A Profile of Marilyn Thomas
Aspiring Architect Turned Facilities Maestro

Marilyn Thomas

Marilyn Thomas
Facilities Management Consultant,
Facilities & Maintenance Manager
Island Grill

From the age of seven, Jamaican born Marilyn Thomas wanted to be an architect. She envisioned herself as the world's most renowned architect, like Frank Lloyd Wright. She enrolled in the Caribbean School of Architecture, located in Kingston Jamaica, doing four years to earn her degree in Architectural Studies. Three months after graduation, she landed a job as a property development and maintenance manager, and she never looked back. She’s worked with residential properties, commercial properties, call centers, telecommunications and now the restaurant industry.

Her “foundation” as an architect has led to a multi-faceted career in the facility management industry – doing both consulting and overseeing facilities & maintenance for the Island Grill restaurant chain in Jamaica which has 17 locations island wide.

“I like the fact that there is no day that is the same and you're constantly learning,” said Marilyn. “It is flexible. And for me, while it is about maintaining and developing properties, buildings, equipment, whatever aspect of it. It's the people for me. It's the building of the people and the team that wakes me up every morning.”

Having an architecture background allows Marilyn to speak with much more confidence and authority when there are projects or expansions happening. So, if there are interior designs or modifications, they don't have to call in or pay a big architect. Marilyn can always do a preliminary layout or a sketch, and then if the organization chooses, they can hand it over to an architect and say, this is what we want.

For Island Grill, her day focuses on maintaining the building, the property and learning about restaurant equipment maintenance, including combi ovens and chill rooms and fryers and rice cookers.

 “You have to ensure that they are well maintained and in tip top condition, because you know, if one of those goes down, its revenue being lost, because you're not able to produce for the customers,” said Marilyn.

Marilyn has great respect for the technicians responsible for restaurant equipment maintenance who must analyze, diagnose, and make repairs in the shortest possible time. Her team sees Marilyn as a leader and as a mentor and as somebody they can talk to and help them resolve issues when they can't.

“They call me boss lady. They call me auntie. They call me mama. And I know, I'm not old. I'm younger than quite a few others,” Marilyn laughed.

In her consulting business, she does mostly commercial buildings whether it is as a designer or management of buildings for different companies. She has a small team that she works with that helps her with that.

She gets up early, drops her son off to school, visits different properties and is in the office by 8:30 am.

For women curious about the facility management industry, the first thing Marilyn advises is to gain knowledge.

“I say that because it's a male dominated industry, and initially, men will always look at you and give you the side glance when you're coming in as a female, until you’re able to stand your ground and prove to them that you know what you’re doing,” she said.

Reflecting on herself, Marilyn would like to improve her financial skills so she can be more strategic about mapping and managing costs. It’s something she’s currently working on.

She’d also like to see a higher profile presence for the facility management industry in Jamaica as she has concerns that they’re being left behind in terms of tools, technology, and best practices. She’s trying to get an IFMA chapter in Jamaica and is actively volunteering other people to help her in this mission.

When it’s time to relax and recharge, Marilyn is pretty much a home body who works out daily, digs into some gardening, and spends time with her family.

For inspiration, she reads books like ‘Dare to Lead’ by Brene Brown.

Marilyn is a hard worker, putting in 16 to 18 hours a day, hustling between two businesses, so delegating and trusting her teams are critical.

“You’ve got to put confidence in your team to build them up and equip them to take on more leadership. Also, for all of us, admit what you don’t know and lean on others who know more,” said Marilyn.

In her imagination, if she had any superhero power, it would be the ability to be invisible. Why? “Because it’s hard to envision what it takes to break a heavy oven door in a restaurant,” she joked.


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