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With the new year comes new possibilities, particularly for four newbies in the Business of Happiness! Phua Hui Yi wants to make every day in 2019 count as she continues to grow in her dream job that combines her love for the hotel industry with her love for numbers.

#BizofHappiness #Workforahotel #PassionMadePossible #100AmbassadorsOfHappiness

How long have you been in the hotel industry so far? Including my internship while I was in school, I’ve been in the hotel industry for almost three years now.

Why did you choose to study Hotel and Leisure Facilities Management? When I was picking a course in Polytechnic, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. So I did what everyone else did – hopped from school to school to look at the various courses they offered. Nothing really caught my eye until I stepped into Singapore Polytechnic’s Open House. That was where I came across the Hotel and Leisure Facilities Management course and I knew right away that this was what I wanted to pursue.

In school, we had a lot of hands-on learning experiences. In my first year, I was able to go on a cruise with my schoolmates for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour on the ship. We observed how the front office staff worked, how the kitchens were run and all that. It was an eye-opening experience; something that I would never have gotten the chance to do if I were simply a guest on a cruise.

What made you decide to join the hotel industry full-time? During my internship here at Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, I was able to take on various roles. For example, I was attached to the kitchen of the hotel’s restaurant, as well as the executive lounge and the hotel’s call centre. These experiences gave me a taste of what it’s like to work in various departments of a hotel, and it also exposed me to the Marriott culture, where they put associates and staff first.

I was able to learn in a friendly and family-like environment which made me feel comfortable and eager to pursue a career in a hotel. My daily interactions with guests also ignited my passion for hospitality, so when I was offered the advanced diploma programme by Republic Polytechnic under the SkillsFuture Earn & Learn Programme, I accepted the offer and joined the hotel industry full-time as a Guest Relations Agent while I studied part-time.

I pursued a part-time degree in Finance while I was working in Front Office, and actually left the industry to join the finance field upon graduation. But when I found out about the opening in the hotel’s finance department, I seized the opportunity immediately to rejoin the same hotel as an Accounting Officer. So I’m really happy to have found a way to explore my interest in finance and my passion for the hospitality industry at the same time — and back at the hotel I love at that!

What has your experience been like in both your roles at the hotel so far? I’ve always wanted to fully understand how the hotel works – the flow, operations, as well as how the back-of-house supports the operational team in carrying out the daily operations in the hotel. I’m able to get exposure through both roles.

When I was working in the Front Office, I was able to experience what it’s like working on the frontline, directly interacting with the guests. As an Accounting Officer now in the Finance department, I do a lot of back-end work like credit card reconciliation and billings to third-party organisations that have contracts with or have held events at the hotel. I also keep track of internal and external guest accounts, to ensure that the hotel receives payment from our guests promptly.

Does your experience while working in the Front Office help you with your current role? Yes, of course! For Accounts Receivable, which is what I’m overseeing, we receive a lot of documents and reports from the front of the house. Because of my front office experience, I am able to understand those reports better, which makes it easier for me to do my job.

Have you faced any challenges so far? If so, what are some of those challenges – and how do you overcome them? In this industry, you’ll face challenges every day. For example, when I was working in Front Office, I sometimes had to face guests who arrived early and were unhappy because they couldn’t check into their rooms immediately. In those situations, I simply put myself in their shoes. Perhaps they’ve had a long journey, and just wanted a comfortable place to rest.

I will then try to find a compromise, perhaps by offering them a complimentary breakfast where they can enjoy a nice meal or by working with Housekeeping and Engineering to get their rooms ready as soon as possible.

In accounting, we have to be really careful when balancing the numbers. It can get a little tedious, but it just takes some patience and focus.

So what’s the biggest challenge that you’ve faced so far? I’d say that the biggest challenge would be not knowing what challenges to expect. Because we work with guests from all over the world, they may have different needs and wants. What may work for one guest may not work for another, so we always have to stay on our toes and adapt to different situations.

What do you love most about working in the hotel industry? The human interaction! I get to speak with different people from all over the world and it made me realise how fulfilling it is to be able to understand someone’s needs and empathise with them. It’s even sweeter when they show their appreciation for your help. Always being there for your guests or your colleagues can be challenging, but it is my passion.

Do you have any career goals or resolutions for 2019? For 2019, I would love to improve myself and learn more about the other functions of the hotel’s finance department.

I also hope to inspire and encourage those who work in hospitality to keep up the work that they do. It can get tough, and a lot of people give up along the way. But I want to remind them that what we do is more than just serving others – we’re brightening people’s lives and journeys. And when we make a guest’s day better and happier, it makes our day as well.

Would you encourage other young Singaporeans to pursue a career in a hotel? Why? Yes, because working in the hotel industry provides you with knowledge that you would not be able to learn anywhere else. The opportunities you get to learn, to interact with others, or to do new things allow you to step out of your comfort zone. You’ll be able to experience and grow more than you’d expect!

What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? It may seem tough at the beginning, but never give up. You may not know what the future holds for you, but I can safely say that at the end of the day, all your effort will always pay off. At the very least, you will grow as a person. You’ll learn more about yourself and feel empowered to take on other challenges in life.