Bong worked in the hospitality industry for over forty-two years, forty of which were with Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, where he started as a Food & Beverage Control Clerk and, prior to retirement, held the role of Vice President of Information Technology.
How did your career grow with Mandarin Oriental?
I joined the hotel group as Food & Beverage Control Clerk. I transferred from the Manila Hilton because my boss there moved to the Mandarin Oriental, Manila. He took me in, so that's how I started my career in Mandarin Oriental. I'm not really from IT at that point. Forty years ago, there's no such thing as IT yet and continuing on, somewhere down the road in my career in Manila, they told me as my new task to migrate everything from paper to computers.
When Mandarin Oriental was organizing how IT should be the very first CIO in the company flew to Manila. I thought he was just down there to do a fam trip or an orientation, not realizing he was already looking at me and informally interviewing me. He flew back to Hong Kong and after a few days, he gave me a call to say, "Would you like to move to Mandarin corporate office in Hong Kong?" It was quite a shock. I never really expected that and that's when he changed my life.
What would you consider your greatest achievement in your forty years at Mandarin Oriental?
From early days that I was not yet in IT I had a team of people in Cost Control, in Materials Management. We bonded and they grew up with me. I'm hoping that I was able to impart a little bit of wisdom inside and nuggets into them to carry their career forward. I believe I did because I've seen them grow up, and I've seen them become Senior Managers, also the hotel IT Directors, also my people here, my team here in Corporate IT. I think if you ask me what's your biggest achievement if ever I need to claim one it's making people grow, making people recognize their talents, making people more confident and move on.
What are your most cherished memories?
I remember fondly when we do hotel openings, my team and I go there and we literally punch every single room, going from room to room, checking that everything is working in there in terms of technology. It takes twelve hours to do that, on your feet, walking all over the building, and what we do after work is we still go out and stress ourselves further over beers and beers and beers, sharing stories of the day, and that's how we bonded some more.
Looking back forty years is a good mix of stress and fun and joy. It's a rollercoaster ride, all the up's and down's but it's very, very rewarding. As they say, the hospitality industry it's either you hate it or love it. For us, to stay in that long enough, and you who are still there, you know very well why you're still around because you love what you're doing and this is the nature of our industry.