Julie is Head of Facilities & Commercial in Look Ahead’s Property and Landlord Services Department. She and her team play a valued and varied role across the organisation.
I’ve worked at Look Ahead for six years now, but I’ve been running facilities for about 25. I spent a stint as a sports massage therapist too – I even worked with the Welsh and Tongan rugby league teams at a previous world cup and have supported Leinster RFC on their preseason tours – but that’s another story.
I moved from Swansea to London in 2001. I was planning a five-year stay, but it’s been 22 so far. I’ve worked in different sectors, from leisure, to education and central government. I’ve had some memorable moments I can tell you; I met Michelle Obama at a school I was responsible for.
But a change in my personal circumstances led me to consider care and support. I felt that I should give back, so I applied for a facilities manager role at Look Ahead in 2018, and I was promoted to head of facilities and commercial in 2023.
I really enjoy my job and working with my team. The way I see it, if I work to the best of my ability, that will provide additional support to our operational colleagues, which in turn improves the care customers receive, and raises their quality of life. It’s not a job where I come in and just do the work, I need to feel connected to people’s lives.
Challenges come in thick and fast, but I try to bring out of colleagues what I put in, and lead by example. Multitasking is key to what we do, and every day is different. We oversee the head office, manage service cleaning and grounds maintenance contracts, in addition to the security and concierge contract (amongst many other things that come our way … there’s a lot).
We oversee the utility portfolio, including gas and electricity, and work closely with health and safety. We were the go-to team during covid too, running the procurement and logistical procedures and getting the PPE supplies, hand sanitiser and other resources to services.
We also get involved with deep cleaning, landscaping projects, and tree works. One of the projects I am especially proud of was preparing our Kent-based Gravesend Learning Disability Service for customers. It was a big project, involving multiple Look Ahead staff teams and contractors.
My team was responsible for finding landscaping options to make the grounds more accessible and pleasing for a customer who had complex and very specific support needs. We worked together with our contractor Glendale to close off the patio area with a fence, giving the customer a private space and shed for leisure and projects. We also added a bird feeder for them to enjoy. I’m told the customer is happy in their new space, which is very rewarding.
I’m pleased to say that my team’s work gets noticed too, my colleague Fabian and I have both won internal staff awards – myself for “Partnership” and Fabian for “Aspiration” – which feels great.
I’m currently managing another big project, moving our head office to a new location, there’s never a dull moment at Look Ahead, that’s for sure.