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An Inspirational Facility Management Story from the IFMA Community

Dawn Mueller, CFM is the Facilities Manager at World Resources Institute and a long-time leader in the IFMA community where she has a passion for the professional development of its members. Mike Petrusky asks Dawn to share her FM story and they reminisce about connecting at World Workplace and how they have found value in … Continue reading "An Inspirational Facility Management Story from the IFMA Community"

An Inspirational Facility Management Story from the IFMA Community

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Dawn Mueller, CFM is the Facilities Manager at World Resources Institute and a long-time leader in the IFMA community where she has a passion for the professional development of its members. Mike Petrusky asks Dawn to share her FM story and they reminisce about connecting at World Workplace and how they have found value in networking at local IFMA chapters and events. They also share an understanding of the unique opportunities that facility management leaders have to help their organizations elevate the employee experience with technology tools while emphasizing the needs of human beings in the workplace. Dawn and Mike explore their common interest in 80’s music and offer inspirational quotes and experiences that will bring a smile to your face.

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Read the full transcript:

Mike (00:00):

What is community? I Googled it to find out. The first definition from Oxford mentions a group of people living in the same place. But I prefer the second definition. It said this, “A feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” That is what our community of workplace leaders is to me.

            This community is what I need during these unprecedented times. And if you want that feeling too, please join me this Wednesday at noon Eastern for the Workplace Innovator Interactive livestream. Our community is strong and we’ll get through this together. Thanks.

Dawn Mueller (00:40):

We remodeled four years ago and we had all exterior offices and we tore them down, built up on the interior with glass. So there could be a lot more natural light for all our employees. And we had 60 offices, 240 workstations, and we flipped that.

Mike (00:56):

This is the Workplace Innovator Podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOFFICE, the leading employee experience focused IWMS software that delivers real time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

            Hey there. And welcome to episode 102 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. My name is Mike. And while we are all trying to navigate through these challenging times, I’ve debated about how best to handle this weekly show. Our next two episodes feature interviews that were recorded well before the pandemic changed our lives. And since this show has always been designed to provide, what we call, evergreen content, meaning we hope to share inspiring stories and conversations that can be enjoyed at any time, I’ve decided to go ahead and present these interviews to you as sort of an escape from current events.

            But if you’re looking for a more timely discussion about how workplace leaders are supporting their organizations and each other during the pandemic, I invite you to join our weekly interactive live stream on Wednesdays at noon Eastern time, or watch me on YouTube each weekday morning at 8:00 AM Eastern, as I chat with Steve Todd of Open Sourced Workplace, on his daily live stream.

            But today, let’s just enjoy a really fun and inspirational conversation I had with a wonderful IFMA leader and a very good friend of this show, Dawn Mueller of World Resources Institute. She’s amazing. I know you’ll love this. So here we go.

            On location in our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C. I am here to interview a longtime friend of the show, Dawn Mueller. Hi Dawn.

Dawn Mueller (02:48):

Hi Mike.

Mike (02:48):


Dawn Mueller (02:49):

I’m glad to be here.

Mike (02:50):

Thanks for inviting me to your beautiful office. A very cool modern workplace here in D.C. Dawn, you are the Facilities Manager here at World Resources Institute.

Dawn Mueller (03:04):


Mike (03:05):

And we’ve known each other for a few years now. We actually met on the other side of the country, or somewhere in between. We met at a World Workplace four years ago in San Diego. And you were from San Francisco at the IFMA chapter there, the President of the local chapter.

Dawn Mueller (03:21):

Yes, I was. Yes.

Mike (03:22):

So you and I just bumped into each other and started chatting. And I guess we had connected beforehand on LinkedIn. Is that right?

Dawn Mueller (03:28):


Mike (03:29):

Because you were planning a move here to the D.C. Area.

Dawn Mueller (03:31):

And so I reached out to people on the IFMA chapter in D.C., Just to connect and try to get some leads and figure out … Because I started looking for a job in D.C.

