Interview: Malcom Nixon, Head of Tenant Services, International Towers
Malcolm Nixon has spent the majority of his professional life in the service of others. Almost three decades in service- oriented roles with Qantas has given him a sixth sense in anticipating people’s needs and resolving challenges. The secret? Positive thinking, a positive culture and seamless teamwork.
Tell us about your journey.
I grew up in country NSW, in a town called Corowa. I worked on the farm before heading to Melbourne to study Interior Design and Architecture at RMIT. That was cut short when my father had a heart attack and I went back home to help on the property. By 25 I decided I had enough of country life and landed in Melbourne again, where I spent four years working for the Yellow Pages and as a jewellery designer before enrolling in the Qantas training course in Sydney to become a flight attendant. At that stage I had never left the country and didn’t even have a passport!
I spent the next 17 years in the air, first as a flight attendant, then a supervisor, and then a Customer Service Manager. To this day I believe that environment is one of the most challenging from a customer service perspective – you’re 36,000 feet in the air, with no immediate backup, servicing a hugely diverse mix of people who are often agitated. It’s possibly the ultimate challenge in service training and diplomacy!
I then applied for a Coordinator role for Qantas lounges, with the view of becoming a Lounge Manager one day. That responsibility saw me involved with a number of the lounges all over the world; working with designers, furniture manufacturers, food and beverage consultants, and a range of other experts to deliver a world-class service experience. It was both fascinating and challenging trying to create a near identical product across completely different countries and cultures.
I spent 26 years in total at Qantas – almost my entire professional life. Within that time I had 11 different roles, so as the company evolved, restructured and grew, so did my responsibilities. It was an incredible learning experience, particularly in relation to service and problem solving.
How did that experience support your role now at International Towers?
In many respects, I view International Towers as being not too dissimilar to the environment of a Boeing 747, or a large cruise ship. Every day, thousands of people from a hugely diverse background come together in this one place, and our role as the service managers of International Towers is much like the ‘unseen’ crew of an airline, working behind the scenes to ensure the experience is as seamless, comfortable and enjoyable as it can be.
How would you describe your day-to-day role and responsibilities?
I lead the Concierge and Tenant Services teams; so we’re responsible for managing all operational and customer service issues across International Towers on a daily basis. I’m also deeply involved with building a strong service base and culture for our unique working communities, which includes understanding and anticipating the needs of our community partners and trying to make their experience as efficient, dynamic, innovative and as pleasant as possible.
I feel so fortunate, because I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives every day, often in very unconventional and creative ways, such as enhancing a particular space with music and forming a collaboration with students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to do that. We really try to have purpose in everything we do, and ask ourselves, “How can we make this experience unique, how can this benefit the wider community, how can we do this sustainably?” Providing young students the opportunity to be paid to play their music in front of an appreciative audience and expose themselves to the theatrics of live performance is a great example of delivering something extraordinary to our communities.
Another one was our recent Christmas installation, featuring traditional Aboriginal Dilly Bags. It’s not traditional, in the sense of a typical Christmas tree, and some people might not understand the approach. But once they’ve been educated about it, they understand the links to Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, and our decision to support a craft that is possibly thousands of years old – in this case basket weaving – how our support helps keep these traditions alive and how our installation is profoundly sustainable – being made from recycled materials – then they make the connection to the spirit of generosity and sharing that Christmas is all about.
So once again, there is purpose in all that we do, and we seize every opportunity we can to challenge traditional thinking, and to make a positive contribution to our environment, and to celebrate the heritage and history of our site.
Obviously there’s a great deal of work in delivering something that goes beyond the ordinary, however when there is a commitment to a true culture of service, then this becomes our standard. It’s all about relationships, and treating every individual with respect, whether that be a visiting young violinist, or a worker within International Towers. And that same ethos tends to be inherent within the organisations that have been drawn to join our community. So in a way, when values are aligned, culture breeds culture.
How would you define the culture within the IT community?
The culture I believe International Towers has fostered, right from the start, has been curated by the vision of our Fund Manager, Liam Timms, who has had the determination to change the way corporate real estate was managed. Our culture is built on an unwavering values system, which permeates throughout the organisation. The very first stage of on-boarding selected new members of the team, and new tenant partners to International Towers is a cultural training program, so that all our values are aligned from the very start, before anything else. That is absolute evidence of how important our service culture is. Within a month or so of joining the organisation, everyone is treated to a special day off-site, usually at a beautiful hotel with wonderful food, where we all share and learn through our specially developed ‘BarangaYOU’ program. It provides everyone a foundation, or a baseline, on which everything else is built.