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Christmas is when hotels pull out all the stops and tricks to create magical experiences for their guests. In this festive series, three hotel employees share how they do their bit to surprise and delight guests during the festive period. Brand Project Manager Dora Tan is the secret Santa at Mandarin Orchard Singapore, helping to collect presents for over 1,500 children with special needs or illnesses so they can enjoy a memorable Christmas.

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How long have you been working in the hotel industry? 10 years.

Describe your career journey so far. My career in the industry began in a hotel’s branding and communications department. My initial role was leading the design team in conceptualising and delivering creative solutions to support the hotel’s brand and marketing strategy.

Recently, I was appointed as the brand project manager for the hotel group. My main task is to ensure that every branding project runs smoothly. In my role, I set the overarching vision for all our marketing and branding collaterals, and then assist the team in launching them in the hotel.

What is your role in your hotel’s Christmas celebrations? I’m in charge of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects such as Stars of Christmas, which is an annual community program championed by our parent company, OUE, together with Mandarin Orchard Singapore and Marina Mandarin Singapore, to bring Christmas cheer to underprivileged children and those with special needs and illnesses.

I have been involved in Stars of Christmas for about five years now, and I lead the coordination with the various beneficiaries. I work with them to consolidate a list with the children’s names, gender, age for Christmas. From there, we print them on stars and hang the stars on our hotels’ Christmas trees. We will also collect presents and donations from donors, who can be our guests, staff or anyone who wants to spread Christmas cheer to the children.

During the event itself, we invite the children to come to the hotel for some fun and games, before we give them their presents.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced when planning Stars of Christmas? Adapting to the scale of the project. We need to prepare gifts for over 1,500 children so it’s definitely not a typical project for us! After getting the gifts, we need to take the time to organise them, wrap them and make sure the right gift gets into the right child’s hands.

Christmas is usually when things begin to wind down, but over here, it’s the opposite! There are more guests to deal with, and more special requests to take care of. So taking on a project like Stars of Christmas during the busy festive period can be challenging, but the joy on the children’s faces makes all the effort worthwhile.

What have you learnt from taking charge of the project? You have to enjoy working as a team, because there’s no way that one person can do everything on his or her own. It’s not easy, working with so many beneficiaries as well as coordinating everything internally.

As a team, we like to help each other and look out for one another. We step in to help our colleagues if they’re facing some difficulties, even when we may have other things on our plate. Ultimately, we’re all working towards the common goal of ensuring that the event is special for the children.

Do you have any memorable experiences from Stars of Christmas? As a team, I think we all enjoy the moments when the kids receive their presents. They are all so cute and joyful, and their happiness is so simple. Sometimes, we see familiar faces, and some of them recognise us as well, and it feels nice knowing that we played a part in giving them a memorable Christmas.

There was a child who was afflicted with cancer. He attended our Stars of Christmas luncheon, and was so happy to take part in the activities. I could see that even though he was physically weak, he was having so much fun, playing with his family and friends. His willpower and determination to not let anything get in the way of his enjoyment was very inspiring to me.

What do you like most about your work? I feel good working in an environment where all of us work as a team, to make others happy. It gives me a sense of purpose, so I always wake up looking forward to what’s in store. Some days are harder than the others, but I am glad that I have a strong support system at work whom I can rely on.

I also like being able to use my background in design in my daily work. My role exposes me to a wide range of different job scopes, like event planning and coordinating between different businesses. Because of my background, I believe I can provide a different and fresher perspective in my brand and marketing projects

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about your job? That you need to be ready to adapt to a fast-paced environment. There are things you don’t expect that can happen at the very last minute, and you’ll need to be able to make decisions quickly. I think most people see a hotel job as maybe something that’s mundane or slow. But you actually have to be quick on your feet because this industry is ever changing, and it’s really exciting!