Mike (03:41):

How to plug into D.C. And get involved. And of course the IFMA community is awesome-

Dawn Mueller (03:45):

It is yes.

Mike (03:45):

… for that.

Dawn Mueller (03:46):

Yes it is.

Mike (03:47):

And I responded. I must’ve responded.

Dawn Mueller (03:48):

You did.

Mike (03:48):

All right. Well, I’m glad it worked out. You moved here and we got to get to know each other a little better. And we’ve served on some panels together. And you’ve been kind enough to volunteer to speak about your experience here in the workplace as a facility management professional, as an FM innovator, and now a workplace innovator. Podcast gold, Dawn.

Dawn Mueller (03:48):

Thanks Mike.

Mike (04:09):

It’s podcast gold. But tell me briefly your FM story. How did you end up in the role you are today and what do you love about it?

Dawn Mueller (04:21):

Years ago, I’m a seasoned facilities manager, I’ve worked my way up from admin to supervisor. And then when my boss left, I went into her boss two hours later when she gave her notice and said, “I want the job.”

Mike (04:37):


Dawn Mueller (04:37):

And then I got involved with IFMA. That was, I think in 1995.

Mike (04:42):

Oh my going way back.

Dawn Mueller (04:44):

Yes. Way back. Way back. And that’s when my career really took off after.

Mike (04:49):

The journey begins.

Dawn Mueller (04:50):


Mike (04:51):

Well, tell me a little bit more about World Resources Institute, for those who don’t know. What do you do here? And tell us a little bit about the space we’re in.

Dawn Mueller (04:58):

World Resources Institute, known as WRI, is what in D.C., they call the NGO, a non government organization. And so we do so many things. We’re about climate change. We’re trying to help people with climate change. We’re having a serious issue. We go into cities, big cities around the world, and help with traffic. Get people out of their vehicles and into transportation, bikes, scooters. Right now we went into India and we were building roundabouts to help with traffic. There’s a lot of accident deaths in India because of all the traffic.

            And then we’re also, a new project that we’re working on is the oceans and cleaning up all the plastic in the oceans.

Mike (05:41):

Lots of work to do for sure.

Dawn Mueller (05:43):


Mike (05:43):

Tell me a little bit about the people here, the employees and taking care of those occupants of your facilities, a priority, obviously. And I’ve seen you practice it and I’ve heard you talk about it. But describe the space a little bit. How many are here? And what do you consider to be your domain?

Dawn Mueller (06:01):

So I started here three years ago, January. So it’s a little over three years. We have 72,000 square feet. We have the entire eighth floor, seventh floor and then 3,200 square feet on the sixth floor. When I started three years ago, we had 200 people. We now have 475 in the same space we had three years ago.

Mike (06:25):


Dawn Mueller (06:27):


Mike (06:27):

Same space?

Dawn Mueller (06:27):

Same space.

Mike (06:27):

Same square footage footprint but now you’re-

Dawn Mueller (06:30):

Yep. I added some what we call small touchdowns, 45 of them. But other than that, we’re working it out so that we don’t have to take over more real estate.

Mike (06:40):

So it’s a flexible situation. Some work remotely, I assume.

Dawn Mueller (06:44):

Yes. If you’re in the office a certain amount of time, we say over 60%, you get a dedicated desk. If you’re under 60%, you give up your desk and you flex. So you work part of the time from home. We don’t force staff to do that because we have a lot of millennials who can’t work from home because they have roommates. There’s no place for them to work. So we don’t force it on people. But we ask people, “Hey, if you want to work from home, give up your desk, reserve space. Then we would love it.”

Mike (07:13):

So it’s about choice and giving them the option to do what’s best for them in their particular situation. Which is again, what all the experts are telling us we need to do. So that’s awesome.

Dawn Mueller (07:23):

Yeah. It’s a huge benefit for our staff.

