FM Spotlight

Sabrina Nelson - AMC Networks

Sabrina Nelson is the Director of Facilities, Design and Planning at AMC Networks. She oversees approximately 400,000 square feet of office space in NYC and also periodically visits the Los Angeles office to provide in-person guidance and support to the Facilities team that she supervises at this facility. She manages a best-in-class team, motivates and empowers team members to become highly efficient, and provides the necessary coaching for them to succeed in their roles. Sabrina believes that leadership is hinged on making others better around you because it’s about the goal not the role. Her motto is “teamwork makes the dream work.”

“Sabrina has established herself as the ‘go-to person’ within the Facilities department. She is an exceptional and brilliant Facilities Management professional who has a unique way of connecting with everyone in a professional and pleasant manner.” – Thomas King, VP of Real Estate, Facilities & Security at AMC Networks

What is one thing that no one knows about you?

“I have been a Certified Life Coach for four years and received the “Life Coach of the Year” award in London last year. I was totally surprised because I was invited to be a guest speaker and participate on panel discussions that covered various topics at the Powerhouse Global event. Also, I became a Certified Mentor at SCORE in 2014. I coached and assisted new entrepreneurs with creating their business plans, provided guidance on which SCORE seminars they should attend to obtain relevant information about their industry, as well as cultivate their business acumen. Coaching and mentoring people is truly rewarding because I strive to make a difference in many lives every day.”

How did you get into the Facilities/Workplace field?

“I started as an Assistant Manager at a hair replacement company that was growing rapidly. When the Manager of Operations announced their retirement, the President of the company promoted me to that role because everyone knew I was a great fit and could add so much value overall. The company was growing rapidly, and the Vice President of Facilities and Operations gave me the opportunity to collaborate with them on the expansion project to renovate our corporate headquarters. After successfully completing the renovation of two floors (50,000 sq. ft.), I began building out office space for various franchise locations in many different states.  I was involved in the construction and renovating 54 locations overall.”

Tell us about a favorite project highlight.

“My favorite project highlight would be completing five and half floors of brand-new office space in two years for a large pharmaceutical company. This construction project had several structural issues to contend with, all while building out new internal staircases, multiple training rooms, 40+ conference rooms and high-density file rooms – it was very challenging to say the least. In addition, there were logistical issues with securing and moving employees into swing space throughout each phase, but I still managed to complete the project on time and almost $4 million under budget.”

What is your greatest success story?

“I have many success stories that I could share, but completing seven floors (350,000 sq. ft and two floors at a time), as well as decommissioning three floors of swing space within two and half years, may be the best success story to date. In addition, while I was spearheading these projects, my team was also tasked with restacking more than 400 employees between eight floors over five-month period of time.

But, while all of those projects were in progress, the Facilities team still had to maintain the best-in-class service with facilitating a litany of day-to-day responsibilities to meet our colleagues’ expectations as well. This time period felt like I was climbing Mount Everest, but as a leader I ensured that my team felt empowered, were supported and were shown that they were appreciated for their assistance throughout the entire time period.”

Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities world.

“The challenge I have faced for many years now is that women are underrepresented in senior roles within the Real Estate and Facilities arena. Although I have received numerous accolades from colleagues, senior leadership, supervisors, business partners, etc., it does not feel as though women are fully appreciated for the significant contributions they make within the industry. Also, we need more women mentors in this industry to provide their wisdom, expertise and guidance for junior-level and mid-level professionals to become more equipped to ascend to the next level in their career. I believe that everyone needs at least two sponsors within their company and external mentors working in their industry and in other industries as well.”

What learning experience would you pass onto future FMs?

“I would suggest they step out their comfort zone sooner than later and take some risks; to always be flexible in their approach when communicating and collaborating with internal and external stakeholders; to surround themselves with knowledge experts who can grow and stretch them beyond their realm of expertise; to admit when they’ve made a mistake and remedy the issue as quickly as possible because one’s integrity means everything.

Also, the best teacher is experience, not just attending classes and obtaining certifications from accredited institutions. When you are in the trenches of a project, it’s the best way to learn many different ways of mitigating risks, to obtain knowledge from various experts in the construction industry, and to hold yourself and everyone on the team accountable to adhering to project milestones in timely manner. Once you have completed a major project, you will certainly feel exhausted (mentally and physically), but you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment as well.”

Interviewed by Sonya Verny, IFMA NYC Secretary.