Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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MUHAMMAD ASHRAF BIN ISMAIL

ASSISTANT MAINTENANCE MANAGER

RAMADA AND DAYS HOTELS BY WYNDHAM SINGAPORE AT ZHONGSHAN PARK

How long have you been in the hotel industry? I’ve been in this industry for six and a half years now.

How has your career journey been so far? It has been very good. I first started as a Duty Engineer, and I learned how to interact with guests even as I work to rectify faults to help make their stay more comfortable. Two years later, I was promoted to Senior Duty Engineer. Now, I’m the Assistant Maintenance Manager.

I learned new things and took on new challenges during my time here. My dad’s work inspired me to enter the field of engineering. He is the handyman in our house, and I enjoyed watching him work as a child. So I followed his footsteps and studied Electrical Engineering.

Before joining the hotel industry, I worked at a country club as a Maintenance Supervisor. After nine years of working there, I thought that it was time for a change. Ramada & Days had a pre-opening job, and the role seemed like an interesting challenge for me. During the pre-opening phase, we monitored several major projects such as the installation of lights, wallpapers, air-conditioning and windows. My team and I have been through a series of trials and errors to fine-tune our service scope of work, facilities and amenities to get to the current service experience that the guests get to enjoy.

When you first joined the industry, did you have a mentor? Yes, I did. When I first joined the hotels, the previous Director of Engineering showed me the ropes and guided me as I transitioned from working in a country club environment to the fast-pace of hotel operations. Through the guidance of the Engineering department, I adapted to the role and learnt how to engage with guests, a valuable skillset that I have gained through the years.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? I liaise with contractors for various upgrading and renovation works within the hotels and go around the hotels to ensure things are working smoothly. There are different contractors involved in the same space simultaneously. For example, lighting, sound system and flooring involved different teams. It is important to delegate work in an organised and timely manner to the team involved so that there is sufficient space to carry out the tasks.

I am also part of the Green Management committee, where I help plan and implement sustainable activities and projects within the hotels; and the Fire Fighting Committee, where I ensure the hotels’ equipment and vicinity adhere to fire safety requirements.

How does technology help make your daily tasks more manageable? Clear communication is very important. To ensure that we stay on top of the repair works, my team and I make use of technology such as StayPlease, an integrated platform which makes hotel operations efficient, to coordinate work order. We also use WhatsApp for more urgent communications between staff.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? I love fixing things -- that’s always been my passion which I inherited from my dad. I get great satisfaction from fixing something to good working condition. I also appreciate the commendation for my efforts that I get from my colleagues and managers.

How do you combine your interest in engineering with the work you do? I like knowing how things work, because that’s how you’ll know how to carry out the repairs. The hotel is a strong advocate for learning, and encourages it by registering us for courses for our enrichment. Course subjects range from fire systems training to guest engagement. Right now, I am personally pursuing a diploma in Facilities Management to learn more about the industry and value-add to my skills at work. The industry is constantly changing, so I want to keep up by learning new things.

How do you think you contribute to a guest’s happiness during his/her stay? I help to make sure that the hotel rooms and common areas are well maintained for the guests’ comfort, so that they keep coming back to the hotel.

When faced with work challenges, how do you keep yourself and your team motivated? The Engineering team is quite close-knit; we’re always there for each other when someone needs help with a task. We go on outings together twice a month -- it can be dinner, bowling or karaoke sessions. It’s always nice to have fun with your colleagues.

Do you have any goals that you hope to achieve during your time in the hotel industry? I hope to deliver great experiences and work performance by simplifying work processes, identifying trends and patterns of repetitive technical issues and nip them in the bud. For instance, we noticed the frequent issue of the fluorescent exit light fuse malfunctioning, which required immediate fixing due to safety concerns. To reduce such occurrences, I suggested changing from using fluorescent lights to LED lights.

In the future, I hope I will be ready to take up a more challenging role and lead as the department head.

What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? There are challenges in the industry, but what’s fulfilling is to know that at the end of the day you have the support of the company and your team.