How long have you been in the hotel industry? I have been in the industry since 2009, so almost 10 years now.
What made you decide to join the industry? When I was at university, I was on a scholarship from CapitaLand. One of the scholarship’s requirements was to work for the company after graduating. Being young, I just knew that the most important thing to do when you start your career was to learn as much as you can. But the moment I joined my first hotel, I knew that this is the industry I want to be in for a long time.
How has your career journey been so far?
The past 10 years have been quite a ride. A year before I graduated, I was offered an internship at CapitaLand Limited in 2009. A year later, I began my first full-time job in the same company I started out as a Management
Executive under the Graduate Development Program to nurture the talents of fresh graduates. My first property was Somerset Liang Court. I rotated between departments to learn their functions and operations. I did everything
from Front Office to Security, which gave me a good understanding of all departments.
After that, I was promoted to Assistant Residence Manager and moved to Somerset Grand Cairnhill which is now Ascott Orchard Singapore. I assisted the General Manager in managing and closing the property for redevelopment.
Immediately after the redevelopment closure, the company relocated me to Jakarta where I became a Residence Manager. That was a challenging experience as I took on a bigger role in a foreign environment for the first time. I spent two years there, and then moved to Kuala Lumpur. I managed Somerset Ampang and pre-opened two other properties in Malaysia at the same time. Overall, I enjoyed my time working abroad. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to work and live in different countries.
In 2016, I moved back to Singapore where I became the GM for two properties. In 2017, I pre-opened Oakwood Premier and have been here since.
Has it always been your end goal to become a GM? When I first started, it didn’t cross my mind that I would get this far. It was only after working for a few years that I realised I wanted to become a GM. I think it’s important that you should focus on your next immediate steps, regardless of where you are in your career. Taking small steps will eventually get you closer to big goals.
Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis?
I oversee 10 departments, half of which are operational departments and the other half supporting administrative departments.
The first thing I always do is to check the breakfast service. Breakfast is crucial to our property because we believe that our breakfast menu is the best amongst serviced apartments. I will also sit down and observe the service standards of the waiters and their interaction with our guests – we aim to deliver the best breakfast experience in serviced apartments.
Next, I sit down with the department heads for our daily meeting, and we go through their updates and reports. During these meetings, I help guide my team with their work. Since each department has its own priorities, I sometimes play the role of a judge between departments and make a fair decision in the interest of the entire property.
I do a lot of administrative paperwork in the morning. I would be vetting reports to owners and corporate office and ensure that we submit the most accurate information for regular reporting. I’d also meet each department head to discuss in detail their updates, negotiations and operational concerns. In the afternoon, I like to walk around the property and check out the public areas. Occasionally, I check on other departments, see how they’re doing and make sure that everything is on point. My internship and early career days gave me a better understanding of how departments operate, so I’m able to assess which tasks can and can’t be done.
What is it like to be a young leader in the industry? It’s been an eye-opening experience. As a young GM, I have to prove that I have the substance to lead and get the job done. But that’s what makes this industry rewarding; you have opportunities to prove yourself and be recognised for your work. Your reputation precedes you. When you do a task really well, colleagues will hear about it and begin entrusting you with bigger tasks.
Did you have any mentors who guided you when you first started working in the industry? Yes, I was lucky to learn from the GMs that I worked under. My first GM taught me how to be patient, and made sure I was on the right path to achieving my goals. When I was in Jakarta, I had a seasoned Regional GM who was very kind. He observed the way I solved problems, and gave guidance when I needed it. Then, the VP of Operations for Oakwood met me at a site visit, believed in me and offered me the opportunity to be Oakwood Premier’s GM. I was very impressed with him as a boss because he treated me as if I was one of his peers.
Congratulations on winning two awards at the Serviced Apartment Awards 2019 in London: The Best Property 71+ Units and Rising Star awards. How does it feel to represent Asian hospitality on an international stage like that?
I feel very honoured and humbled by it, and it’s all thanks to the great effort of my team and the support of my friends. The Best Property 71+ Award is given to the property with the most votes, so I’m very pleased to know
we’ve impressed enough people to support us. The Rising Star award is given to a nominee who has demonstrated great potential at a young age in the industry. It’s typically won by nominees from Europe or the US. This year, I
am very grateful that the judges went through my credentials and selected me to be this year’s recipient.
I believe that Singaporeans have all the right ingredients to succeed in the hospitality industry. We can speak the language of the West, but we’re able to connect with the cultures of the East. We have been trained since young to constantly seek the best results in everything we do – it’s our greatest advantage. So, it’s the right time for Singapore to shine in the international hospitality stage.
You’ve already achieved so much your career. Do you have any more goals that you hope to achieve during your time in the industry? Oakwood Premier is my focus right now. I want to continue positioning it as the best in class, both as serviced apartments and a city hotel. Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to take on a bigger portfolio in the future, such as a leadership role at the Group level.
What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry, and aspires to be a young GM like you? I think that the industry has a very bright future. Young Singaporeans are at an advantage not only because of the education system and language capabilities, but also because of their hunger to succeed. All you need to do is take that first step to join the Business of Happiness, and stay hungry.