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Hotel engineers need patience, a yen for service

Published on Thursday, 29 Mar 2012
David Au
Photo: Felix Wong

Hotel guests may not bump into the engineering staff very often, but these busy yet low-profile employees are the unsung heroes who help keep facilities in tip-top form.

David Au, director of engineering at InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong, leads a 30-member team that maintains the hotel’s facilities day and night.

“Air conditioning, lights, water supply and fire safety are the areas that we need to handle. The most common complaint I get from guests is that the air-conditioning is too cold or too warm,” Au says.

“Sometimes it is really not easy to satisfy fully guests’ demands, but we always need to try our best and have the heart to serve. Hotels are a guest-oriented industry, so I tell my staff to always smile and listen patiently to requests,” he adds.

To be a hotel technician, one only needs a higher certificate in engineering. However, a technician can move up to be an engineer if he or she is willing to study further.

“The Institute of Vocational Education offers engineering-related higher certificate courses, and we employ graduates as technicians,” says Au. “Dedicated individuals usually continue to study to get a higher diploma and then an engineering degree. They can then move up to be duty engineer, senior duty engineer, assistant chief engineer and director.”

Au says engineers who have worked on ships are also welcome, as fixing electricity and water facilities on board a ship is quite similar to doing repairs in hotels.

Since a hotel runs non-stop, operational staff such as technicians and duty engineers must work in shifts, including overnight. Those at the management level, such as the  assistant chief engineer and director, are exempted from shifts, but they have to be on-call 24 hours a day in case of emergency.

“Hotel engineers have to be prepared for long work hours. Overtime is common,  especially for staff at the management level,” says Au.

Unlike engineers working with consultant firms or contractors who focus on building infrastructure and facilities, hotel engineers serve clients. “We have to be customer-oriented. We have to react quickly to help our guests solve problems so they can enjoy staying at the hotel,” says Au.

Besides helping with fixing facilities, hotel engineers also play a key role in implementing environmental protection policies. “We try to save energy through various ways. For example, we save electricity by using LED lightings. We save water by using restrictors in taps and showers to reduce water flow. It is our duty to provide solutions to the hotel to conserve and be environmentally friendly,” says Au.

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