Learning & Leading in a Male-Dominated Field
Isabel Wormington is a Maintenance Department Manager with SSC Services for Education at Texas A&M University. While she didn’t get her degree in the field or even begin her career in the facilities industry, she has spent years learning, leading, and ultimately finding her passion as part of the SSC team. In celebration and recognition of the women making an impact behind the scenes at SSC, we sat down with Isabel to discuss her growth in the industry and her advice to other women.
About Isabel Wormington
Isabel earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M University- Texarkana in 2019 and her master’s degree in human resources development from the University of Texas at Tyler. She began her career as a retail manager for American Eagle Outfitters. After nearly seven years with the company, she realized that retail was not her passion and sought something new. Her recent move to College Station presented a unique opportunity: A role as Maintenance Coordinator with SSC Services for Education.
“I started with SSC as a maintenance coordinator, essentially an administrative assistant to a supervisor and a maintenance zone for our campus. I very quickly realized that I enjoyed the differences between this and retail, and anything else I had done. I then took over my zone as a supervisor, and now I am currently a department manager for the maintenance department here at the same account. I never planned on doing facilities. I never planned on being in maintenance. No little girl you know, wakes up and says ‘You know, I think facility maintenance is where I’m going to go,’ but I absolutely love the field.”
Making A Change
It’s becoming increasingly common to see individuals changing careers and even fields. There is a significant amount to learn along the way when it comes to a shift from the retail industry to facilities maintenance. Isabel is familiar with the learning curve and recognizes that making the shift as a woman can be even more challenging. What she found most helpful in the process was getting a hands-on understanding that there is a difference between knowing how systems work and seeing how systems work firsthand.
“A lot of my knowledge has been provided by my superiors and mentors. I would go to them and say, ‘Hey, let’s just go walk through this. I want to see what things really look like.’ It is so helpful to get out in the field with people who know what they’re doing, and that was instrumental in our relationship too. I would say, ‘Hey, I know you’re changing light bulbs in five buildings, do you want an extra hand?’”
Isabel’s hands-on approach and willingness to learn from her teams perfectly align with her advice to women looking to enter the facilities industry: Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know.
“We need you here in the room. You can learn about HVAC. You can learn about plumbing. You can learn about the rest of facilities and construction. That’s all stuff you can learn. What can’t be taught is the other soft skills you will bring to the office space. Your different viewpoints cannot be taught. Your life experiences cannot be taught. Those are things we need. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Instead, be empowered by what you can contribute already. And start, you know, just reach out and start. It’s a really fun field, and it isn’t going anywhere.”
Leading a Team
Isabel has gone above and beyond just entering the facilities industry; She is now a leader, managing teams of skilled laborers and professionals on campus. When she joined SSC, Isabel already had leadership experience, but leading a maintenance team comes with unique challenges. Managers don’t always know how to perform each of the tasks their team members do on a day-to-day basis, so it is essential to delegate, monitor workloads and ultimately trust your team.
“I can’t do everything on my own, so it’s up to me to lead the team to be productive. I try to be empathetic, because everyone has life going on, but I am also very intentional with the workload and how I delegate and direct technicians throughout the day. Most of my technicians enjoy that, because they all are used to hearing ‘I am the boss, and we are going to do this because I said so,’ but my goal has always been to create a communicative environment. I trust them to do what they need, which translates well into our working relationship.”
Isabel’s transition into the industry and growth into a leadership role serves is an excellent example of how to learn and lead well. We are grateful for her dedication to serving our education partners.