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DCE Magazine

Instructor Q&A: Phyllis Meng, CFM, SFP, IFMA Fellow

Facilities Management Instructor

Fall 2017

Q. Why did you decide to become an instructor?

A. Facilities Management (FM) is much more than strapping on a tool belt. There is a lot of variance to this profession and it is important for those who have been in the career for awhile or are just starting out to learn as much about the profession as they can by taking courses, attending conferences and reaching out to others doing the same job.

I started doing presentations at conferences on Finance for FM because I felt it was important for facilities professionals to understand the language of business. When another instructor in the UCI DCE facilities program told me that UCI was looking to expand the program, I jumped at the offer.

UCI instituted the Facilities Management Certificate program to help those in the field gain knowledge about other aspects of facility management. These courses will help students gain knowledge that they might not have obtained the old-fashioned way. I have many years of experience in the profession with a lot of insight into what happens on a daily basis in the facility field. I like to share my experiences with my students and help guide them to grow in their careers.

I have watched my students grow in their understanding of facilities management and progress up the ladder along with obtaining promotions after taking my courses.

Q. What's your favorite lesson to teach and why?

A. My favorite courses to teach are the Financial Analysis for Facilities Professionals and the Finance for FM courses. Most facility professionals fell into FM from the operation/ maintenance side or the space planning design side. Accounting, budgeting, and finance are a foreign language to them. However, for them to progress in their careers they must know about budgeting, finance, and capital budgeting methods.

Q. What's unique about your teaching style?

A. Since my favorite subjects are accounting and finance, they can be very dull and dry. I try to make the course fun along with providing lessons that students can apply to their current job. To make it fun while learning, I establish the T & P Railroad. The students follow the railroad through many financial scenarios of this railroad during the class. These assignments are fun, but applicable to the student now. One assignment requests that the students take their own company's financial statements and complete financial ratios to see how the company is doing. To help them understand facility metrics, as well as establishing benchmarking information, I ask them to take information that they have readily at hand, such as the number of people in the facility, size of the building, number of custodians/ maintenance personnel, and other information. They use this information to develop facility ratios, which will show them how well the company is doing and will identify gaps in services provided to the building occupants.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?

A. I enjoy teaching online because I have had students from all over the world participate in my class. In fact, most of my students have been further away than Orange County. With an online class, it provides the students the opportunity to review the lesson at their leisure and complete the assignments when they have the time. The students are to post their assignments on the discussion forum and then comment on other students. It is interesting to see some of the student responses. In some instances, they assist each other with their questions.

I also enjoy the final project, which is to prepare, present, and post a voice-over PowerPoint presentation to the CFO/CEO. The presentation is their recommendation on whether or not to move forward with the proposed project. It includes the results of the various capital budget financial analysis they completed during the course along with addressing sustainability issues.