Meet the Team: Sabrina Lei Shi, Deputy General Manager
As we sit chatting at Bar Nebula on a late Friday afternoon, Sabrina Lei Shi’s mobile chimes away ceaselessly. Each is a work call or message, requiring her attention.
As Deputy General Manager of ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove, Shi is involved in every aspect of the running of the marina. She filters through daily revenue reports, works on business forecasts, analyses industry trends, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the Club.
It is hard to tell that Shi had only been with the Club for 6 weeks at the point of writing. The hospitality veteran addresses each decision firmly and with laser-focus. What’s even more surprising is that the industry was never on her rader—her dream was to be a ballet dancer.
“At the age of 10, I was talent spotted and picked for a government-run ballet institution in China. Training was intense—we practised seven hours a day,”
But the competitive nature in Shi pushed her to master the steps faster, and an additional three hours each day. She ended up tearing a ligament in her leg when I was 11.
This accident put an abrupt end to her dancing career. At the age of 16, Shi left the institute to focus on her studies. Her first job upon graduation was on board a cruise ship—which laid the path for her multi-city hospitality career.
The English language, however, proved to be a barrier for the native Shanghainese, especially when it was spoken in different accents. She overcame that hurdle as well by spending all her free time— even after gruelling 10-hour shifts—memorising the English dictionary, and making conversation with guests to practise.
Her love for travel and exploring different cultures coupled with the grit for taking risks saw Shi relocate many a time in search of new challenges. She moved on from her cruise-ship stint to the role of spa manager at Ringha, Shangri-La, Tibet, where she helped set-up the business.
At the age of 28, the Down Under came calling. But the globetrotter found herself lacking the required hospitality experience in Australia. Then, Shi did something that shocked most of her peers—she gamely took a major demotion from spa manager to hotel porter.
“It was a life-changing and humbling experience. It taught me to be down-to-earth and adaptable. It also helped me build a very strong foundation in hospitality, which is very important”
Sure enough, the next 14 years saw Shi climbing up the corporate ladder. She was Executive Assistant Hotel Manager with TFE Hotel Group in Australia for three years before Singapore came calling. Today, the 42-year-old is second-in-command at the Club.
As a Chinese woman who has broken what many may perceive to be invisible glass ceilings, Shi credits her success to the many mentors she met during her career. “I’ve learnt that being a good leader is not necessarily the same thing as simply being a nice person.
“I used to be a very black-and-white sort of person, over the years, I’ve also learnt the value of adding a softer touch,” she adds, and learnt to play a more supportive role in the Club.
“A good leader should be able to lead decisively and by example, and also help his or her team members grow meaningfully.”
Her vast exposure and international perspective also enables her to anticipate the needs of guests and offer tailored experiences. “Luxury today is very customised—you have to understand a person’s culture. You cannot just give everyone the same recommendation,” she explains.
When not working, Shi loves making pottery. “I am a very hands-on person and I love the arts. To make good pottery, I believe you need to be very focused and detail oriented. It’s the same with work—if you are passionate about something, you will find your focus to excel at it,” says the gritty Deputy General Manager, whose vision is to build the business at ONE°15 and make it Asia’s and the world’s finest marina.