Employee Spotlight

FSI Celebrates Charles van der Laan, A CMMS Implementation Expert

Wrapping up our National Healthcare Facilities and Engineering celebration, meet one of our amazing Implementation Project Managers, Charles van der Laan.

We’re celebrating ASHE’s Healthcare Facilities and Engineering Week by spotlighting some of our employees. We interviewed Charles van der Laan. Charles is an Implementation Project Manager. His job is to make our customers' dreams a reality.

Learn more about his background in healthcare, the time he was a docent at a decorative art museum, and all the hard work he does every day at FSI.

Tell us about your background.

I’ve been all over. I started in the hospitals as a Biomedical Clinical Engineer. I have also been the Director of Clinical Engineering and the Director of a department for four hospitals at the same time. I got the majority of my experience with facilities in that role. 

I was also the hospital safety officer and the chair of the EOC (environment of care). That's where my experience was gained with knowledge of the facility itself, such as the utilities and the construction, not just where my background was with the clinical side.

I then had an opportunity to go to a national manufacturing company as the regional manager. I gained a great deal of knowledge of the university aspects of equipment, pharmaceutical companies. They all have the same need for a CMMS program. 

So my entire career has been embedded in technology from day one.

What is your current role at FSI?

Implementation Project Manager. My responsibility is to take the customer’s dreams and make them a reality. It sounds cliche, but it’s true.

I find out what the customer needs and expects and then guide them to get to that point using our program. That's really what my role is. I get them implemented, get the program up and running for them so that they're satisfied. Then we turn it over to our customer support team to maintain them over the life of their agreement.

It's been surprising because I have been involved in CMMS programs and with technology for so long. And yet there are so many customers who have yet to embrace the technology and still rely on documentation paper-wise.

They're afraid that the surveyors will not accept paper, so they stay away from electronics. In reality, 15 years ago, I was going through Joint Commission surveys using my laptop computer. 

I'm encouraged by the fact that more facilities departments are becoming involved with electronics. I’m also encouraged every time a customer implements our system and becomes confident in their data without using paper.

I've had the opportunity to work with many different organizations, not just hospitals. I was able to implement an airport authority, a county authority outside of Baltimore, and even an unusual community development building. I've kind of built a niche here, I guess. 

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

I enjoy the challenge of working with customers and learning the different aspects of their business. Every customer is different, and regardless of their organization, they're all looking for the same type of service. I don't know every piece of equipment out there or everybody's business. And that has been interesting, being able to learn those different things and meet everyone’s needs.

It’s a fun process on my part to have to learn what they're doing with their equipment. What their expectations are to use the program and then be able to come up with ways to make that happen.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

One interesting pastime that I enjoyed in South Florida was scuba diving.

I love to camp and travel. That’s actually something I enjoy about my job. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and represent FSI, both domestically and overseas. 

I also enjoy decorative art history. I was a docent at a local decorative art museum for about 25 years. I volunteered on Saturday, giving tours of the house, Villa Vizcaya. All the rooms at the property were designed to be different decorative art periods from the 15th and 16th centuries. Everything there came from Europe.

And even now, when I travel, either with family or for business, I'm always looking at the historical homes’ architectural designs. It's an interesting hobby.

What is your favorite movie?

There are so many of them. The one that immediately comes to mind is Casablanca.

I just can't get enough of it. I watch it over and over when I have the opportunity. I could probably quote every line in there, but I love the very end when he tells Louis that this is going to be a great relationship and when he stays behind and lets the girl go on the plane and leave. So, yeah, that's probably one of my all-time favorites.

Now, if you wanted to do modern, of course, I would say The Godfather, but you know, everybody loves The Godfather.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving food? 

Broccoli casserole. You give me a good broccoli cheese casserole, and that's fair. I'll be happy.

We have a blended family. My wife is of Cuban heritage, and at Thanksgiving, we have two different meals.

We do the traditional American meal with turkey and all the sides. Then we do one with Latin dishes. All of her family comes to our house, and we have our second Thanksgiving—I'm going to be smoking up brisket this year.

Do you have an example of a story that made you feel satisfied with your job?

My favorite story was when I did work with CURE International, implementing the CMMS to their hospitals around the world. I got to visit eight or nine different African countries and then the Philippines and spend a week at each facility. I got to take the program to the majority of the world really. I got to introduce them to technology, a software package that they can put on iPads. 

I got to go to those hospitals and see what tremendous good that they did with limited resources; it’s amazing how they did so much with so little. The people there always had their arms open to me, were always smiling and welcoming.

It was incredible getting to take this technology and give it to them and see how they embraced it—before, they didn’t even have a paper system. They went from “if it breaks, we fix it.” to “oh, now we have an electronic version to keep track of things.” That was probably one of the things that I'm very pleased about and very grateful for the opportunity.

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