Her days at the airport
Belinda Thia shares her working experience in the Housekeeping Department at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. The hotel recently got the “Caring Employer” award by the Singapore Compact for CSR for employing persons with disabilities (PWD) as well as matured workers.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Sixty-year-old Belinda Thia has chosen to work full-time not because she needs the money but so she can “pass time” and continue to stay active. She has been at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport’s Housekeeping Department for over five years and is enjoying being at the airport everyday.
With over 30 years in administrative roles, Belinda has now taken on more responsibility at the hotel. On top of her existing administrative tasks as a housekeeping coordinator, she also does purchasing orders and manages the supply chain for the Housekeeping Department.
Ageless Online chats with the mother-of-two in this second part of the two-part story:
What made you decide to work for Crowne Plaza Changi Airport originally? Was the decision more financial reasons or just to stay active?
I have a “connection” [affinity] with the airport even though I live in Bukit Panjang. I love the airport. I love to travel. I enjoy being at the airport everyday for work.
I happened to chance upon an opening at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport for its opening team over five years ago and decided to apply and was selected to attend an interview. After the interview, Kim Ong, the executive housekeeper saw my application and spoke to me and encouraged me to join her team. I actually worked with Ms Ong back at Fullerton Hotel and it was a complete coincidence that I applied for work with her department.
My decision to work is not a financial one. Both my husband and I are working but we do so as our children have grown up and are now adults in their 20s. I work to pass time as I find staying at home very boring and I have no idea what is happening “outside”. Working helps me stay active and keep young! I also enjoy learning new things and as I work I can upgrade my skills.
Have you worked in a hotel before? What were you doing before joining Crowne Plaza Changi Airport?
I’ve worked in an administrative role for about 30 years doing basic paperwork for a motoring company.
About nine years ago, in my early 50s, I wanted to try something new. I joined my first hotel job as a room attendant at The Scarlet Hotel. I wanted to have some background in what went on in the Housekeeping Department from a service perspective. I was in training for about three months before I moved over to Carlton Hotel where I worked for three months in as a housekeeping coordinator handling paperwork for the Housekeeping Separtment. Subsequently I joined Fullerton Hotel where I worked in an administration role to answer phone calls for the Housekeeping Department.
After three years at Fullerton, I left and joined Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. I have been with Crowne Plaza for over five years.
Was it hard finding a job in your 50s? Were there any challenges in the job?
I have been working continuously since before I turned 50 so I did not find it difficult to find a job in my 50s.
Technology has changed so much since I started working back in my 20s. An example being, when I did administration work in a motoring company, we were all on Linux and (IBM) Lotus Notes. These were the tools I used. Now everyone is on Windows and Microsoft Office.
There is a challenge when it comes to keeping up-to-date and learning how to use new software, but being willing to learn helps make it easier to adapt and pick up new administrative skills along the way. Because of my age, it takes slightly longer time for me to learn new things as I sometimes forget. But that is okay as my boss is very patient with me!
You would have to work with people at times younger than you. Did you find this a challenge?
I don’t think that it is challenging. In fact, being around younger people makes me feel younger! Yes, there may be a generation gap and we may communicate differently but I treat them all like my children and work with them to solve problems together. We care for one another and help each other.
Take for instance, I sprained my wrist a while ago and I have difficulty carrying heavy goods but my younger colleagues are always happy to help when I need the assistance. I am also happy to teach them what I know when I can.
I understand you have been given more tasks beyond your administrative tasks. Do you have a goal in mind of where you want to be at the hotel?
Since I started working at the hotel, I have taken over managing of supplies for the Housekeeping Department and I am in charge of arranging for orders of guest amenities and guest room supplies. This is on top of my administrative duties that mainly involve paperwork.
I hope to have a peaceful life in my old age and working at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport allows me to have a reliable job that allows me to meet people and stay active. I am able to find out what is happening in the “outside world” and continue to upgrade myself. In my five years here, I have learnt a lot and have been given more responsibility. I find that this helps me stay relevant!
Do you feel there is ageism in Singapore?
I personally don’t feel that there is ageism in Singapore. Most of my friends and ex-colleagues are still able to find work and I’m also working with many other colleagues are considered “mature workers”.
What advice would you give other seniors looking for work?
I would encourage everyone to work and see the world. For those who have not been working for many years, just take the first step and start working again. Be willing to learn and upgrade yourself to make it easier for you to find a job.