Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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SEBASTIAN ONG

PURCHASING MANAGER

CARLTON HOTEL SINGAPORE

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

How has your career journey been so far? I switched from Manufacturing to the Hospitality industry. I was looking for Purchasing roles, and happened to see that the hotel’s Project team was looking for an Assistant Purchasing Manager. I applied, got the job, and I’ve been here ever since.

It was quite a change coming to the hospitality industry. Manufacturing is not service-oriented, but when you work in a hotel, you always have to keep the guest in mind. I had to learn how to interact with a lot of people, including colleagues from all departments, product vendors and guests.

Did you have a manager or mentor to help you transition to your role? Yes, when I first joined the hotel I was very lucky to have a great mentor. Her guidance made it easy for me to get settled into my role. She gave me guidance and freedom to do my work. She also gave guidance during my transition from Manufacturing to the Hospitality industry. Right now, I am mentoring two new recruits. I tell them that the guest is always our priority, and guest comfort and happiness should never be compromised. If the product is priced cheap but the quality isn’t good, we don’t buy it. I’m glad that my superiors’ view on this is aligned with mine and they are very supportive of my decisions at work.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? The day typically starts with me checking on the status of requisitions for each department. There’s also product sourcing and price negotiations, and following up on purchase orders. These products can range from perishables such as food and drinks to toiletries and other items a department needs. We also make sure that the products are delivered on time, and the quality is up to the hotel’s standards. That’s where interactions between Purchasing and individual departments come to play – every day, we gather feedback on the products, and we listen to their expectations and goals. We’re constantly working together as one team to ensure the quality of the products is not compromised.

I sometimes interact with our guests directly because I find it really useful to directly hear what they have to say about the products. I want to make sure whatever items we purchase will be used to enhance a guest’s experience of our hotel. That’s why it’s also important that I stay updated on the current market trends, and know which products are catching people’s attention.

Does the hotel provide opportunities to refresh your skills through training? Yes. Through the years, the hotel sent me for several courses on management control systems, SAP systems, contractual laws and vendor management. I like being able to learn new things to make my work better.

You switched industries mid-career. Would you recommend the hospitality industry to other mid-career switchers? Yes, if you are passionate about serving people and unafraid to learn. The hotel provides training to help you settle into your role and do your job well. On top of that, colleagues are very friendly and helpful. They are more than happy to help you if you need it.

What surprised you the most about the industry? The friendliness and warmth of my colleagues. To me, it’s important to feel at home when I’m at work. I really enjoy working with them, they’ve become my second family now.

What do you enjoy the most about your job? Having the opportunity to work with great colleagues. I also enjoy the process of negotiating and sourcing the best products. My satisfaction stems from knowing that my job contributes to positive guest experiences.

What is your most memorable experience in your career so far? I enjoy hearing good feedback from guests enquiring about the items that they had consumed or used during their stay with us. It shows that the time and effort spent sourcing the perfect products have not gone to waste. I remember we had guests enquiring about the Sencha teabags that were served in our restaurant, which were not available for sale in the retail stores. I like that we have something that’s unique enough to make a guest really appreciate it and want to buy for their own use.

How do you think you contribute to a guest’s happiness during his/her stay? I think through sourcing and purchasing the right products, we can help departments provide the best guest experience. When a guest enjoys his or her time here at the hotel, it makes me feel good about my work.

What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? You have to work hard and be passionate about what you do. Passion will help you excel in this industry.