A Profile of Maria Ruiz
Weaving Diverse Expertise into a Tapestry of Success

Maria Ruiz

Maria Ruiz
Manager, Facilities and Operations

Maria Ruiz gained valuable facility customer service and operational experience from an unlikely source – pitching in at Bloomingdale’s hosiery and high-end infant clothing departments in New York City.

Originally from the Bronx with a BA in Business Administration from Fordham University, Maria said, “I learned so much there. It was so hands on. I mean counting inventory at 2:00 in the morning while the store's shut down. I'm there counting inventory on my floor, and then, boom, we get a call that our other division needs help for another two hours. We all go over there,” said Maria.

Maria’s flow into facility management is a tale of learning different bits from retail to healthcare to urban transportation to non-profit and stitching them together to create a rich tapestry of facility vignettes.

Currently, the Manager, Facilities and Operations for UNICEF USA, Maria has tremendous respect and support for the organization’s humanitarian missions, global programs, and diversity campaigns.

“It feels good to be a part of UNICEF USA,” said Maria. “We’re doing our piece to help children all over the world, relentlessly pursuing the rights of every child. It’s never a dull moment between fundraising, events, advocacy, and all things facilities!”

Maria also belongs to IFMA, and she’s an active networker. Internally, she’s involved in several diversity and inclusion groups.

“A lot of my curiosity about behind-the-scenes infrastructure sparked my interest to learn more, continue my education, and experience different industries,” said Maria. “There’s a line of continuity in facility management because no matter the industry, you’re working with skilled trades people, dealing with labor relations, and working on planning and finance.”

UNICEF USA has about four different regional locations, including their headquarters on Wall Street in New York.

“We’re closing out a site in San Francisco, so I’m getting my move out procedures and all my vendors in order and starting with a small staff of four, plus all our daily operations,” she explained. “I’ve met real estate advisors to show them our sites, and they’re telling me how impressed they are with how much I know about the nuts and bolts of these places. I’m honored that they’re telling me this as my team works arduously to ensure the built environment are well maintained and continuously improving.”

Maria looks at her career in wonderment as an accumulation of knowledge including a Lean Six Sigma background, which means she’s always looking at waste, defects, and finding ways to do things more efficiently with greater agility. Maria also takes great pride in being a woman in facilities paving the way and encouraging other women to enter and cultivate the field. The vision is to encourage other women to enter, grow and improve the facilities industry with their expertise and experiences.

“It never stops,” she said.

Maria and her team keep up to speed on changing situations and new knowledge during team huddles and daily walks around the built environment. “I have to see, hear, feel, and touch what’s going on. We’re moving around constantly.”

Not long ago, Maria dealt with a flooded building. They suspected that there might be e-coli in the water. Maria didn’t want her team members down there, so she put on personal protective equipment (PPE) and investigated. The water was surveyed, and it turned out that everything was fine.

It’s those little tidbits and tools that Maria has acquired over the years that have shaped her management style and built a foundation to empower her team to do the work without her needing to micromanage.

“You know, so far so good. I lead with that mentality of being very tactical, but that’s got to feed into developing an organization-wide strategy based on constant communication and team empowerment,” said Maria. “Sometimes we over communicate, but sometimes we need to, for safety, especially. It’s our checks and balances.”

To support her contention that learning must be ongoing, Maria just absorbed a 15-minute crash course on certificates of insurance which she shared with her team because it is a new year, and the certificates must be updated.

Maria takes relaxing and unwinding seriously, too, by indulging in reading, journaling, watching comedy, listening to music, meditating, and traveling – anywhere with a beach and some sun and sand. She’s married and has two boys. One is 21 and the other one’s 11.

“I’m surrounded by highly skilled people technically. I advise anyone, especially women that are looking into a field to embrace, to ask a lot questions,” said Maria. Fortunately, Maria has absorbed a lot of knowledge by being surrounded by experts.
“I was in a room where I’m not an architect, I’m not an engineer, but I am highly respected and valued, and vice or versa,” she said. “My general contractor is my right hand and my left hand. I can always call him up and ask a question. That’s relationship-building in action.”


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