Stephen Tobin – Securing Head of Facilities Management Role at the Department of Health
BSc (Hons) in Facilities and Workplace Management
Stephen Tobin completed his BSc (Hons) in Facilities & Workplace Management at Portobello Institute in the same month he successfully gained a new role as Head of Facilities Management in the Department of Health for the Government of Ireland.
January 2023 was a good time for Stephen, who believes that his degree was invaluable in helping him to secure this new role finally marrying his many years of experience with the relevant qualification.
“Over the years I became acutely aware that having years and years of experience would simply not be enough to further my career in the way that I wanted.
“There remains a heavy emphasis on qualifications and higher education when it comes to being successful at interviews. This is particularly the case in the public sector as they wish to move to a better-educated and qualified public sector.
“I felt that no matter how well I was doing at interviews I was coming up short. I put this down to my lack of qualifications in the field and determined to do something about it.
“Once my years of experience were paired with the qualification, I was successful at the very first interview I took post-graduation.
“I knew that if I didn’t study, I would continue to just miss out at the interview stage for the jobs that I felt and knew I was suited for and would excel at,” he said.
Starting out with an electrical apprenticeship after his Leaving Cert, Stephen worked with two companies in Cavan on domestic and agricultural installations as well as some industrial maintenance.
“I left the private sector in 2005 following a successful interview with the Office of Public Works, and I took up my role as an electrician at the Dublin Castle conference and event centre. I spent 18 years in Dublin Castle, and following promotions, I moved through the levels and finished up in January 2023 as Head of Conferencing and Deputy Head of Facilities Management.
“I successfully interviewed for the position of Head of Facilities Management in the Department of Health and took up the role in January 2023,” he said.
With a career spanning 25 years, Stephen focused on following his passion for management and leadership rather than changing course and is now working in the career he wants.
“I am the Head of Facilities Management at the Department of Health. My role involves not only managing the facilities provided but also Corporate Services in general for the Department. I manage areas such as maintenance, environmental planning and policy development, travel, asset management, blended working etc.
“I knew a long time ago that this kind of role would best suit my skillset and rather than start something completely new I thought it would be best to enhance the skills that I already had.
“I would say that for a very long time, I have wanted to work in a role like this. Prior to even starting out in my working career and in my life outside of work in general I would always be the person who takes up the leadership roles and who seeks to lead others.
“I think I am successful because I have put in the hard yards and built up a vast base of knowledge in this area over a 25-year career to date.
“At the time I would not have seen things like that but now looking back on it I can say that every job and task that I ever took on has assisted in delivering me to where I am today.
“The final piece to achieving the opportunity to work at the strategic end has been marrying the experience and the qualifications together,” he said.
When it came to choosing a course and place to study, Stephen took reputation and work/study/family life balance into account before enrolling on the BSc (Hons) in Facilities and Workplace Management at Portobello Institute awarded by London Metropolitan University.
“I chose Portobello because I was aware of the pedigree that existed in relation to Facilities Management courses. I wanted to be sure that I signed up for a course at a reputable institution that would be recognised across the industry.
“Also, I work in a very busy position and have a young family at home so the option to be able to do the course remotely was very appealing. The Saturday lectures and exams meant I did not have to amend my free time during the week too much.
“Being a mature and remote student was certainly a much different experience to what I imagine normal student life would be like! That said, I certainly felt the same pressure trying to complete assignments on time and prepare for exams. I did have a continued feeling of being in the process of achieving something that would elevate me in the long run.
“The flexibility of blended learning. I can’t put a fine enough point on this. Without it, I think I would not have signed up for the course and even if I did, I think I would have struggled to balance the course as well as all the other elements of my busy life.
“The way the course was laid out and delivered was also very helpful as we were able to complete some subjects and their associated assignments or exams in the first half of the year and not have to think about them again.
“The course and how it is delivered is totally in sync with the work-life balance required by mature students who are also busy professionals and parents to young children.
“In my opinion, this is the difference between successfully completing the course or dropping out. Or the difference between a first-class degree and a pass. The course is certainly not easy and you do have to put in the work, but it easily ties in with your life rather than the other way around.
“This was the right course for me. I had preceded it with the Diploma in Facilities Management also at Portobello, so it was the obvious next step for me to take. I think the proof is in the pudding and I have excelled and progressed in my career since completing the course, so it has certainly been the correct move for me,” he said.
Stephen is following his passion, working and excelling in his facilities management career. He shares some insights into a day in his role.
“Management of people and premises has given me a lot of satisfaction over the years. I love the diverse nature of the work with no two days ever really the same.
“Facilities management provides a wonderful opportunity to affect organisational policy on many levels. Not all employees get to say that. Being at the forefront of how the organisation goes about their business is a privileged place to be.
“With a young family, I am an early riser so I like to get to the office early. I’m usually in the office by 8 a.m. Between then and mid-morning there will always be contractors arriving at the site so I will oversee the team getting contractors signed off and permitted and getting them to their work location.
“I try to schedule most of my meetings both before and after lunch so I have a chunk of time at the end of the day to deal with correspondence and email. I will also spend the afternoon engaging with my team on bodies of work that are due such as Climate Action plans, Blended Working Implementation, Internal audits, H&S annual document updates and more.
“I draw on my very many years of experience when it comes to leading my team and thankfully, I am always able to come up with an answer to the problems, this is largely down to the fact that I have built up my skills and knowledge base over the years,” he said.
Portobello Institute offers a BSc (Hons) in Facilities & Workplace Management, Level 9 PGC Innovation for Sustainability in the Workplace, Postgraduate Certificate in Facilities Management and an MSc in Facilities & Workplace Management and more.
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, email [email protected] or call 01 892 0035. Visit our Facilities Management department here.