Polish native discovers new home and career with JLL
Agnieszka Vaqar cites JLL's culture as key to her positive employee experience and success
Navigating challenges and finding solutions is something every facilities manager at JLL faces on a day-to-day basis.
Agnieszka Vaqar is exceptional at this, but that would come as no surprise to those who know her best. Tackling changing environments and new obstacles is fairly common for the Polish transplant.
“When you don’t know anybody in a new country, it’s so hard to get started,” said Vaqar, who now lives in Atlanta. “At some point, I just told myself, I have to take things into my own hands.”
Since moving to the United States, Vaqar has worked her way up at JLL from a brokerage assistant to a Senior Facilities Manager for a major company in Atlanta at their global headquarters in just seven years.
Not to mention, in that short time Agnieszka obtained her U.S. citizenship, and recently completed her Masters of Business Administration with a double concentration in Operations Management and Leadership/ Organizational Behavior from Georgia State University. So, how does she do it?
We sat down with Agnieszka to learn about what drives her to achieve her ambitions and how JLL has helped her along the way.
Q: What brought you to the United States from Poland?
A: My husband actually. We met while I was studying abroad in Spain. We happened to be on the same bus traveling to Morocco and ended up dating long distance and would visit each other in the U.S. and Poland. Two years later, he flew back to Poland and proposed to me. Then we had to decide where we wanted to live and for us, it was easier for me to move to the U.S. because my husband doesn’t speak Polish.
Q: What challenges did you face when you first came here?
A: I had to wait for my Green Card which takes six months to a year to receive. During that time you cannot leave the U.S. at all. We had one car, and I had no job so I spent my days alone at home. It was such a hard adjustment for me because I never thought I would feel so isolated from the outside world. In that time, I wish I had the perspective to see the future and know everything would work out. But after the pity party and feeling down on myself, I decided to take things into my own hands. I found a Polish networking group in Atlanta and went for a couple meetings. That’s when things started improving.
Q: How did you end up at JLL?
A: I made a Polish friend in the networking group, and we had a lot in common. She worked at JLL and told me what a great company it was. She knew they were looking for brokerage assistants on another team and after the interviews, I got the job.
Q: You’ve come a long way since that first role at JLL. Tell us about your career path.
A: I was in that role for a year and got my salesperson license in Georgia. After a certain point, I felt like I needed a new challenge and I moved to the Corporate Solutions side of our business. I went from a brokerage assistant to working as a Senior Analyst in Corporate Solutions for the South Region. The role was a hybrid of helping oversee the accounts in the south, pursuits and administrative work.
My goal was to eventually move onto an account and a year and half into that role, an assistant facilities manager job opened on a large, global healthcare account. I was in that role for two years and after taking on some senior projects and proving myself, I got promoted to facilities manager. After another year of proving myself I was promoted to Account Manager for Ryder Systems, Inc. I spent 1.5 years in that role and was promoted to my current role on an account as the Senior Facilities Manager for a major global company in Atlanta.
Q. You have had several roles at JLL. How do you carry your skills over from one role to the next?
A: No matter which client I serve, I try to bring along knowledge from past experiences relationship building and my JLL network. For example, I was able to bring in some JLL contacts from the Project Management Team to help Ryder with some of their projects. Now, I use the managerial experience I gained at Ryder to help with data analysis, quarterly business reviews, financial reporting, and team management. Every role I’ve had has been different, but I try to find ways to use my previous experience and share best practices to bring value to my clients.
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Q: How have you had to adapt during the pandemic and the changing work environment?
A: My client’s headquarters is a 2.5-million-square-foot campus of class A premium office space. On a campus of this size there will always be challenges, and you need to respond quickly and professionally.
When Covid-19 started no one grasped the magnitude of the situation. Luckily, we were able to purchase large quantities of hand sanitizers and wipes before the supply channels shut down. After the initial shock we started to build a portfolio of Covid-19 protocols and playbooks that would help our team and our client operate under the new safety conditions.
These best practices were shared and implemented across the globe and included items such as Covid-19 janitorial disinfection, HVAC operations, contact tracing procedures and on-site protocols for social distancing and mask wearing. We also immediately enacted strict control of operating budget expenses to conserve cash for our client. None of us had experience dealing with a global pandemic but we all came together as one team and ensured the safety of the client’s employees.
Q. What do you enjoy about your work?
A: I love to make people happy. I feel like this job is awesome because every day there’s a different challenge and potential problem to solve and if I can do that successfully, that’s very rewarding. My job is not just about making the facility run smoothly. It’s also about making sure we elevate the client experience. Loving where you work every day is what promotes retention and I take pride in being able to directly impact that. If the client is happy, I’m happy. That means I’m doing my job right.
Q: How has JLL helped you achieve your own goals?
A: This might sound cliché, but what I love about JLL is the culture. It’s competitive—I’m competitive by nature—but also very collaborative and it motivates you to do your best. Because I’m Polish, a woman and English is my second language, it was amazing to me how I was able to build my career. I worked my way up through my own dedication and grit, and JLL was with me every step of the way, even helping me pay for my MBA through educational assistance. This year JLL selected me for the Big Bet Talent program that is only offered to 100 employees annually. This program includes Better Up Executive Coaching that involves having a personal coach that meets with you on a weekly basis to help develop your leadership skills.
If you want to accomplish something at JLL, you can. I networked with people through groups like the Women’s Business Network and the Young Guns Alumni. I could be the poster child for JLL because I love the company and it has given me so much. JLL helped fuel my ambitions, and for that, I am so grateful.