5 Mins With… Emerging Workplace Leaders

Emerging Workplace Leaders (EWL) is a professional networking group for the facilities management (FM) and workplace sector. The organisation says that its unifying missions is to create a community and platform that enables emerging workplace leaders to connect and accelerate their personal and professional growth through events, awards recognition and opportunities to collaborate.

EWL is known for its regular networking events (when the world isn’t in lockdown) and as the organiser of the Young Manager of the Year, one of the most popular categories in the annual Premises & Facilities Management Awards.

Recently, Bianca Angelico, director of guest services for security specialist Amulet, and Phil Matis, operations director for facilities services provider Churchill Group, stepped into the roles of co-chair. Bianca and Phil have taken on that responsibility in a uniquely challenging period for professional networking groups, but this hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm or ideas.

Magenta spoke to the new co-chairs about their aims over the next year.

Who are Emerging Workplace Leaders?

Phil Matis: We are an industry-wide network with the sole purpose of engaging with emerging leaders who want to progress professionally and personally. We want to be that platform that accelerates change for people in FM and the workplace.

You were recently announced as the new co-chairs of the group. What plans do you have over your chairship?

Bianca Angelico (front left) and Phil Matis (front right) are the co-chairs of Emerging Workplace Leaders

Bianca Angelico: Our objective is all about connectivity, so we’ve come up with an exciting new initiative we’re calling ‘Coffee Connections’. It’ll start as a virtual event, and it may stay that way depending on how the world goes. The idea is to bring two thought leaders and a small group of aspiring leaders together every other month in a virtual conversation. It will cover different topics with leaders from a range of sectors. Our aim is to connect people. We’ll introduce everyone by email after the call, so guests leave with knowledge alongside new connections and a bigger network. Before the pandemic we’d meet new people while networking, but we don’t have that interaction at the moment. This is our solution to the new world we’re living in.

PM: There are lots of different networking groups out there. Virtual event after virtual event, either pre-recorded or with someone speaking at you. We want this to be different. We want to welcome a few people on a call who can have a decent conversation, meet new people, ask for advice and find mentors.

In the past, the EWL was centred on the Young Manager of the Year Award. But there is a lot of interest in the network from across the UK. We want to capture that depth and really start to engage with as many people as we can.   

The pandemic has completely destroyed traditional networking. Is one of the biggest challenges right now trying to ensure that professionals, particularly young ones, do not lose those opportunities and connections?

PM: Absolutely. And that’s why we’re trying to make the group accessible. We want people to know who we are and that professionals have a direct contact with industry leaders who can help them. We’ve started to revamp the EWL website, which we hope will eventually evolve into an online platform where people can connect with one another.

There are lots of new virtual platforms emerging like Clubhouse. Not everybody will be involved in that. But people can still drop an email, make a phone call, and connect in settings like Coffee Connections. 

One of the biggest challenges for the EWL was giving young people the confidence to put themselves forward for things like the Young Manager of the Year Award. How much more difficult has that been during lockdown?

BA: Last year, we actually had more entrants to the award than ever before. I think that was because people were looking to recognise their colleagues and teams during a difficult year. They were looking for the silver lining in a very negative cloud. We hope that we can get the same number or even more this year.

PM: You don’t need to be a young leader to get involved with the EWL. You can be at any age or at any point in your career. You can be extroverted or introverted. And you don’t have to go for the Young Manager of the Year Award. We want people to have a platform for support and advice. One thing we don’t mention enough is the number of people who contact our committee who are looking for a new job, want advice for a job interview, or simply need someone to look at their CV. So, regardless of age, if anyone is out there who is looking for support of any kind, get in touch because we can help.

What would you say to anyone else thinking about becoming a volunteer in their profession?

BA: Volunteering gave me skills that I hadn’t developed in my professional career up to that point, like leadership. When I was deputy chair of Women in FM (the Institute of Workplace & Facilities Management special interest group) it was the first opportunity I had to lead a team. So, I was able to develop certain skills that I was struggling to obtain in my professional job. I then leveraged that with other career moves that I’ve made.

Then there’s the feeling of giving back. There’s nothing like it. Your job pays you back in money. But having someone send you a really lovely emails to say thanks for going out of your way to help them is phenomenal.

PM: Volunteering gives you that platform to be able to connect to other people, to support your peers, and get yourself out there. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to come to us as a mentee; you can come to us as a mentor too.

BA: Emerging Workplace Leaders has given me a tribe which has supported me in my difficult moments and celebrated my good times. It’s also a safe space – when I was unsure about how to answer a question or do something, they were there for me with no judgement. Without that, I can’t be the best version of me, so volunteering has created a tribe that I’m forever grateful for.  

Magenta runs a regular series of ‘5 minutes with…’ Q&As with FM and workplace leaders.

Simon Iatrou