Mike (07:27):

Excellent. Well, we have a lot to talk about, Dawn, but before we get too far, I’ve got to get to know a little bit more of the personal side of Dawn Mueller. And it’s Mueller, not Moller.

Dawn Mueller (07:37):

Correct. Mueller.

Mike (07:39):

Mueller like Bueller.

Dawn Mueller (07:40):

Yes. Yes. Like Ferris Bueller.

Mike (07:43):

Ferris Bueller, one of classic ’80s.

Dawn Mueller (07:45):

Yep. Yep.

Mike (07:45):

So Speaking of the ’80s, love that era, love music, new wave. What are you listening to Dawn?

Dawn Mueller (07:52):

I like all kinds of music, but something about the ’80s music just gets me going.

Mike (07:57):


Dawn Mueller (07:57):

Yep. Yep.

Mike (07:58):

You’re there with me.

Dawn Mueller (07:59):

Yep. When I’m working from home, I tend to-

Mike (08:01):

Brings you back.

Dawn Mueller (08:02):

… have Spotify put ’80s music on.

Mike (08:02):

Brings us back.

Dawn Mueller (08:07):

It does. Gets us energized.

Mike (08:09):

Do you have a favorite song?

Dawn Mueller (08:11):

Not really a favorite song, but I do like a lot of Billy Idol’s music.

Mike (08:11):

Oh, yeah. All right.

Dawn Mueller (08:13):

Yeah, I stalk Billy Idol. I’ve seen The Cars. I’ve seen a lot of groups back then.

Mike (08:21):

Billy Idol was my first ever concert.

Dawn Mueller (08:23):


Mike (08:23):

With the Rebel Yell Tour.

Dawn Mueller (08:24):

Oh yes. Yes.

Mike (08:26):

With the lip. I got the lip going. This is an audio podcasts folks, but with the rebel yell, more, more, more. Oww.

Dawn Mueller (08:36):


Mike (08:36):

Nice day for a white wedding. Classic. The Cars, put any of that on and I’m back in my car, cruising with my mullet and my Wayfarers on.

Dawn Mueller (08:49):

Yes. I have my big hair.

Mike (08:50):

Yeah. Those were good times. Great, great memories. So Dawn, I know you’re a fan of the show. You’ve heard, we like to inspire our audience to be innovators. Do you have a motivational or inspirational quote you can share?

Dawn Mueller (09:04):

Yes. I have a few that I go by. One is you have to get into it before you can get out of it.

Mike (09:11):

You have to get into it before you can get out of it. Or anything out of it.

Dawn Mueller (09:14):

Yes. It’s just, even if there’s something you don’t want to do, you just get into it and get it going, get it done. And then you can get out of it.

Mike (09:22):

Oh, I see. So if it’s something you’re hesitating. Mr. Procrastinator, right here. Want to avoid that thing. But get into it and then you can get out of it and then it’s behind you.

Dawn Mueller (09:33):


Mike (09:33):


Dawn Mueller (09:34):


Mike (09:35):

What else you got?

Dawn Mueller (09:36):

And the other one is, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Mike (09:41):

Oh yeah.

Dawn Mueller (09:42):

That’s why IFMA is so important to me.

Mike (09:44):


Dawn Mueller (09:45):

Through my whole career, it’s been IFMA, the people that you meet.

Mike (09:50):

Access to those experts in all things facility management, and workplace services, technologies. Just an amazing network of people with different backgrounds and experiences. And really genuine friendships are formed in that organization. Don’t you agree?

Dawn Mueller (09:50):

I agree.

Mike (10:10):

Just a short time ago, Dawn, we spoke on a panel for the Workplace Evolutionaries-

Dawn Mueller (10:14):

Yes, we did.

Mike (10:15):

… in the WE Hub, Mid-Atlantic. And it was a productivity conversation. Great guests. It was me … Well, I wasn’t great.

