From July 2019 to January 2020, I carried out the duties of an Operations and Finance Intern for Marriott’s properties in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Maldives.
During this time, I acquired business acumen, management tools, and communication skillsets. Marriott is leading the hospitality industry with more than 7’000 managed and franchised properties in 130+ countries around the world. The company aims for 1’000 properties operating across Asia Pacific by the end of this year.
My aim is to give you an insight into my time working with this company.
Why did I choose to work in Singapore?
From its premier position on trade and travel to its business-friendly environment, Singapore boasts a nearly 325 billion-dollar GDP.
Having had the opportunity to work at the JW Marriott Venice during my first internship, I was very inspired by the people-first culture, hands-on learning, and legacy of Marriott. For these combined reasons, I applied to do my internship at Marriott International’s Singapore Offices. My first days in Singapore were a bit of shakeup from my usual academic routine of note-taking and revising at the EHL Lausanne Campus. I was fully immersed in the Marriott world from 9 to 6, surrounded by corporate leaders and administrative professionals; expectations were high. The office has over 150 associates with an open-concept design and is located just outside the Downtown Core. Composed of many supporting departments, this bustling hub supports a large region outside China. Meanwhile, Marriott’s Asia Pacific HQ is located in Hong Kong and Marriott’s China Offices are situated in Shanghai.
What did I do during my administrative internship?
Through 24 weeks, I split my time between Operations and Finance. In Operations, I executed a number of tasks relating to guest satisfaction, loyalty program enrollments, brand standards, as well as hotel openings.
Bonvoy, the revamped loyalty program, launched last year is one of Marriott’s biggest assets with 120 million members and growing; one of my focus areas was tracking the progress of enrollments monthly in our region. Equally important was ensuring our properties passed their Brand Standard Audits (BSAs). If a property had any critical incidents, it was my responsibility to follow up on these items and communicate the compliance item(s) for the next audit. In Finance, I mainly focused on collecting cost-saving initiatives and tracking accounts receivable aging at our area properties as well as collect expense reimbursements for travel from hotel leaders.
In both areas, taking proactive steps proved essential, never waiting to be reminded, and following up on assignments served me well. I could not have accomplished any of this work without the support and guidance of my Marriott colleagues.
Best part of the internship?
One of my favorite aspects of this internship was preparing for hotel openings and countdowns.
I had the opportunity to assist and participate on the openings for the JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa and the Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown, respectively. A countdown, as it is called in Marriott language, are the days leading up to the opening of a new hotel or resort. Countdowns are made up of pre-opening associates, trainers from hotels across the region, and owners. Additionally, countdowns involve a blending of brand culture, safety briefings, management practices, as well as training and simulations. The JW Marriott Maldives and Four Points Chinatown countdowns required a great deal of preparation. The first was a learning experience, the second, an opportunity to demonstrate my knowledge.
The JW Marriott Maldives opened its doors in October 2019. Situated on the beautiful Van’gaaru Island in the Shaviyani Atoll, the JW Marriott Maldives marked a major milestone for Marriott International; it is the first JW Marriott to open in the Maldives. With a team of 235 associates and close to 40 trainers, we had a big task to accomplish in just 8 days. During the countdown, I was joined by another intern and together, we got to work right away. We familiarized ourselves with the resort layout and took on the administrative tasks; this included preparing the Matrix schedules (all activities for trainers and leaders) for every day of the countdown, the simulation surveys (feedback for the restaurant outlets and spa), as well as keeping the Trainers Hospitality Suite clear and maintained (light snacks & refreshment station served for the trainers). The pre-opening team played an important role in welcoming the owner to the island and supporting the investment in this property. The days of the countdown flew by, but I made every effort to connect with the hotel staff, trainers, and leaders. By the end of the countdown, I had established strong connections with the whole team and already wished to return in the future.
The Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown opening brought the same dedication and work ethic to pull off, but took a different approach. This 316-room hotel in a historic KL city district brought together many talents. After drafting invitations to countdown trainers, I collected responses from those attending. Following this, I developed a matrix schedule in coordination with my boss that consisted of the key elements of the countdown – people & culture day, the trainings, and the simulation survey forms. I was also involved in the coordination of a room snag list with the hotel property leaders. A room snag list ensures that all guest room furniture and functions are in working order. Thereafter, I reached out to Marriott’s marketing team based in Kuala Lumpur to collect photos and logos to create presentation decks for the countdown. I also created WhatsApp groups for each of the Operations Areas. During the countdown, I played an active role in getting the hotel ready. Standing alongside my boss, we coordinated daily briefings and wrap-ups, focusing on the key operations areas of the hotel: rooms, housekeeping, F&B, culinary, engineering, and IT leaders. The countdown ended successfully with the owners’ event launch, and I immersed myself into different roles where needed – directing traffic for 450+ guests at the parking area, operating elevators, and serving in the stewarding area to clean dishes. It goes to show that every person plays a vital role in the opening of a hotel.
What did I do outside office hours?
Outside the office, I had the chance to participate in a number of unique opportunities.
One of those activities was volunteering at the Singapore Grand Prix event that took place in September. My colleagues and I volunteered at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia for the event, welcoming owners, key stakeholders, and Bonvoy loyalty program members to the race. One of the highlights of this experience was getting to meet Marriott International’s Asia Pacific President, Craig Smith, and catching a glimpse of famed F1 driver, Lewis Hamilton.
There is a strong Take Care culture instilled in all associates; to paraphrase the founder, John Willard Marriott, satisfied employees equate to satisfied customers equates to satisfied shareholders. Marriott culture transcends across all levels of the company. The company is built on 5 core principles: putting people first, pursuing excellence, embracing change, acting with integrity, and serving our world. These principles apply to the Executive Chairman and CEO down to every property level associate. I definitely experienced this culture when doing my internship. Marriott has introduced tools and programs for its employees to engage. An example of this was the Take Care mobile app dedicated to employee wellness. In the spirit of Take Care, I participated in the Run to Give race hosted by Marriott at nearby Sentosa Resort World. Marriott International sponsors annual runs at its offices to support local causes and needs; this particular race was supporting children with special needs. It was a great chance to give back and do something I loved. It was also a chance to race alongside my bosses, meet coworker families, and pets. To cap off the year, I had the chance to attend the Year End Party. This gathering brought together all the associates from the office for a gala dinner, entertainment spectacle, and a spectacular dessert display.
Putting it all together
To summarize, this internship provided me a macro view of Marriott International. When I first arrived, I only understood property-level priorities. By the end of the internship, I grasped the importance of Marriott’s Operations, Balance Score Card, and Performance Review areas. I learned how to download and generate reports, compile, and receive feedback, as well as communicating courteously and swiftly. Moreover, I learned how to manage expectations and prepare for openings in unique regions.
For openings, I learned cultural sensitivities and applied the EHL values of respect, excellence, family, innovation, and learning. Especially for openings, being a jack-of-all-trades and taking proactive steps to help with the countdown process proved essential. From a finance standpoint, I learned about the importance of compliance, data tools, and cost-savings and the personal aspect of accountability when doing manual checks for inventory on property.
Collectively, these skills acquired will drive me to finish my studies in hospitality and build on my future career in the hotel industry thereafter. I am very grateful for my colleagues and friends that I made over these 24 weeks; it would have not been the same without them.