When you make people happy, you make yourself happy. This sense of fulfilment is why many who join the Business of Happiness go on to stay for years. To celebrate Labour Day, four long-serving hotel staff, including Thyvonne Hooi, share why they’ve remained in the hospitality industry for decades.
How long have you been in the hotel industry? I’ve been in the industry for about 26 years.
Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? Right now, I’m an Accounting Manager, and I’m in charge of general ledger, accounts payable, payroll, income audit and reporting, etc. On a daily basis, I will check the daily transactions, making sure revenue is accurate, and I’ll also approve payments. In the middle of the month, I will start processing the payroll and at the end of the month, I’ll prepare the month-end closing.
How has your career journey been so far? I started working in the hotel industry back in Penang. I joined the Shangri-La Group in Penang as a F&B cashier, and from there I’ve moved on to other roles in the Front Office. I did a stint as a Personal Butler on the executive floor before returning to the front office to take up a role as a Front Office Supervisor, and eventually, I became Duty Manager. Royal Plaza on Scotts is the first hotel I joined in Singapore. I was a Guest Services Manager before I was promoted to Assistant Front Office Manager. Aside from the daily Front Office duties, my job scope also included supervision and training of the Front Office team, budget and forecast of expenses and revenue, and crisis management. I’ve been here for 16 years and I never thought of leaving. On the whole, it’s been a very interesting and rewarding journey. One of the reasons I’ve stayed on for so long is I’ve always had the opportunity to try out and learn new things. I’m not doing the same tasks over and over again so I never get bored.
How has your role evolved over the years? In Finance, I started out handling contracts, licences and other administrative duties. Through the years, my job scope expanded to include responsibilities such as general ledger, account payables and payroll. I also handle audits in different fields and manage a team of junior colleagues. Under the guidance of my supervisor, I picked up many skills on the job.
What made you decide to transition from a role you held for 15 years into one that you had no prior experience in? I’ve always had an interest in accounting. During my time at the Front Office, I took up a part-time ACCA course. While I was taking my course, I decided to resign from my position as an Assistant Front Office Manager to look for a job that’s more relevant to what I studied. By coincidence, it was at this time where an internal opportunity for an accounting role popped up. The department was aware that I was furthering my studies and was willing to give me a chance even though I didn’t have prior experience. So, I thought to myself, ”Why not?” and took up their offer. I eventually completed my studies while I was working in the Finance department.
Did your previous role as a Front Office Manager in a hotel add value to your subsequent role as an Accounting Manager? Yes. When there’s a new process that we want to implement, I will often think of how it plays out operationally. By considering such factors, the processes we implement can result in more efficiency, which will in turn increase everyone’s productivity. With a good understanding of how the Front Office systems work, it makes it much easier to improve things for them.
What’s the biggest difference between working at the frontline and the back-end of the hospitality industry? At the Front Office, you get to interact with guests all the time. You’ll find yourself in unexpected situations and you’ll have to react quickly to resolve the issues. This is different from working in the back-end, where we interact with internal colleagues more. In Finance, especially, we get to work with all the different departments in the organisation. It allows me to gain better understanding of how we operate from a financial point of view, which is where my interest and passion lies.
What do you enjoy most about your work? I enjoy guiding and helping my colleagues. I’m glad to have the opportunity to mentor a junior team. It’s really satisfying to see them grow and it makes me happy to see them succeed in what they’re doing. I think it’s important to have the right attitude, and as long as someone is willing to learn, I will be willing to teach.
Why is it important to you to mentor younger colleagues? Proper guidance and training will help our younger colleagues develop self-confidence to perform in their work. I have had the privilege to be under a good mentor at Royal Plaza on Scotts so I know the positive impact it can bring to one’s career. Now, it’s my turn to give back and share my knowledge and experience with junior members.
What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? Just join the industry and have no fear. The hotel industry is full of opportunities and it will be an eye opener. Come with an open mind and you’ll find a sense of satisfaction in the work that you choose to do.