Before joining KinderCare Education as their Sr. Director of Facilities Management, Emily Hueber wasn’t sure how her experience would translate into the education industry. But soon after talking to the recruiter, she instantly knew she wanted the job. Since joining the company in January 2020, Hueber has passionately helped her team grow and calls her role “one of the best jobs” she’s ever had.
“Once you get here, you stay here,” she shared, using 2020 as a proof point that KinderCare’s workplace culture is something special. “This year has been a great example of the supportive culture found at KinderCare. During times of uncertainty, our executive leadership team stayed in front of us and was always transparent.”
Below, Hueber told Fairygodboss about her career in Facilities Management and more about how she embraces KinderCare’s culture to support her team of technicians (who are based all over the country). She also shared her best advice for leaders at every level — she says a lot of her success has to do with listening and learning from others, just as you are now.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I started with KinderCare on January 6, 2020. Prior to that, I worked for Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for roughly 10 years in Facilities Management. Facilities is my first love, but I’ve spent 35 years in the real estate industry with experience ranging from operations to security, and even property management.
How did you first learn about KinderCare, and what made you decide to join the organization?
After about 10 years of working at JLL, I wanted to see what other opportunities were out there. I put myself out there on LinkedIn and a recruiter from KinderCare saw my profile and contacted me about an opportunity. I had heard of KinderCare and was somewhat familiar with the organization, but frankly wasn’t sure where I might fit in, because I’d never worked in the education industry.
When they set up the initial interview, I happened to be on vacation in Florida and thought to myself: “Well, I’ll talk to her to see what they have to offer, then I’ll walk back to the beach and enjoy my vacation.” I ended up talking to the recruiter for about an hour and within minutes of hanging up, knew I wanted the job. And now, almost a year later, I’m at KinderCare working in what has turned out to be one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
Tell me a little about your role. What are your priorities?
As the Senior Director of Facilities Management, I’m responsible for KinderCare’s facilities field team, which consists of roughly 140 associates and technicians based around the country. I support all our technicians to ensure they have the resources and support needed to manage our centers across the US. This includes the ongoing maintenance and operations to ensure we have safe, clean centers.
What is your favorite part about the job?
What I love the most about my job is talking to my team and helping them solve problems. I ask them a series of questions to find a solution, and make sure they have the tools they need to get it done. I’m also really passionate about growing our staff and moving people up within the KinderCare organization.
What are some of the ways you help people progress in their careers?
It all starts with getting to know them. I’m proud to say that I’ve gotten to know all of my technicians and know their spouses’ names, dogs’ names, cats' names, etc. I do my best to reach out to each one of them on their birthdays, anniversaries or any other important milestone. It’s so important to me to know my staff, especially being a female manager of a predominantly male team. I want to make sure that they see me as more than just a person at the top of the org chart.
I frequently ask my team what their career goals are, and where they see themselves in one, two or five years. By understanding who might be interested in moving to the next level, I’m able to encourage them to take that leap. Or, if I learn that a technician is interested in learning a new skill, I’m able to get that information in front of their supervisors and ensure that they’re aware of that person’s desire to learn and grow.
What’s something you find particularly unique about working at KinderCare?
Once you get here, you stay here. There are people who’ve been here a long time. I have one team member who’s been with KinderCare for 35 years now, and another going on 17 years.
Why do you think people choose to stay?
The culture — all the way from the top down. This year has been a great example of the supportive culture found at KinderCare. During times of uncertainty, our executive leadership team stayed in front of us and was always transparent. I was furloughed about three months into my time at KinderCare and received a personal call from our CEO, Tom Wyatt. It really made me feel that they genuinely cared about both me and my family, and that I wasn’t just a number.
The fact that KinderCare is an organization that empowers their teams to make decisions is another reason I believe people stay. I often ask my technicians: “What would you do if you owned the center, and how can I support you to get the job done?” This is a company who hires good people and empowers them to do their jobs. We encourage questions and are constantly challenging our employees to bring new ideas to the table.
You mentioned that prior to starting at KinderCare, you weren’t quite sure where you might fit in. What misconceptions do you think exist around the company and how has your perspective changed?
I think oftentimes when people think of KinderCare, they think of being a teacher. But there is so much opportunity at this company in an array of fields. Most of the team has diverse backgrounds and we don’t put people in silos. We have technicians who were former painters, contractors and even cooks. If someone has the right foundation, we’re able to teach them and help them grow into the role. Even if you don’t think you have what we’re looking for, the one thing you do have might be the most important thing we need at the time, so I’d encourage anyone to apply!
How would you describe your leadership style?
I have such a passion for problem-solving and helping people get to a level where they’re able to learn the strategies needed to problem-solve on their own. I ask that when my team comes to me with a problem, they also come with a recommendation for a solution. We work faster and more efficiently when we enable the team to make those recommendations and decisions.
I’ve also had to learn to intently listen, and not listen with the intent of replying. I coach that to my team because when you’re listening with the intent of replying, a lot gets missed. We’re constantly practicing this and I even keep a note on my computer that says: “Stop, slow down, and listen.”
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
The career move I’m most proud of is the time I first left the third-party field to work at a company called Verio, an internet web hosting provider. I was hired as the Director of Corporate Real Estate & Security, which included maintaining 111 offices and data centers across the US. When I first started at the company, there were virtually no facility teams. I spent five years there building a team and it gave me my first taste of working at an independent company versus a third-party company.
What advice would you give to job seekers?
Find out what you’re passionate about and do it. If you’re happy, everything else falls into place including your health, career and personal life. It’s very apparent when people are unhappy in their jobs, and it’s a sign it’s time to move on. If you’re able to find happiness in your career, you’re going to have a pretty great life.
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