5 Interesting Career Insights From Dawn Teo, SVP of Amara Hotels and Resorts

5 Interesting Career Insights From Dawn Teo, SVP of Amara Hotels and Resorts

The hospitality industry has been booming in recent years — and not just in Singapore, where tourism is a key economy driver. In fact, according to a report by The New York Times, the hotel industry is thriving so well that many hoteliers are struggling to keep up with staffing needs.

To tackle the manpower crunch, the tripartite Hotel Job Redesign Initiative (HJRI) was announced last year (May 2019), encouraging hoteliers in Singapore to “review, optimise and value-add to existing jobs” to “create higher quality jobs and a heightened sense of job satisfaction”.

Put simply, that means that traditional roles are being redefined and that there are many exciting new job opportunities opening up in the industry. That’s welcome news — especially in the midst of the current recession.

Over a hundred hotels have hopped on board the HJRI, including Amara Hotels and Resorts, a luxury hotel group which owns and manages Amara Singapore, Amara Bangkok, Amara Signature Shanghai, and Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa on Sentosa Island.

For the fourth instalment of What It Takes, a podcast series by MoneySmart and Workforce Singapore, we speak to Dawn Teo, Senior Vice President (SVP) at Amara Hotels and Resorts.

Listen to the full episode here:


Amara Hotel’s Dawn Teo shares 5 interesting career insights and tips

Wondering what it’s like to work in the hotel industry, especially during such exciting times? Read on for 5 interesting insights, as shared by Dawn.

Although SVP at Amara today, Dawn spent most of her career in finance, pursuing investment banking after graduating from the prestigious Wharton Business School. She only made a mid-career switch to hospitality around 5 years ago.

At Amara, Dawn is responsible for the group strategic expansion in the region. She oversees the hotel division, and looks after the investment and acquisitions for the group.


1. Millennials work for more than just money.

As SVP, Dawn has a ton of people working under her, so unsurprisingly, she has a wealth of experience in recruitment. When asked about hiring millennials, she shares, “I hesitate to generalise, but with the team I work with, I think they look for more than money.”

So what are they looking for, exactly?

Well, according to Dawn, it’s more important that the organisation values and purpose align with their own. Additionally, they want opportunities to learn and develop themselves. They want to feel empowered, and be challenged with a wider scope of work.

If you’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and looking for a job at Amara, you’ll be glad to know that the hotel welcomes you: “Amara Singapore has been in the business for 33 years, so we’re always evolving. It’s still a work in progress, but we’re constantly learning and evolving to be more relevant to the millennials,” says Dawn.


2. Managers, look for people who are better than you.

Ask any top dog what the secret to their success was, and they’ll 100 percent mention having an A team. Sure, this model answer may be part of their personal branding (ahem*humility*ahem), but it’s indisputable that a good team always helps.

Comparing it to a team sport, Dawn shares that she “is always looking for people who are better than (her)”.

Yup, you should never worry about people “overtaking” you, or knowing more than you. Instead, hire them. “We all have our own blind spots, and I definitely do not profess to know everything.

I am not a specialist here, but I work with people who are, and they bring different lenses to the table. And I think we’re all better for that.”


3. Progression doesn’t always mean to become a manager.

Speaking of managers… Dawn brings up the point that career progression doesn’t always mean becoming a manager. In fact, many times, being promoted to lead a team means more administrative work and well, managing.

“To give you an example, we could have a chef, who is a brilliant chef — great at cooking, loves his job — but because he wants to move ahead in his career decides, okay, well, I want to be a manager.

I think a lot of people look for this next step without fully appreciating what it means.

Sometimes taking on this new role means taking you away from what you like to do. So it could mean less cooking time, takes you away from the kitchen and more into the office, gets you more into an administrative job, or HR function.

Now, is that something that appeals to you? I don’t know the answer. You would have to know that yourself.”


4. There is a difference between leaders and managers.

On a related note, Dawn explains that she sees a distinct difference between leaders and managers.

“Leadership, to me, is very different from management. To be a good leader, it’s more about influencing people, empowering people (and) bringing the team towards a common goal,” says Dawn.

In contrast, she explains that management is more “functional” in that at the baseline, you’re just responsible for a team of people. You can get work done through compliance and other means, but that doesn’t make you a good leader.

“There has to be a layer on top of that,” says Dawn.


5. Learn from an honest mentor.

Don’t waste your time on those who sugarcoat their criticism or mince their words. From Dawn’s experience, the best mentors are the ones who are honest and don’t hesitate to give you frank feedback.

“I had a mentor who told me at our first meeting, that they were not going to say anything that I wanted to hear. They were going to be very honest about my weaknesses and my gaps,” says Dawn.

“And I really appreciated that, because sometimes people tend to find it very difficult to give honest feedback.”

That was very important to Dawn, and she felt it really helped her grow. In fact, she even says that it has helped her, now a leader, to give constructive feedback to those she coaches and mentors.

“In that particular case, we had set the ground rules straight. We were going to be straight with each other, we’re going to help each other out. Not necessarily in the most pleasant of ways, but with a goal in mind.

And I think that really helped me out.”