Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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Women are more empowered now than ever before – and many are thriving in the Business of Happiness. This International Women’s Day, six female hotel leaders share how they have each found fulfilment and success in their chosen hotel career.

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How long have you been in the industry? It’s been almost 18 years now.

What brought you to this industry? My background is in civil engineering and I had started in real estate development. I was interested in interior design too, but I didn’t study it. I’ve always liked to experiment with colours, mix and match things.

I travelled a lot when I was younger. And each time I checked into a hotel, I’d notice the design and layout, and became curious. I found all the details and choices very interesting, and thought it would be interesting to move to the hotel industry. So, about 18 years ago, I started my hospitality career with Millennium Copthorne.

Tell us about your role and your day-to-day duties. It starts with a team meeting. We go through all the projects we have in the Asia Pacific, and check their status and challenges. My work has a lot to do with observing our target audience behaviour and habits, and how those impact the design and function of our rooms.

As the Global Head of Technical Services, I also look after our properties in London, Paris and Germany. I travel frequently to check on the project sites and make sure everything is being developed according to the drawings and plans.

What does being a woman today mean to you? It’s about being recognised that we’re equally competent. And I think the industry is getting there, especially in Singapore. Women are working very, very hard to prove their worth. When I go abroad, people comment on the Singaporean woman’s work ethic: we are persistent and we always deliver what we promise.

Does the industry empower the women who are working in it? Yes, I think so. You can see many women holding senior positions in the hotel industry. And I personally haven’t faced any work challenges solely because of my gender. As long as you’re professional, passionate and well-prepared for work, men will respect you.

But you also have to be mentally prepared, because if you want equality, you can’t just have the nice stuff; you have to roll up your sleeves and embrace the nasty stuff too.

Don’t expect to be treated differently – that’s how you can be seen to be on par with men at work.

Are there a lot of women in your line of work? Not in Technical Services, though I hope there will be more in the future.

There are many women in Interior Design, though. The next time you stay in a serviced apartment or hotel, you should more or less be able to tell if it’s designed by a woman. Usually, female designers will emphasise the personal touches more, such as adding more counter space in the bathrooms or placing evocative art pieces in certain areas of a room.

What made you decide to stay in this industry? When I’m working on a design, somehow I feel closer to the guests. I like understanding our target audience, imagining their habits and needs, and incorporating all those details into the design.

As mentioned before, I love to travel. With this role, I get to travel quite a lot and meet people from all over the world. I’ve been to Japan, China, India, France, Germany and more. It’s fascinating to learn about each country’s cultural values and preferences.

This industry is very challenging, fast-paced and competitive. But it is also very interesting and fun. There are opportunities to push the boundaries.

What advice would you give to women who want to join the industry? Be open-minded and courageous. Be eager to learn from everyone, because there are many things that the textbooks won’t teach you. Finally, don’t overthink everything. Just enjoy what you’re doing.