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Career Story: Building Services Director At A Convention Site

Building Services Director At A Convention Site

Job Title: Director Of Building Services

Type of Company: Convention Center, host of major trade association' shows. We also host large public gatherings like fundraisers.

Education: BS, Mechanical Engineering

Previous Experience: I have been a construction engineer for a public agency and a project manager for a small general contractor.

Job Tasks: My primarily responsibility is to manage a materials and personnel budget in excess of nine million dollars associated with the daily operations of two of the largest convention centers in the northeast. My direct report employees are responsible for the oversight of the subcontractors who clean, set the rooms, hang all the temporary or show-related rigging as well as the oversight of trash removal, material recycling and organic material composting, pest management and snow removal.

Each day requires me to respond to my superior's inquiries about upcoming events, logistical questions associated with the use of the facilities by multiple clients, often with overlapping calendar days and to advise my managers about the staffing and materials we will need to handle upcoming events. It isn't uncommon to have a phone conversation with a client in Texas who will be bringing an event to Boston and wants to know if we can provide, say, compressed air for a display, or water and drainage for a dunk tank, and later in the day to have another conversation with a vendor who wants to cut my trash and waste removal costs. The facilities are a seven day a week, 52 week operation often with 16 - 24 hour requirements.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the variety of tasks that I am asked to perform as well as the wide range of clients who bring their products to be displayed. The ability to respond quickly to the needs of a client who has 500 more people coming to an event than they expected or an exhibitor who has lost power and needs to get his equipment back up and running make every day interesting and challenging.

The worst part is that, as the economy suffers, it is necessary to try to deliver superior customer service with less personnel or an inferior(cheaper) product.

Job Tips: In order to succeed in this business you have to be willing to take an entry-level and learn the ropes. It would also be a huge benefit if you had the ability to speak Spanish, since a majority of the temporary workers for cleaning and room set up are Hispanic. An acquaintance with high school mathematics is also a benefit because of the way that clients pay for items. Many of the billable costs are based on square footage or the labor, time and materials required to perform a task.

Additional Thoughts: The biggest surprise that I encountered when I got into the industry was the complexity of the displays and the speed at which they are erected and dismantled with each and every show -- not to mention the number of shows that can be held simultaneously at any one venue.

I wish I had continued studies in business management. The thing you need most in my position is to be quick reacting without over-reacting. A calm demeanor is key and that comes with the confidence gained from the years of experience handling the multiple complex shows and events.

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