Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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ELAINE TEO LAY BOON

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF EVENTS MANAGEMENT

MANDARIN ORIENTAL, SINGAPORE

How long have you been in the hotel industry? I took up a diploma in Hotel Management at SHATEC from 1994 to 1997. During the course, I worked part-time as a Banquet Waitress in Orchard Hotel. After that, I joined the American Club, Singapore Cricket Club and the then Pine Tree Country Club to do Banquet Sales. I officially joined the hotel industry doing events in 2001, so it’s been more than 10 years now!

It’s been somewhat smooth sailing for me, putting aside the fact that I had left the industry for about eight years as my husband was posted overseas. I've met people who have given me the opportunity to further my career, putting what I have learnt in school to good use. I’ve had the opportunity to meet different kinds of people, handling celebrities, VIP events and more. I've been quite lucky to be able to come back to the work force after a long absence and be where I am now.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? I head the Corporate Events team, handling the sales and execution of events. I also help the Director of Events lead a team of events members from the Sales and Marketing teams. I'm also involved in training, guiding, and motivating new colleagues, and I also try to identify the potential in team members to help them progress in their career.

What do you like about events? I love eating! Events enable me to associate myself with food because food is what it's all about. People who do events here know that the menu is always one of the top concerns. We have a very strong team here and I think that also enables us to sell our products better. At the end of the day, when clients are happy, it's mainly because of the food and the service. Also, I think it has always been in me to be in the service industry. I am not a desk-bound person. Being able to move around when doing events and meeting new people is where my forte lies and I think I have proven myself and I would like to continue doing this for the next few years.

Since returning to the industry, what challenges did you face and was it difficult to cope with joining the workforce again? Your client base and contacts are very important in my line of work and I pretty much gave up my contacts when I left the industry. To rebuild this client base is a lot of work. Being away eight to 10 years is a long time, people forget about you. So I had to find new clients again from scratch, and build up relationships all over again.

How did the hotel help you in your transition back to the workforce? The hotel has been quite supportive – the management is very family-inclusive. In order to help me better blend in with the work force as a working mom, they have been very kind to offer flexible working arrangements although this job does call for long hours on some occasions. They have been very understanding and that’s very important to working moms. Since I do not have a domestic helper, I would very much like to be able to balance between juggling my work and my kids. When I go back home, I'm still able to do my daily chores at home. So the support from the company and colleagues has helped a lot and I am happy that the hotel is open to flexible arrangements which really helps people like me and I'm sure it will encourage more people to join.

Can you tell us more about your flexi-work arrangements? I work the normal hours of 9am to 6pm, but now with technology, I am given the option of working from home as I have access to my email. A lot of things are cloud-based, and the company's constantly improving on all these systems and processes so that employees will be able to work remotely. I think that helps a lot.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? When clients become friends – I think that was what I gained the most out of being in this job. These are precious relationships that I have built over the years even before I left. You'd be surprised that a lot of clients are close friends of mine right now. They are still supporting me, whether in my business or personal life.

How do you think you contribute to your clients’ happiness during their events? It starts from instilling confidence in my clients, giving them the assurance that things will be well taken care of and that things will go smoothly at their event. And it's not just about making them happy but making their guests happy too. It is very crucial – when my client’s guests are happy, my clients will be happy too.

Do you have any goals that you hope to achieve? Not so much a personal goal, but more of helping my peers to achieve their career goals. There are a lot of younger team members who aspire to go further in their careers. So I really hope to help them to achieve this goal.

What advice would you share with someone who's interested in joining the hotel industry? I think those who really want to join the hotel industry might think that hoteliers’ lives are tiring. But no matter what, it's always good to give it a shot because there are valuable life skills that they can pick up and take away with them throughout their career, such as communications skills that they can gain through meeting many types of people and clients.