Conor Roche – Progressing from an area role Key Account Manager in Ireland to EMEA Operations Lead with MSc in Facilities and Workplace Management

MSc in Facilities and Workplace Management

Facilities Management

Conor Roche is the EMEA Operations Lead at ISS A/S, a leading workplace experience and facility management company, who gained his MSc in Workplace and Facilities Management at Portobello Institute to follow his passion and fulfil his potential in the career he wants. 

He began his career in facilities management in 2002 when he helped to set up the Building Fabric section of the Maintenance Department at GE Healthcare, Carrigtwohill, Cork. From there he moved into the Electronics industry with Dell, then joined Sodexo and spent seven years gaining invaluable catering experience to enhance his soft services skills on an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) site.

He joined ISS Ireland in 2016 as Key Account Manager on their then-global Novartis account, based out of Cork. During his first six years, ISS Ireland also added global accounts in the Medical Device and Food & Beverage industries along with large Irish-only accounts in the same industries.

“In 2020, after ISS A/S lost the Novartis account due to a global bidding process, a handful of colleagues and I were put on a short list of operations managers ISS A/S wished to retain. In 2021 I was offered the chance to join Global Key Accounts as a Regional Operations Lead on the Takeda account. I currently oversee ten commercial sites across EMEA, along with thirty-three plasma centres in three countries (Austria/Czech Republic/Hungary),” he said. 

During this pivotal moment in his career, Conor knew that gaining a higher qualification such as an MSc in Facilities and Workplace Management would help secure his future while also proving to himself that he can fulfil his potential.

“I knew that if I wanted to make the next step in my career, it was important that I back up my experience with an academic accreditation. I also had a personal need to gain more knowledge in my field, to see what others are doing, and in doing so, grow as a senior operator within Facilities.  

I have gone from an area role as Key Account Manager in Ireland to a regional role for ISS A/S Global Key Account Life Sciences Sector. I believe that ISS A/S could see that I had the ability and the experience to deliver great service to our clients, but it was the addition of going to college and getting the knowledge to deliver great service that helped me get the regional role. When I had conversations with ISS A/S about the potential role, they knew that I had gone back to college and attained a Level 9 accreditation and this was remarked upon that this is something that they look for in their leaders.

“I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it! ISS Ireland always looks to invest in their people, and when budgets were being drawn up on an annual basis, I would always budget for what people in our team wished to do in order to further their careers. Once my employers saw that this was the case, they backed me with the funding when I suggested I take part in the MSc in Workplace and Facilities Management with Portobello.

“Lastly, I didn’t do well in college over 25 years ago after leaving secondary school. I always regretted this and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, along with making my family proud and setting the example that academics is the right path,” he said. 

When searching for the right course provider, Portobello Institute stood out. Upon reflection, Conor says the course was a lot of work and anyone considering taking it on should be aware that it’s tough but worth it.

I liked the content and subject choices on the Workplace and Facilities Management course that was on offer by Portobello Institute. More importantly, it was quite unique, as I can’t remember seeing another course like it on offer here in Ireland. It was not the easiest of locations to get to for us who were living outside the Greater Dublin area, but I felt it was worth the one Saturday a month that was required to be on campus. I did feel like the blended learning used to deliver the course suited me and my daily cadence between family and work,” he said. 

I believe many of us on our course were quite naïve to the amount of work that goes into a Master’s. But we got there in the end through hard ‘graft’ and a determination to succeed. I was lucky to be in a great class full of talent and passion for the workplace. We were all of a similar background, through work obviously, but also, we needed to learn how to deliver a dissertation. Most of us did not know how to do this. But we bonded together as a group, learned from each other, and if we required help from Portobello Institute, we reached out through the right channels and received as much help as possible,” he said.

Gaining his Master’s was an opportunity for Conor to follow his passion, merging elements of his background, interests and experience into a successful facilities management career.

Yes, I did follow my passion by studying the course. Most people in our industry will say that we ‘fell into facility management’, and I was one of those people – my manager back in 2002 wanted the headache of dealing with ripped-up floors, broken doors and holes in the walls off his desk, and since my father was a carpenter and worked in the building trade, he asked me to take it on.

“And as an administrator with a business and finance background, I was able to harness my organisational skills into a sector I knew from labouring for my father from the age of 8! It was perfect for me; I might not have known how to rewire a room, but I knew who could do it, and more importantly, I could speak their language.

“Then when I needed to communicate to the site leadership team (SLT), I had the business background to deliver our message if we required extra budget or CAPEX, in order to deliver our services.

“Without knowing, my career passion was in my DNA, facilities management was the conduit to release that passion,” he said.

Conor recalls the feeling of pride he felt upon completing the MSc and gaining his qualification on graduation day, the powerful networking among classmates and the feeling of being an inspiration to his children.

“Getting to stand on a stage, receiving a Master’s in a subject engrained in the industry you work in, that was special.

“When you were finished your days’ work and had put the kids to bed, then were facing into two or three hours of study, standing on that stage was something I visualized in order to get me through any negative thoughts that might stop you putting in the work on the course.

I feel proud that I wanted to do the course, that I found a way of improving myself and the experience I have in FM by getting the academic back-up so that I can show my employers and/or potential employers I have both the experience and the knowledge to deliver great services to sites.  

“The networking between my classmates, meeting the lecturers and absorbing their knowledge so that I could become my best self was very satisfying.

“I wanted my kids to see Dad working on a Master’s, sitting the exams, and getting the best result he could – I believe that we are leaders and role models not only in work but also at home. How can we encourage our children to work hard at their school or college when it was something that you did not do yourself? Now, I can show my children a Level 9 qualification in my industry as evidence of what hard work looks like,” he said. 

Reflecting on the course content, Conor believes this was the right course for him which helped him to progress his career.

“It was tailor-made for what I do as a job, for what my career is about, and it has helped me in how I conduct my business operations since taking the course. I believe through learning and academics that we can all improve.

“Facility Management (FM) is relatively a new industry, so the more qualified people there are in the industry the better. If those who have experience in the industry can back it up with academic accreditation there is a better chance that standards in the industry can be raised by those who have the same pillar beliefs.

“This isn’t a job for me, it is my career. And now with a Master’s in Workplace and Facilities Management and the ambitions I have in this industry, I have the experience and the knowledge to get to the next level if the opportunity should arise,” he said.

If you are interested in any of our Facilities Management degrees or qualifications you can book a consultation call with our expert FM advisor Brandon McLean here, email [email protected] or call 01 892 0035.

Conor Roche – Progressing from an area role Key Account Manager in Ireland to EMEA Operations Lead with MSc in Facilities and Workplace Management Conor Roche – Progressing from an area role Key Account Manager in Ireland to EMEA Operations Lead with MSc in Facilities and Workplace Management