The buzz and culture of warmth of the travel and hospitality industry continue to fascinate Darrell Tan FCCA, Business Analyst (Southeast Asia) of the Grand Hyatt Singapore.
When he was a child, he wanted to become an airline pilot. However, he developed a love for numbers and accounting in his secondary school days, and things changed along the way.
His childhood passion for taking to the skies remains strong with him, as he often gets to travel for work with his current position where he gets to experience the world’s different cultures, customs, cuisines and people.
He shares how the ACCA Qualification continues to bring him all over the globe, doing what he loves most.
You wanted to be an airline pilot when you were a child but along the way, you fell in love with numbers and accounting in your secondary school days. What was it about numbers and accounting that attracted you and made you turn numbers into a career?
When I was young, I was fixated with numbers and was quick in my calculation thus I did well for Math. However, Math is rather factual such as 1+2=3 and it can get boring. Accounting showed me that there is always subjectivity behind each number and I liked that. As I matured, I did not want to be a bookkeeper but to manage finances and thus I chose ACCA to propel me into an Accountancy career.
Why did you choose the ACCA Qualification as your tool to climb the corporate ladder?
Initially, I wanted to study in Australia but found out that there are well-known universities and lesser-known ones. The well-known ones might have got there due to marketing and they may not be the best. Besides, popularity can rise and fall just like the stock market.
In Singapore, we sit through the General Cambridge Examinations (GCE) and I found it hard to believe that in universities, the lecturer also sets the examination paper. ACCA was like GCE, everyone takes the same examination no matter where you are in the world and I like that fairness and international standard because that naturally means the qualification is a worldwide one.
How has the robust curriculum of the ACCA Qualification helped you perform your job?
In my search for the perfect curriculum, I must have been as thorough as shopping for a house! ACCA curriculum is wide and robust covering organisational behaviour, financial management, taxation, corporate law, information systems, marketing and the list goes on. The wide curriculum has enabled me to work in company-wide projects with much success as I could understand how the moving parts fit into one giant corporate engine. It also enabled me to rise up from the mundane financial accounting into an analysis role and now, into profit optimisation. Apart from accounting and auditing standards, all that I have learned in ACCA remains useful today such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Porter’s Five Forces etc.
You have been working in the travel and hospitality industry for most of your career. Apart from its energy and culture, what is it about the industry that continues to excite you and why?
I love the exposure to different operating environments. Even within the same city, no two hotels are run the same way and I like this variability which adds interesting facets to my work life. The other plus point is that hospitality allows me to meet a variety of people across all job functions.
Can you share with us one or two exciting work-related projects that you got to work on that add to your resume?
I helped Grand Hyatt Singapore to receive a government grant of SGD250,000 for Food Waste Management System that will convert food waste into biodegradeable fertilisers. The entire application process was long and detailed and it challenged me to articulate all the knowledge from chefs, stewards and engineers into a proper grant application.
The other was an in-house consultancy project that I just completed with 40 other colleagues from all over the world. We were from diverse backgrounds and carefully selected to be this elite team to drive business performance. We worked day to night and the results were amazing, I learned a lot during this project and it was something like a mini-MBA.
You travel a lot as part of your work. How has the ACCA Qualification helped you in terms of employability and international recognition?
I was overseeing Southeast Asia as a business analyst covering 14 hotels and now I have been promoted internally with an enlarged role over Asia-Pacific with over 70 hotels.
There has never been an instance where anyone doubted my education. In fact, I have an inkling that I received my internal promotion partly due to being the most professionally-qualified in the pool of candidates. Injecting some humour, my Hong Kong employment visa was approved in double-quick time.
What advice can you share with aspiring finance and accounting professionals who want to pursue a career in the hospitality industry? What should they look out for?
Do not be a backbencher who hides in the accounting office. Be involved in the business and be a progressive business partner.
Go out to the front to meet guests, follow sales managers on their visits to clients and ask what can you do to improve the process flow in this business that sees voluminous transactions.
They should look for a prestigious hotel company that has good core values and savvy leaders.
(Darrell Tan has since been promoted and is now based in Hong Kong.)
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