THE ADVENTURES OF BRAM STOLTE IN SAN FRANCISCO:
“I DID BUY A BIKE – I’M DUTCH AFTER ALL…”
One of the development programs we focus on together with our The World of YES team is providing international internships for facility management students. We are very involved in the preparation process but also stay in touch with a lot of the students during their internships. We always love to hear about their stories and experiences, which is why we also want to share that with you – starting today. In this edition of “The Student Experience”, we catch up with Bram from The Netherlands, who interns with CBRE on the Uber account in San Francisco. Of course, we are dying to find out what it’s like to work for one of today’s fastest growing companies!
YES: To start off, can you please tell our readers who you are and why you are now living in San Francisco?
Bram: “Sure, so my name is Bram, I’m 20 years old and I’m currently in the final year of my Bachelor’s degree in Facility Management. I chose to do an internship before I graduate, and with the help of The World of YES, I was set up with CBRE in San Francisco. They placed me within the team working on the Uber account so I’m now located at the Uber headquarters in the city. I live in the city center as well, so I can actually walk my way to work. Although I did buy a bike – I’m Dutch after all. Sometimes I have to go to another headquarters for a meeting, which is 40 minutes on bike. Then I just like to take the coastal route and it’s a really cool ride – it’s healthy and I love to experience the city like this. My colleagues and roommates think I’m crazy though JI think it’s safe to say that so far, it’s going really well.”
Y: We’re really happy it worked out so well so far! What was it like when you arrived? At the end of the day you moved from a small town to a large city all by yourself.
B: “That’s right. Even though it’s a huge difference compared to my home town, I love it. The biggest difference is the fact that because of the fact that I live in the city center, everything is very nearby, which is very convenient. When I got here, I immediately went out to explore the city. I did a bike tour across the Golden Gate Bridge for example and went out to events in town. That’s just the easiest way to meet other people and it’s fun. I use this app called Meetup where you can select an event you want to go to. So far, I’ve been playing soccer a lot, and went on a night walk through the city. I’ve already met so many people, all with different stories to tell.”
Photo credit: Bram Stolte
Can you tell us a bit more about your internship and what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis?
B: “As I study Facility Management, the internship is naturally within the Facility Management team. I do all kinds of small projects. An example: we’re having a fire safety check done soon, and I was asked to perform some research and checks to see what the current status of our fire safety is. So, I spent a few days investigating the properties, see what the hallways look like, what type of equipment is already present. But I also looked at the things we can do to improve, and to make the environment even safer. Other than that, I’m assisting the Facility Manager on site. The Facility Manager oversees a team that runs facility operations and makes sure that all services such as catering and security are running smooth. But we also have a lot of events that are arranged by this team. In general, I think it’s just really cool that people take the time to explain what they are doing. One of my colleagues is now working on the new Uber headquarters in San Francisco and he explains the process of how this works: how do you pick a property, what inventory is needed and how do we know that, what budgets are involved, etc. So, I think that’s a really unique learning opportunity.”
Y: Of course, Uber is a fast-growing company, which means they are expanding quickly. Do you notice any of that within your Facility Management team? Because you probably have to act on that too?
B: “I just notice that we are growing so fast that we constantly have more people getting hired. We now have 6 office buildings in San Francisco. The one that I’m working at is big enough for 4.000 people, but we have 6.000 people working there. We already have multiple offices in San Francisco trying to make sure that everyone has a great place to work. I just explained that my colleague is working on new headquarters, it’s being build right now. Once it’s done it will be a total of four properties and it should be big enough for 10.000 colleagues. However, there’s a chance that by the time we deliver the new headquarters, we already outgrew it. So, we’re now debating on whether we should hold on to some of our current buildings.”
Y: Those are some amazing projects to be exposed to and learn from. Do you feel like you get a lot of responsibility?
B: “In the first two weeks I was just getting to know the teams and the properties and I basically just tried to get a glimpse of what the Facility Manager was doing. After that, I started to gain more responsibility up to the point where I will be replacing my Facility Manager when he leaves on holiday in the next month. Of course, he’s really prepping me for that and it’ll only be two weeks. But still, I’ll then be responsible for buildings with thousands of people in it.”
Y: As most students, you also have to do a special project for your University credits. What are you working on?
B: “I’m working on a project to find out whether we can reduce waste, and also whether we can recycle waste. Even though we have a sustainability team with us, we still produce a lot of waste. Lunch is served in a carbon box for example, and those boxes can’t be recycled. So, I am going to figure out what we can do to change this and I will present an advice before the end of my internship.”
Photo credit: Bram Stolte
Y: Do you feel like you can keep up with your colleagues in general when it comes to your knowledge about Facility Management?
B:“What really stood out to me was that I have a lot of knowledge that is very similar to that of my colleagues. But I’ve learned it in school, and they’ve learned it in practice because there are no Facility Management degrees like we have them in The Netherlands. My colleagues were also quite surprised about that and what we already learn in school. I may not have that much practical experience, but because of the educational background I can keep up very well. I think this example reflects the difference: I’m working with one Facility Manager that used to work in the kitchen and slowly worked his way up to become a Facility Manager. We would not see that happening any time soon in The Netherlands, while the Americans would probably hesitate to hire someone right out of school.”
Y: In The Netherlands, sustainability is one of the topics that is reflected in the Bachelor’s degree, so you’ve already learned about it in class. Do you see a lot of similarities between what you’ve learned in school and in practice?
B: “Within my work I indeed see the sustainability factor that we’ve learned a lot about. Also, we have been focusing a lot on hospitality and recently, CBRE has launched CBRE host, which is a hospitality program. We had a meeting the other day and I was happy to notice that I knew the terminology and understood what the bottom-line was.”
Y: What do you think is most fun about working and living abroad?
B: “Well there’s one thing that I love and “hate” at the same time: every day is so different. I have a list of tasks that I start with every morning, but there’s hardly any day that I would actually finish all of those tasks. There’re always ad hoc requests coming up from operations for example. So, I love the variety and I think that’s typical for Facility Management, but sometimes you also just want to finish what you have to do. I also like the variety of people that I get to work with, and hearing everyone’s story and really having different conversations with different individuals. I work with a janitor for example that has been in jail and he has so many intriguing stories to tell about his family and his experiences. And then when I’m talking to my manager for example, I learn so much about management in general so the variety of all these conversations is fascinating. I do love that about Americans: they are very social and welcoming. Other than that, I think it’s really cool to explore the city and do all kinds of activities. The other day I celebrated Labor Day with a barbecue on the beach near the Golden Gate bridge, which was a lot of fun.”
Photo credit: Bram Stolte
Photo credit: Bram Stolte
Y: Would you have any advice for the students who want to live abroad too?
B: “I would say to go out and explore. I’m right in the city center so I want to get out, go to events, explore the city, get to know new people. Everyone will be open to the conversation and get to know you because a lot of people – definitely at certain events – are in the same position as you are. So, my advice would be to be open and get out there because that’s how you gain so many fun experiences.”