Mark Schilmoeller loves seeing things flourish. He comes from a big family of six kids and has seven children with his lovely wife. When he isn’t managing one of the largest departments at FACTS, you can find him cultivating his garden of flowers, vegetables, and strawberries.
What’s one of the things you like best about working at FACTS?
I’ve worked at Nelnet and FACTS for 31 years, and every day I get the opportunity to work with great individuals who are passionate about their work.
In my current position as the managing director of operations, I interact on a daily basis with so many different areas of the company. Operations, sales, accounting, product — pick any area of the organization — and you will find associates at all levels that enjoy the work they do. They are passionate about providing consistently high-quality customer service (both externally and internally), and are having fun and making friendships with their fellow associates.
It really is the people and the culture of FACTS that makes working here the best.
What does your job entail?
I oversee all of K-12 and Higher Ed Operations, from client implementation and support, to payer and applicant services. My job is to provide a consistent vision based on our strategic initiatives and always improve efficiencies.
Operations is responsible for onboarding new clients and meeting our clients’ needs. We always strive to exceed the client’s expectations with our dedicated team of implementation specialists and account managers. We also have a fantastic team in payer and applicant services. They handle all student and parent inquiries related to FACTS payment plans and financial aid applications.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Most of the challenges we face in operations are due to how rapidly technology is advancing. We have to be agents of change for schools and help them navigate the best ways to implement change. Our solutions serve a lot of different people — families, administrators, teachers, and more — so we need to have the tools and knowledge to assist them.
What are some of the things you enjoy about your job?
One thing I value about FACTS is that sharing, testing, and implementing new ideas is not only encouraged, but expected.
I also enjoy the variety from hour-to-hour. One minute I might be meeting with the executive team and discussing long-range strategic planning, and the next minute I’m visiting with an associate about a client wanting to add an additional service.
What do you like about working in the education industry?
Everybody wins when you’re learning. I feel passionately about FACTS’ mission to elevate education. Education creates opportunity.
What do you wish you’d known starting out your career?
- Pulling with your team toward a common focus is much easier than pulling by yourself towards an individual goal.
- Try to surround yourself with good people who are smarter than you and will challenge you to be better.
- A group of focused individuals can accomplish amazing things when they set their mind to it. FACTS is a perfect example of that.
If someone was looking to move into management, what skills are essential?
- Emotional intelligence. You must be able to relate and interact with a wide variety of individuals. Engage with people and listen to their stories and experiences. We, as managers, know that empathy goes a long way to making someone’s day more enjoyable. The simplest interaction, just saying, “Have a good day!” can change a person’s mood or attitude.
- Time management. There’s always something that needs to be done, but you should work a plan, rather than plan to work.
- Cast a vision. People like to know the work they’re doing is driving towards a bigger goal. We’re committed to casting a vision at FACTS that inspires everyone to daily strive to do their best.
What advice do you have for other supervisors/managers of people?
Take the time to get to know what’s important to the people around you. Recognize them for their accomplishments, large or small. Ask how they’re doing and what management can do to improve, then listen.
What are you proudest of from your work at FACTS?
I’m most proud of seeing the people I’ve worked with in my department go on to take leadership roles.
What advice would you give people just starting out in their career?
People get hung up on climbing the corporate ladder. Instead, think of climbing a lattice — making a lateral move can be smart if it helps you gain more experience and understanding of your company. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the norm.