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After a decade with the Boy Scouts of America serving as its director of information technologies in the 1990s and early 2000s, Julie Schwartzapfel decided to take a break from full-time work to focus on her three children. She reentered the workforce a decade later, embarking on a journey that has led her to become the director of facilities at one of New York City’s most impressive buildings, 555 West 18th Street.
The building, home to the world headquarters of tech and media conglomerate IAC Inc., was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. Composed entirely of a curtain wall of fritted glass, the 10-story building, which resembles transparent sails, captivates onlookers with its unique design.
In charge of its care is Schwartzapfel and her amazing team of operations and experience managers, engineers, and facilities associates who help her manage this impressive structure that is composed of 95,000 square feet of double-glazed, curved glass, giving the building its distinctive appearance. The certified facility manager recently celebrated her first anniversary with IAC; while she continues to blossom in new directions, she’s also intent on passing along the lessons she’s learned in her diverse and ever-evolving career.
Her early years with the Boy Scouts didn’t exactly create a low-key job to walk away from and included a significant project in the Empire State Building, a state-of-the-art facility in the late ’90s that showcased her expertise in networking, operating systems, and emerging technologies.
“I built my career by navigating through diverse and ever-evolving technologies,” Schwartzapfel recalls. “The industry was progressing so fast, and there was always new technology to learn. When I was pregnant with my youngest, I decided that it was time for a change.”
A twist of fate occurred when Schwartzapfel, during her years as soccer mom and active PTA participant, found herself drawn into a career in facilities she never anticipated through relationships she was making through the PTA.
After Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, a connection from the PTA led to an opportunity with a prominent engineering and architecture firm. This led to the build-out and oversight of a project office for the Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts for New Jersey Transit, marking the beginning of Schwartzapfel’s second career in facilities.
Schwartzapfel jokes that at that point, her 12-year-old was “completely done” with her, and the offer came at the perfect time. “The VP needed someone to manage this whole operation and reached out to me to come and join the firm. That’s really where my second career in facilities began,” she says.
During this time, Schwartzapfel would also get the chance to manage another office build-out in the Empire State Building, before moving on to manage multiple offices for Creative Artists Agency (CAA). During her tenure with CAA, she oversaw a significant build-out in the iconic Chrysler Building, establishing the agency as the largest tenant at that time. Her growing reputation for facilities expertise became a pivotal factor in her career trajectory, ultimately propelling her to IAC, where she is now responsible for facilities and operations.
At IAC, Schwartzapfel is entrusted with maintaining this massive world of glass, with procurement and replacement efforts dictating a lot of her time. But there is so much more. Her responsibilities extend beyond aesthetics, encompassing sustainable practices, energy procurement, and compliance with environmental standards.
With Schwartzapfel’s assistance, IAC’s building successfully secured its esteemed LEED Gold Certification, marking a significant milestone. Schwartzapfel’s leadership further led to the attainment of an impressive Energy Star A rating for IAC headquarters in New York City.
Presently, she is at the forefront, spearheading initiatives to align with recently established carbon emission standards and overseeing the retrofitting of the building to meet the stringent deadlines set by New York City’s local laws. This will involve implementing measures to enhance energy efficiency, incorporating renewable energy sources, and adhering to environmentally sustainable practices to minimize the carbon footprint of the facility.
As a leader who returned to corporate work later in her career, Schwartzapfel attributes a significant portion of her success to the valuable lessons learned through motherhood. Her experience raising two millennials and a Gen Z-er equipped her with a distinctive perspective, molding her leadership style to emphasize the bigger picture and foster independent thinking within her team.
“The work environment had evolved during my hiatus, but returning, I had firsthand insights into the workforce with a fresh set of eyes,” she says. “The world was a different place when I came back, but I had witnessed firsthand how my children interacted and acquired knowledge. This experience reshaped my approach to leadership, influencing me to adopt a markedly different perspective.”
Schwartzapfel’s leadership mantra is “it takes a village,” which underscores her collaborative approach. Regular discussions allow for shared learning from projects, fostering an environment where her team can contribute ideas and problem-solve independently.
This director passionately feels that “facilities is an incredible field,” and expresses hope that more young individuals will recognize that a “career in facilities spans across numerous areas of expertise.” Schwartzapfel transcends being merely a professional or a shining example of the success post-career gap; she emerges as a fervent advocate for the facilities space and the built environment.
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