Dawn Mueller (10:24):

Yes you were.

Mike (10:26):

It was you. And we had an anthropologist, I think. Was it an anthropologist?

Dawn Mueller (10:31):

Yes. Yes.

Mike (10:32):

Kate Lister, great researcher on workplace and all things productivity. She could really put the data behind what we were talking about. Did anything come from that conversation that inspired you?

Dawn Mueller (10:44):

Well, here at WRI, we have some managers who say, “Well, I can’t have my staff not work here because I don’t know what they’re doing if they’re not in the office. I can’t see them.” So one of the, I forget who said it, but they’re like, “A response to that is, are you standing behind them watching them key?” And you’re not.

Mike (10:44):

Right. Yeah you don’t need to look over their shoulder.

Dawn Mueller (11:04):

You just can see him down the hall. So I’ve been using that with some of the managers and getting them say, “Oh yeah, you’re right.” And trying to be more flexible with their staff.

Mike (11:16):

That’s a culture question, right?

Dawn Mueller (11:18):


Mike (11:18):

That’s something that we need to really look at holistically and leadership has to be on board. So how would you describe the culture here? Is it one in general where people are encouraged to do their best work in whatever way and wherever, whenever works best for them?

Dawn Mueller (11:36):

Because we started out with 200 people, now we have 475, we don’t have enough desks for everybody to sit in. So people have assigned desks. And the people that flex do not and they have to reserve a desk. So we actually have software that will let them schedule a desk. We have them do it, they can schedule two weeks at a time, up to two months out. We don’t let people, “Oh, I’m just going to schedule this desk for the next year.” Because they’ve tried to do that.

Mike (12:06):

Real world stories with Dawn Mueller. That’s great.

Dawn Mueller (12:11):

And we use iOFFICE to schedule the desks, to reserve the desks. There’s lots of features we can do on it. We do service requests. We can do moves on the software. I think it’s really important for companies to have some kind of system in place to help employees find desks.

            We’re actually looking at our international offices now. In our India office, people come in and then they just stand until they see an empty desk and then they go sit down. And then someone else comes in and says, “No, that’s my desk.” So we have another office in Indonesia that’s keeping track of it with Excel spreadsheets. So it’s really important to come up with some kind of technology.

            I think in today’s world, people want technology. They want it on their desktops. They want it on their phones. We actually had an intern that said that the software that we use is as easy as Instagram.

Mike (13:08):

That’s amazing because that reflects that goal, which Gartner, the software analysts, describe as the digital workplace being defined by consumerization of these software tools in the workplace. We have this expectation in our personal lives. We want to have that same level of ease and experience. Just like Instagram in our personal lives, we want to have that same experience with the business tools we use. And that’s a rare thing these days, but getting better, which is great to hear.

Dawn Mueller (13:37):

Yeah, we have to have a lot of different software here, especially with people traveling around the world so that we can get instant messages to each other. So we use different software for that. Technology has to work in the conference rooms. We have a lot of meetings with around the world. And so it’s really important for all our technology to talk to each other and to work really well or people get frustrated.

Mike (14:05):

And these stories, Dawn, remind me of many of the things I’ve heard you say on panels that, as an FM professional, you have a real opportunity to help the organization attract the right talent and retain those you already have. And you’ve been doing this a long time. Have you seen your role evolve with what would traditionally be personnel issues or what, in the old days, we think of are more HR issues? Is it different today? Or is it just that we’re recognizing the impact that the space and the FM professional can have in the workplace today?

Dawn Mueller (14:35):

I see, over my career, that I’ve been more involved with human resources and just planning the employee experience. And it’s the work we do that, really, people love. But when they get here, I want them also to feel really comfortable and then to enjoy coming to the office.

