at Columbia University. After obtaining my Master’s degree, I started working at Gymboree. During my tenure there, the company expanded quickly, as did my role. I was promoted to the Director of Administration and oversaw not only administrative services but also the daily facilities management of the main office and 12 additional regional locations in NY, Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC. Over the past 15 years I have had the privilege of building new offices, managing many construction projects of varying scope, and setting up all facilities functions including the procurement of vendors and service providers. My training has been primarily on the job and through taking advantage of training resources such as IFMA. There are also some great, comprehensive facilities management handbooks out there.”
Tell us about a favorite project highlight.
“A highlight which stand outs is a build out earlier in my career in which senior management had very exacting requirements for what a high end office space should look like. The costs associated with achieving this vision could have been astronomical. I worked closely with the project team to come up with alternative, more economical options that were still aesthetically pleasing. I should also mention that there were structural limitations affecting the ‘desired flow’ of the space, but we found an acceptable solution that the partners could live with. The space came out beautifully so everyone was happy at the end and was often used by the landlord as a showcase floor for prospective new tenants.”
What is your greatest success story?
“We had already scheduled the densification of two whole floors when another significant project arose, a multi-floor reshuffle which entailed moving more than half of our employees in the NYC offices. These projects were completed successfully within the span of two months and almost exclusively outside of normal business hours. To ensure minimal disruption to the business, the timing of every step had to be carefully coordinated and required discussions with key stakeholders across the business and meticulous planning within the project team including technology support, architects, contractors, furniture vendors, and movers. We really pulled together and received a lot of positive feedback on how smoothly everything was handled. It was a proud moment for the team."
Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.
“What we manage in Corporate Services is very high touch and customer service oriented. Making sure that employees' workspaces are comfortable is crucial for employees to be able to focus on doing their jobs. However, it's often trickier than it may seem from the onset. The firm's and individuals' business needs, knowing what can and cannot be controlled (such as building temperatures, the most common complaint as everyone in our industry knows all too well), and maximizing cost efficiencies all need to be considered when coming up with a reasonable solution. The other challenge is most issues need to be addressed immediately, so we have to have a 24 hour mentality and set up our processes, staffing, and service providers to be able to respond on a very timely basis.”
What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“Learn as much as you can and ask a lot of questions. No one is an expert in everything. Take your time to find and hire smart, motivated people if you are in the fortunate position to have a say in hiring. Create and build collaborative teams and make sure everyone is on the same page. Always thank people and find ways to show them you appreciate them. Lastly, understand the objectives of the business and engage senior management as you strive to create a best in class facilities department. This will also help to anticipate needs and think strategically.”
Interviewed by Sonya Verny of IA Interior Architects, IFMA NYC Secretary.