Working In A Restaurant Fed This Booklover's Hunger For Success

When Nicholas Ong Kang Yu first signed up as a part-time waiter at a local restaurant in 2016, the last thing he was expecting was to discover his calling in life.

After all, as a second year banking and finance student at a local polytechnic at the time, a career in finance was already on the cards.

Despite having minimal work experience in the F&B line, he displayed a natural flair for being able to work under immense pressure and to think quickly on his feet — key traits for surviving the industry.

His professionalism, eagerness to learn and can-do mindset soon caught the attention of his mentors at work who decided to teach him other aspects of the business.

In the span of just four months, he had gone from waiting tables and assisting with kitchen duties to overseeing the restaurant’s inventory and revenue management.

“This taught me that a company’s success is the sum of all its parts, no matter how small and insignificant each role might seem,” said the 26-year-old who is a Management Trainee at Mandarin Orchard Singapore. “Every bit of effort adds up to the big picture.”

A smooth transition

This led him to make a life-changing decision to obtain a bachelor degree in Hospitality Business at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) in 2016. But transitioning from finance studies proved to be more difficult than he had envisioned.

For one thing, he would have to start from scratch, with no background.

But SIT’s unique approach to learning meant that he was able to grasp complex theories with ease.

For example, in order to examine the rising trend of boutique hotels in Singapore, he was given the opportunity to work closely with Singapore’s leading hospitality operators, who provided him with key first-hand accounts and unprecedented access to the top minds of Singapore’s hospitality scene.

On another occasion, he and his classmates got the opportunity to play the role of consultants for real-life business owners as part of a curriculum for a business module.

By integrating their knowledge with real-life market data, they were able to dish out sound advice to owners who were hoping to spruce up their brands.

The ability to analyse complex problems, identify key areas for improvement and act on them quickly has proven to be an invaluable skill for Nicholas. Today, he is part of a core team of employees who help to navigate on-the-ground issues for hotel guests.

“The best part about studying in SIT is the real-world environment that the university creates to prepare you for the future,” he said.

One of his fondest memories of studying at SIT can be traced back to his eight-month stint at global hospitality market data provider STR Global, as part of the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) - a distinctive feature of SIT's degree programmes, which provides students with the opportunity to undertake real work, allowing them to integrate theory and practice and develop deep specialist skills in their chosen field.

For Nicholas, his applied learning journey at SIT has not only given him a solid foundation in the fundamentals of hospitality, but it has also taught him the most invaluable lesson of all — the power of persistence.

“You know you have a chance to make an actual difference in the world and that empowers you to do more.”