VERONICA EMILY CHAN: MAKING GUESTS HAPPY WITH INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGES ON THEIR TAKEAWAY COFFEE CUPS AT THE BARRACKS HOTEL
After six months of living the blissful (but boring) retired life, Veronica shares how she found new joy and fulfilment in the hospitality line at Sentosa.
I worked at a bank for 14 years. When I was nearing retirement, they said, 'Emily, can you stay for two more years?' I did consider it. It was a beautiful place to work with lovely people who cared for me. But I wanted to enjoy retirement and know what that life feels like.
For the first three months, I thought, ‘What a relief! No work!’ I could finally offload and laze around at home all day. But soon enough, I got bored. I felt unproductive. And because of my age, I felt like I could get dementia really fast if I continued to do nothing.
I took up baking classes and ate well. But after six months of staying at home, I told my sister that I was bored. I wanted to go back to work. My family was very supportive and encouraging, so I started looking for new job opportunities.
One day, someone called and asked if I wanted to join the hotel line. The hospitality industry is very different from what I was doing, but I was eager to learn and know more. So I applied and got the job, and it's been an amazing experience so far.
Today, I work as a Lobby Ambassador at The Barracks Hotel in Sentosa. This whole building complex used to be military barracks. You can still see the well-preserved colonial architecture. Now lovingly restored, the hotel transports world-weary wanderers to the golden age of travel, when travel was– and still is– a stylish art form, filled with marvel, romance and discovery.
As a Lobby Ambassador, my duties are not tied to one aspect of hotel operations. I'm at the lobby if guests need help. Because of COVID-19 concerns, I also help ensure that everyone follows protocol, like putting on our masks when needed or practising social distancing.
Fun fact about my job? We had a trained barista teach me how to froth milk to do latte art. Mastering this took me a while – it’s all about getting the milk temperature right! – but I’m glad I got the hang of it. My designs are always shaped like a feather or layered onion.
I like to write inspirational messages when guests ask for takeaway cups whenever I'm on barista duty. It started with something generic like 'Rise and shine'. But now, as I'm serving them breakfast, I'll have conversations with them first to know how they're feeling.
Sometimes, they would tell me about what they were going through, and I'd write personalised messages to give them hope and put a smile on their faces. I absolutely love doing this because it makes my day when I make their day.
When I won the 2021 Employee of the Year award, I felt very honoured and thankful that management recognised my good work. As someone who came out of retirement, I didn't think I would be carving out a new career. The award really gave me the motivation to do more.
It made me very proud of myself because I was a very shy person when I first started in the hotel line. My biggest challenge was communicating with guests. My first job was to engage guests as a Lobby Ambassador at The Village Hotel, but I was such an introvert.
I only learnt how to break the ice with the guidance of my manager. Seeing how the Village Hotel is family-oriented, many parents come for staycations. If I wanted to win them over, I had to make their kids happy first. This tactic always works!
When I was transferred to The Barracks Hotel, I was able to read a person’s body language and start a conversation easily. Many of our guests are discerning travellers, so it’s a different category of people that I encounter here, and I enjoy interacting with them.
People are ultimately my favourite aspect of working at The Barracks Hotel. Whether it's the friendly guests or the managers who give you leadership and support, they determine whether your job is the right fit for you. And I feel like I fit right in. I love working here.
So my advice to anyone who's just looking for a job is to ask yourself what your passion is. If your job isn't your cup of tea, but you still work for financial reasons, then work will feel like a drag. But if you love what you do, you'll look forward to work every day." - Emily Chan