Meet the President Elect ~
Interview with Karen Howard, IFMA Atlanta President Elect 2010/11
by Chris Sanders
I was originally to conduct this interview of Karen Howard on her home turf, C-W-C. As I drove with the early morning traffic across the top end, a chain of events caused 285 east bound to become a parking lot. Karen graciously offered to meet me at my office later in the day for this interview. As I returned from lunch with Moe’s in hand Karen was waiting for me in the Equitable lobby. We made our way up to the 25th floor of SWSN finding a comfortable conference room to talk.
For those that don’t know Karen, which may not be many of you, Karen is one of the founding members of the Atlanta Chapter of IFMA. The network of people around Karen started investigating how to charter a chapter of IFMA in what was then a younger smaller Atlanta. Karen pointed out that early in her career, Facilities Management was very new; there were not many Facilities Managers and the few there were only worked for large corporations. Through the years of Karen’s involvement in IFMA there have been many changes to both the Chapter and to the city. In this interview Karen provides insight into the past, present and what she hopes is the future of our chapter.
Karen, what does it mean to be Vice President of IFMA?
It’s President Elect. I know it’s confusing; the position is titled President Elect, as part of the responsibility is to learn on the job prior to being next year’s President.
I did not know that, so it’s like being President in Training?
Yes, that’s a good way to describe it.
Primarily, in my opinion, I have been working up to this position for a long time. I see my focus being to fill in for the president and to prepare for the responsibility of that position for the next year. I am really looking forward to attending various committee meetings and getting to know all the new members of the Atlanta Chapter. I know all the members that have been a part of IFMA for a long time, but there is this new group of members that I want to connect to. As President Elect I get the opportunity to meet and interact with a broad spectrum of members. Every year is different. Every president is different. The challenge for me as President Elect is to identify how I am to best contribute.
You mentioned you have been working up to this position for a long time, what chain of career events has brought you to here?
When I graduated from design school the economy was in a slump, much like what we have just experienced. As we know, there are no design jobs in bad economies so I took a position in sales. I have spent my career in furniture sales starting out at Ball Stalker and then moved on to C-W-C. Here I am still doing what I love.
What surprises you most about how the chapter has grown and changed since those early years?
I’d have to say it’s how involved our associate members are in the chapter. I believe this is a good thing as the associate members have so much to offer the facilities community. It hasn’t always been this way. I’m happy to see how the Presidents from recent years have embraced the associate membership and seen the potential of their contribution. The growth of our chapter membership is also a pleasant surprise. While many other chapters have experienced a decline in their membership through this tough economic period, our membership numbers continue to grow. I think that speaks volumes about the Atlanta Chapter.
What volunteering roles have you had with IFMA Atlanta?
I’ve been on the Membership Committee and Chair of the Associate Committee where I developed the etiquette rules for the Associate Members. The chapter has changed so much that is hard to remember the names of all the committees I have worked on. We use to have only a handful of committees that did many things. Now, those responsibilities have been divided up into smaller committees and subcommittees. For instance, I was on a committee what would be called today the programs committee and I also worked early on to get IFMA in to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, but I don’t recall what the committee would have been called. Probably the committee that I most enjoyed was the Associates Committee; it suited me well. Last year as Secretary was challenging. There was so much change, good change. It was long overdue.
What do you like most about living in Atlanta; what do you hope attendees of World Workplace take away from their visit?
Atlanta is such an attractive city. It has become more and more cosmopolitan. Sometimes I look around and feel like I am in Manhattan yet it still has this small city appeal. I live in town and love that everything is right here where I need it. World Workplace is going to be fabulous. I hope attendees leave this conference with the desire to return and experience Atlanta on a personal level. Come see me on Peachtree Street; I’ll be manning a booth and hopefully fitting in time to be involved with the Foundation and International.
I asked Christy this question so I’m curious, what is your vision for the future of IFMA Atlanta?
For this year, to continue what Joanne and Christy have already started. I’d like to start working on things that may not get attention due to the focus on World Workplace. WWP is here this year and that is taking a lot of energy; rightfully so. Next year we need to refocus on tasks and events that could not happen this year. The End Year Report is symbolic of where the chapter is going. What a great thing that was and what a benchmark to set for other chapters. I’m glad Joanne pushed us into the Balanced Scorecard. The chapter needs to keep progressing in a more professional and sophisticated direction. These two initiatives are examples of that professionalism.
Karen Howard lives in Atlanta with her husband Nick and has a daughter in college. Karen spends what free time she has enjoying her animals, reading, and attending the theater.