Senior Director, Facilities Strategy & Operation for a prominent research institute

A prominent biomedical research institute contacted Helbling to find a leader for a newly created role because of our knowledge of facilities, knowledge of the local market, and understanding of their environment.
A prominent biomedical and genomic research institute—affiliated with two prestigious higher education institutions and their hospitals—contacted Helbling to find a leader for a newly created role. The organization determined a need for a position that would oversee operations as well as have strategic planning responsibilities while collaborating with the executive team.

The client selected Helbling for our knowledge of facilities, knowledge of the local market, including their constituent institutions, and our understanding of the unique environment in which they operate. Because the organization is mission-centric and their workplace reflects that, it was critical to recruit candidates who were open to the culture of the organization and could see themselves excelling there.

Helbling partnered with the institute’s Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and related Directors as well as a talent acquisition manager and a senior recruiter on the search for a Senior Director, Facilities Strategy & Operation. Following a planning session with the client team, our search consultants identified proficient facilities leaders from higher education and healthcare facilities, research institutes, biopharmaceutical research organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and tech companies. The corporate sector was included on this list because the client understood that it might produce candidates with greater financial and general business acumen.

The Helbling team also honed in on specific skills crucial for the role. Primarily, it was important to identify candidates who understand the complexities of working within a research environment, specifically an academic research environment. As the search evolved, the COVID-19 pandemic substantially impacted how our client viewed their working space requirements. Space planning experience and the ability to think strategically and provide innovative solutions to facilities and space challenges became more critical factors to evaluate in prospective candidates. Equally important, the leader needed to have the capacity to engage and communicate effectively with various stakeholders, including the institute’s board and end users. In addition to strong verbal communication skills, candidates were required to have excellent writing skills because a responsibility of the Senior Director is writing grant proposals for the institute.


Helbling provided the client with strong candidates from a variety of facility types. All embraced the importance of research and medical science. While possessing unique personality traits, they shared a commitment to customer service and the ability to make sound business decisions. The client team at the institute was very complimentary of the qualifications of candidates and pleased with the collaboration Helbling offered.

The selected candidate came from a well-known medical college. During her 14-year tenure there, she balanced the interests of leadership and stakeholders within a complex, multi-site environment. Her strong writing and analytical skills stood out as she managed facilities projects from concept to completion. 

Since joining the institute, the Senior Director has reorganized the team, creating a structure that better matches the environment and provides more opportunities for junior talent. She has reinforced relationships with scientists concerned about space allocation, and she is communicating with external brokers about the real estate landscape to support future space expansion discussions.

Learn about Helbling’s search process