            We remodeled four years ago and we had all exterior offices and we took all the exterior offices, tore them down, built up on the interior with glass. So there could be a lot more natural light for all our employees. The offices can have natural light coming in. And we had 60 offices, 240 workstations, and we flipped that. So we have a lot more workstations, touchdowns, and we have large touchdown, small touchdowns and offices. So people can reserve whatever space they need for that particular day or even a couple hours. Sometimes I’ll reserve an office for a couple of hours if I need some heads down quiet.

Mike (15:34):

In today’s world, we recognize the opportunity to impact the happiness of people. You mentioned the comfort. And then that leads to more productivity and more fulfillment and bringing people together to do their best work that ties to the mission of the organization. So here at WRI, you have a great mission. Do you see that in action? I think we often hear that the millennials want to be aligned with the mission of their employer. But I think all of us want to feel like we are contributing to something greater than ourselves. Do you see that in the real world?

Dawn Mueller (16:03):

Well, now I’ve had 17 years experience in nonprofits. And I had 14 years before I moved here. And when I came here, I said, “I will not work anywhere else but a nonprofit again.” So it’s my choice. And I feel like I get so much more out of a nonprofit because they have such a fabulous mission. Not to cut down for profit places, but I’ve just felt a huge difference. So we’re here for a reason. We’re here to change the world, change the employee experience. I’m not out stopping deforestation, but I’m making my staff here a lot more comfortable with the work that they have to do.

            We have a lot of researchers. People have to have different workspaces. Kay Sargent talks about neurodiversity.

Mike (16:53):

Yes. I’ve seen her recent articles about that.

Dawn Mueller (16:54):

Yeah. And so she came and I just recently saw her speak. Some people need heads down quiet. We have a library here that people have to be quiet in, but they’ll just come and sit on the sofa with their laptops and work. We have some people that go to our cafe that work. They have to collaborate all the time, so there’s areas where they’re talking more and collaborating, working together. And then we have quiet areas too.

Mike (17:20):

Yeah. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of all the factors, not just about the type of work you’re doing, but the type of person you are and the way you process noise and light. And finding a way to offer as many different choices to those employees is essential to achieve our goals.

Dawn Mueller (17:38):

What I’ve learned in my last job, with working with so many psychiatrists and therapists and with our kids, is that even the color of a wall can affect people. So you really have to try to mix it up so that people can go to a space and work where they feel comfortable.

            If Dawn Mueller’s not at her desk, she must not be working. It’s not really the mentality that we have here.

Mike (18:04):

Good. So there’s nobody standing at the front of the room going, “Mueller.”

Dawn Mueller (18:08):


Mike (18:09):


Dawn Mueller (18:10):

Well, sometimes when they’re teasing me.

Mike (18:12):

Anybody seen Dawn Mueller today? That joke will never get old. I think I’ll use that from now on.

Dawn Mueller (18:17):

No. No. My husband didn’t warn me about that one.

Mike (18:21):

Well, this has been great, Dawn. I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me here at WRI and thank you for being on the Workplace Innovator Podcast.

Dawn Mueller (18:29):

Thank you, Mike. It was really fun.

Mike (18:32):

There you have it everyone. Dawn Mueller of WRI, sharing just a little bit about what inspires her as a facility management professional. As you could tell, Dawn has a joy that is infectious. And our discussion really brought a smile to my face as I hope it did yours because that is certainly something we can all use right now. So thank you, Dawn.

            And if you’d like to hear more conversations like this one, I hope you will visit, where you can explore over 100 podcast episodes, each designed to bring you the information and encouragement you need to be a workplace innovator. Peace out.

            You’ve been listening to the workplace innovator podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOFFICE can help you create an employee centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience visit


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As the host of both the Workplace Innovator Podcast and the Asset Champion Podcast, Mike's role at Eptura is to share thought leadership with CRE, FM, and IT leaders in the digital and hybrid workplace. As an in-demand public speaker, Mike engages audiences with his focus on the human element of workplace and facility management at International Facility Management Association, CoreNet, and other industry events.

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