How long have you been in the hotel industry? I’ve been in the industry for 40 years in total, and I’ve been with the Mandarin Oriental for the past 24 years.
Can you also share a little bit about your journey in the industry so far?
I first joined Mandarin Oriental, Singapore as a Room Supervisor. When the role of the Hotel Florist was opened to hotel employees, I decided to take up the challenge, even though I had limited experience. It was a little daunting, but I kept going because the hotel was very supportive.
My supervisors constantly complimented me on my work, and I was regularly given brochures and floral arrangement photos to use as references. I wanted to press on and do my best, to not disappoint my colleagues. In order to expand my skills and knowledge, I took on some classes at community centres and also learned from other florists.
What made you decide to switch from housekeeping to become a florist? I saw it as an opportunity for me to challenge myself and try something different. I’ve always had a passion for creating things, so I thought I’d just give it a shot.
Can you tell us more about your current role and what you do on a daily basis? My daily responsibilities include ordering flowers, handling guest requests, as well as planning and designing floral arrangements for the whole hotel. I also lead a team of florists, so I guide and teach them as much as I can. I also try to impart some basic knowledge to the housekeeping staff as well, so they can help us do some simple floral arrangements in the guest rooms.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
What I enjoy most is being able to create beautiful floral designs that our guests appreciate. It fills me with joy whenever I receive compliments about my work. I have received many letters from guests complimenting my arrangements and I cherish every one of them.
I am also very proud of what I do. Every General Manager that I’ve worked with has given me positive feedback and recognition for the work I do. I make it a point to keep up my standard of work by constantly pushing myself and experimenting with new floral arrangements.
What’s the most memorable compliment that you have received so far? I once created some floral arrangements for a guest’s wedding. The bride wrote me a touching letter, thanking me for my work. She mentioned that a week after the wedding, some of her guests were still complimenting her for the flowers they saw at the wedding. They found it so memorable that some of them even wanted to hold their own weddings at Mandarin Oriental and have me work on the flowers for the event. Her words really encouraged me, and I was glad I helped make her special day even more special.
You’re a self-taught florist. What inspired you to learn all the skills and pick up the knowledge needed to do what you do?
Some of the skills I’ve picked up were taught at the courses that the hotel sent me for. I’m also part of a community of florists, where we discuss and exchange ideas. Whenever I have questions, I can just ask my friends for help. I also volunteer for flower-related events in my personal time, where I get a chance to assist and learn from professional florists from around the world.
Sometimes, I get my inspiration from books. I also visit other hotels during my days off to look at their floral arrangements. Whenever I see something interesting or unusual, I’ll take the time to really look at it and understand the design. When I come back to work, I’ll try to recreate the designs that I’ve seen, adding my own touches here and there to make it more interesting.
How do you think floral displays and arrangements contribute to a guest’s happiness during his/her stay? I think that flowers play an important role in forming the first impression in the guests’ minds when they first arrive at the hotel, and when they first step into their rooms. I feel that flowers can bring that ‘wow’ factor that really brightens up someone’s day.
What do you think is essential in creating a perfect floral display? Personally, I always give my best and challenge myself to try something new, no matter how many designs I’ve come up with before. That way, I can continue to surprise the guests and give them something to look forward to whenever they step into the hotel.
What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? In the hotel industry, you will be given lots of opportunities to try new things or to take on different projects. Seize those opportunities and give it your best. Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges, because that’s how you’ll learn and grow.