ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Dream, Love, Dare And Be An All-Rounder.
Web-in-Travel 2009
Tuesday, 7th July 2009
Want to succeed in travel and tourism? Here's some advice from a panel of industry leaders during the last WIT*e: Follow your dream, Love what you doand do what you love, have passion, drive and flexibility. Be creative.

Be a generalist, not a specialist.

These were some of the nuggets of advice that were offered by the "Talent Time" panel during WIT*e Inspiration & Mentoring held on June 25 in Singapore when they were asked what advice they would give young talent aspiring to build a successful career in the industry. The panel was co-moderated by Andrew Chan, CEO of TMS Asia Pacific, and Yeoh Siew Hoon, producer of WIT-Web In Travel.

Timothy O'Neil Dunne (far left), managing partner of T2 Impact, said in today's environment, it was good for be an all-rounder. "Specialists are the first to die out; generalists survive. Don't excel at one thing, show you are a good all-rounder and that you can learn and adapt."

Morris Sim (left), founder and CEO of social media analytics start-up Circos.com, said that if you do what you love and love what you do, success eventually comes to you.

Frank Trampert (right), vice president, revenue generation, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Asia, believes that passion, drive and flexibility will take someone a long way. "You've got to have tenacity and the will to succeed."

Tony Lai (far right), assistant chief executive, sector planning & development, Singapore Tourism Board singled out creativity as a stand-out factor.

Panellists were also asked what they looked for when they hired talent. Sim, whose company is hiring software engineers in Singapore, said he looked for people who have done proper background checks on the company beyond the superficial Google or Wikipedia searches.

"One question shows how passionate and tenacious you are what do you know about my company? What did you figure out, who did you talk to? Show, not just tell."

In his blog about his company's recruitment drive http://circos.wordpress.com Sim shared five tips with candidates. Know your fundamentals; be prepared to prove your "expertise," in other words, don't BS about what you know; don't expect to know the answer to every question; knowing the right answer but not being able to explain how you got the answer is worse than not getting the right answer; and listen to the question and understand what we're asking before attempting to solve it.

He interviewed more than 100 applicants but did not make a single offer. He said this was because "everyone who had applied encountered problems in one or more of the areas above, with the great majority not advancing because they failed the "knowing the fundamentals" test".

"We understand that personality and fit is important, but at Circos we want to make sure that you've got the right level of technical aptitude before we consider personality and fit."

O'Neil Dunne said the key was to try and impress the interviewer and not just do a search on Wikipedia, which he called "the source of all evil".

"You need to think for yourself and not just parrot back what people think."

He also looks for application of intellect that is, the ability to take raw intellect and apply it to the job.

Panellists agreed that in a down economy, companies were also more discerning about who they hired. There is more supply and every hire is critical.

Both O'Neil Dunne and Sim used to do recruitment at Microsoft and shared the highly rigorous process candidates had to go through before they got the job and Sim said in a good economy, a one-two percent ratio of candidates to job offers was the norm. In a down economy, that ratio is even lower.

Sim said that companies were now looking for multi-disciplanarians rather than specialists. "The hiring bar has gone up, education hasn't."

Trampert said Carlson Hotels had 58 hotels under construction and was struggling to find talent that was multi-lingual and flexible.

STB's Lai said the raised benchmark on recruitment cuts across all industries. Companies are clearly looking for higher quality staff with better ability to think, solve problems and balance the soft and hard sciences.

When asked if looks mattered in an industry known to favour good looks and youth especially in customer-facing jobs, panellists shied of giving a straight answer.

STB's Lai said what was more important than looks was talent and creativity. Sim said the travel technology field tended to be dominated by males and that if you are in technology, you're ugly, he jested.

He said that perhaps more girls should be brought into the technology field and be taught maths and science at an early age. He said the travel technology field offered good, attractive careers.

All agreed that universities were not doing enough to prepare students for the workplace and while industry needs were changing so rapidly, education was not.

One suggestion from STB's Lai was to offer a kind of boot camp where new recruits were put in a real world context to solve different problems. "But that requires time."

And indeed time was the one thing panellists said they wished they had more of in the recruitment process.

Asked what's the one thing they would change about the recruitment process, O'Neil Dunne said, "More time to get to know and understand the person. We are now using software to discern a person that's sad. We need to spend more time with the person and get to know them better."

Trampert agreed. Often, hotels are in a rush to place people because a hotel has to open. Technology is then used to speed up the process.

The issue of morality and ethics was raised by a member of the audience who wanted to know whether in looking for talent, panellists considered this question.

O'Neil-Dunne said some interview questions were designed to understand the values held by a person and "what is this person like as a human being?" For example, offering different scenarios such as do you see a bottle of scotch as a gift or a bribe.

Lai said however such questions did not reveal the nuances. Scenarios were often fairly black and white but what happens in situations which were less clear. For example, do you reveal information that might jeopardise the project you are on?

Trampert said ethics were hard to discern during the interview process. You have multiple people interviewing and assessing the character, then you have probation time but at the end of the day, you have to take certain risks, he said.

Sim said the responsibility for morality and ethics rested with management who have to put in the right checks and balances.

He noted that often diverse workforces offered a better environment as the interplay of different cultures can create a more open culture where people feel freer to express themselves.

When asked how they would wish to be remembered, Lai said, "It is not about you but what you do. Contribute to a higher role. Who remembers the faceless hero the CEO of 3M, for example?"

For Trampert, it's "he walks the talk."

O'Neil Dunne said, "A net contributor someone who gave more than he took."

For Sim who's got a 11-month-old boy, it's being a good father. Professionally, though, he'd like to be remembered for democratising knowledge.

4Hoteliers is the "Official Daily News" of WIT09

www.webintravel.com - October 20-23, 2009 Suntec Convention Centre, Singapore
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