A Profile of Alana Dunoff
The Psychology of People and Buildings
Consultant and Adjunct Professor
Temple University facilities management professor Alana Dunoff wants students to know that careers in facility management offer great depth in a variety of disciplines, from real estate to operations to finance.
“We try to provide a holistic view of the industry so students will see that every day there are new challenges and opportunities to learn about security and risk assessments, IT and occupant services,” she said.
For Alana, the most rewarding part of teaching is the belief that she’s helping make a difference in the lives of young people, as they launch into a “fabulous” career. “I love it when they come back to visit and their employers ask for more like them,” she said. Through her program at Temple University, students can choose different pathways, including historic building preservation or facility management.
Her own career has been eclectic. Before focusing on higher education, consulting, and public speaking, she was a strategic facility planner and a project manager at an architectural firm.
Right now, she worries about filling gaps in the facilities workforce.
“We need people from the trades, from facility management programs, and from administration,” she said. “Some people are great at coordinating things, and the next thing you know, you’re managing a move, and you get to be a facilities coordinator.”
All the lessons, voices, and experiences come together for her in the university setting. Now, in her 11th year at Temple, Alana is still learning – from her students, from listening to her consulting clients, and from thousands of conversations about how people interact with the built environment during her 20 years in the academic world.
“When people talk about space, they get territorial,” said Alana. She recalled a story about consulting for an organization’s IT department.
“There was a big brouhaha between those who wanted cubicles vs. those who wanted more collaborative conducive open spaces. It was like a battle between two pirate ships. I learned that one size doesn’t fit all. People are passionate about their space. But you’ve got to use humor to diffuse tensions and bring people together.”
Alana has a Master's in Facilities Planning and Management. In college, she was interested in architecture and buildings and urban planning, and she was a psychology major, so she gravitated more toward environmental and social psychology studies – the study of humans in their environment. She was introduced to IFMA when she was a graduate student because the professors at Cornell were heavily involved at the time with IFMA. Alana was the first scholarship winner for the IFMA Foundation.
She found a program called Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell. “I didn't know what facilities management was, but I was intrigued by the combination of things that I really had passion around, like, psychology and people and buildings and I didn't know that they could come together.”
A fan of author Malcolm Gladwell’s thought processes about turning things upside down, she refers to his podcast and books such as Revisionist History. Other inspirational books include Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus and The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. For fun, she enjoys the Smartless comedy podcast which connects and unites people from all walks of life to learn about shared experiences through thoughtful dialogue.
Alana reaps the benefits of getting outside through gardening, and growing flowers and vegetables which she calls “nourishing experimentation.” Alana sees herself reflected in her two girls, a freshman at Georgia Tech and another studying architectural drafting in high school.
Alana is also a director of the Women in Facility Management Association, which offers mentorships, scholarships, events, and networking opportunities.
When Alana is seeking guidance, inspiration, and support, she taps into the IFMA Fellows group – citing Peggy McCarthy who’s been helpful over the years.
She does feel that the facility management industry has a branding problem and that people outside of the industry struggle with all that it entails and its potential. Part of the challenge is that different industries have varied job titles. For example, in the hospitality industry, the preferred title is Facility Management Engineer. That title might be off-putting for some. Alana sees a bright future for facility management. “We’re teaching people how to be managers and run buildings,” she said. “Doesn’t that sound exciting?”
As for career advice for women, Alana said, “Be curious, ask, learn and engage.”