An education in Hospitality and Tourism opens up a wide array of career options. The industry spreads across so many different areas of expertise. If you are a person who is not really sure about what you want to do in your life, as are most people in the world, your options are wide open after getting a degree in hospitality management. You will have plenty of time to pick your area of specialisation when you are more sure about it.
In this article, we are introducing Mr Murali Nair, who has had an incredibly diverse career. From working as a management trainee in a fast-food chain to a general manager of a resort and country club, and now Dean of SDH Institute.
Some of you may have seen him around campus; some may have been taught by him! Read on to find out his career journey and gain some insights on the factors you should consider before deciding on your first career after graduation.
Can you tell us about how your hospitality journey started?
I have had an interesting career journey over the past 35 years or so. I started my journey in the early 1980s after having completed my National Service. I joined KFC as a management trainee for 6 months, then went on to being a store manager for 3 months, before deciding that this was the industry for me. I then did a Diploma in Hotel Management in Switzerland, and returned to Singapore and began my hotel career as a waiter in a fine dining restaurant, gradually working my way up to becoming an Assistant Restaurant Manager. I then did my degree in Travel Industry Management at the University of Hawaii.
Upon graduation, I joined the Hyatt International Hotels and did several pre-opening projects in Jakarta, Bali and Johannesburg. After 7 years within the Hyatt chain, and having achieved the title Director of Food and Beverage, I decided to become a liquor and tobacco distributor. This began my entrepreneurship journey.
Fast forward 7 years, I opened a licensed warehouse dealing with liquor and tobacco. In 2003, I decided to go back to the Hospitality Operations and became the General Manager of a large resort and country club. They needed to rebrand themselves and renew their membership. I did this for over a year and then started my business in hospitality consultancy services, primarily training and education.
Today, my focus is more on mainstream education in the hospitality industry through SDH Institute.
What is your approach to life?
My golden rule is to be humble always. Be open to continued learning throughout your life. You will be more respected and a wiser leader equipped to develop your staff more effectively.
What do you think are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
My greatest strength is that I always learn – not only from my mistakes but also from my successes. I will never forget what I have learnt. My weakness will probably be in identifying what really motivates every person. Every human being is different and has different buttons that ignite high performances. This is very complicated and a continuous challenge for every leader.
At work, what puts a smile on your face?
Watching my team work together happily puts a smile on my face. When my staff is driven to do things without being asked to do so – this puts a smile on my face. Praising and acknowledging my team’s success puts a big smile on my face.
What advice do you have for students trying to decide on their first role after graduation?
I would advise students to find a job with an organization committed to training and development. It is always good to start with the established chains as they are more structured in the policies and processes. Do not be too fixed in your choice of department. If your ultimate goal is to be a GM, the more exposure you have to different departments the better prepared you will be for your future GM role. The main point to remember is that you need to start at the bottom. Rest assured, with your degrees, you will rise to the top much faster.
As you can see from my career path, despite having done a hotel management diploma and degree, my career journey was far from focused and straight. From hotel management to liquor and tobacco distribution, retail, warehousing and logistics, and finally training and education.
My degree in travel industry management equipped me with the confidence and capability to excel in every role I have played. It took me to Europe, the United States, Africa and Southeast Asia, and it did not limit me to one career path. Let your heart and passion lead the way. A good tertiary education is also important as it creates the foundation upon which you can build your life journey towards success and ultimately, self-actualization.
Wishing all of you the best of luck in your career journey!