One of the first things that you notice about Abdulhadi Ali Alalyak, SVP of Corporate Services, du, and MEFMA Board Member, is his passion to get to know the person in front of him. And it is this people skills quality backed with 20 years of vast experience that has helped him to deliver high-quality services in the FM industry.
Having held this key position in the telecommunication company since 2008, Alalyak has worked earlier for Etisalat as the Chief Engineer for Integrated Customer Services and Facilities Management. In a face-to-face with Megha S Anthony, Alalyak talks about his journey in the FM industry, the challenges he faces on the job, and his advice to youngsters.
Tell us about your journey in the FM industry.
With more than 20 years in the FM industry, my journey has been a long one. I had completed my engineering and started working in the project’s department at (Etisalat). Those days, there was nothing classified as facilities management. It was either engineering or maintenance. During the handover of the project, we noticed that there was a huge gap in the maintenance team. The focus was on the machine and the building rather than on the environment and the people who utilise the space. As part of that project, we tried to shift our focus from equipment and engineering to the people. So this is how the journey in the FM industry truly began for me.
Tell us a bit about who was your mentor while growing up?
I have been fortunate to have many mentors at every stage of my life. But if I had to pick one it would have to be HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, former president of UAE. His wisdom, generosity, and professionalism is something I have always looked up to and aspired to be like. After him, it would have to be my father, who has always thought me to be sincere with whatever I do and provide the best in everything we do. When it comes to my career, there was this one manager, Mr. Umrad, who was an excellent mentor. He was an experienced person in engineering background and a very professional and detail oriented one. He would challenge you with the right questions. He would shape your personality and your skill in a way that you can tackle any challenge.
How different is the scope of work FM at Du compared to other facilities?
The scope of work compared to any other facility is very different and challenging. At du, we provide service to the general public and we have our own people to look after. So you have to shift your thinking quite often in a day. When we talk about our external customers, who visit our showrooms and our retail outlets, we need to ensure that they have the right design and environment where they feel safe. Then our focus is also on the workspace environment where our people are sitting daily right to nine hours. In both sides, we need to ensure we are customer focused and customer-centric and cater to their specific needs. However, we need to keep in mind that we may not be able to cater to every individual need but we aim to reach a certain threshold of satisfaction to maintain the standards.
What kind of challenges do you face on the job?
The workspace environment has changed if you have noticed. For example, many years ago we used to have cubicles for people. So the environment and management of that space were a lot easier. But now with the open space environment, you have 60-100 people in one space and maintaining a balance and catering to each one’s need can be challenging. Plus you need to be cost-effective. So you have to manage the space and reduce the capital expenditure. Another challenge is catering to the 24/7 centers as you need to ensure the maintenance is done without interrupting the business and without them knowing that you exist. That’s the real beauty of FM, you have master the skill of being proactive, ensure that nothing goes wrong and at the same time no one should know you exist.
Tell us about a highlight in your career. I would have to say the real highlight has been establishing the Middle East Facilities Management Association. In the last 8-9 years, the association has represented the community and been a platform to spread knowledge, provide training and listen to the industry and community. It has been a dream for many of us in the industry to establish this association with limited resourced and make an impact.
One of the challenges we face in this sector is professionalism. Everybody claims to be a professional in this sector but with no qualification to back it with. Qualification is more than a training board, it is knowledge by itself. You can have a certificate but if you do not have practical knowledge it will be a waste. It is good training that helps you deal with people and how to procure the right material and tools to deal with different situations. And MEFMA aims to give that platform to people to train themselves in this sector.
If we are talking of the FM industry as a whole, do you think there is something lacking in this industry?
I think we are much better than what we were many years ago. Today we are ahead of so many other markets. It is a promising and a growing market. But we need to filter who is a facility manager and who is not, which company is into facility management and which company is like specialised in part of facility management. So going forward I think we can do a lot and we have done a lot and we have achieved a lot and we can do more.
What is your advice to the younger generation in this industry?
My advice would be to focus on end users and they have to be customer-centric, they have to know their customers and customise their offering or service to the particular segment rather than generic or from the book. Different people have different requirements, different regions have different requirements. We need to learn to cater to them all.