Jack of all trades
From hospitality to pearls, Joseph Lim demonstrates there is no end to learning.
HE STARTED out as a waiter, then became a butler and progressed to guest relations officer. One thing led to another and today, Joseph Lim Yew Meng has a career many would envy. He handles pearl jewellery for German company Schoeffel Pearls. As Schoeffel’s Asia Pacific manager, he is based in Sydney, Australia.
In the course of his work, he counts himself lucky to have met diplomats and celebrities.
Since Lim had lived with his parents all his life, the thought of working to support himself never occurred to him. It was only when he arrived in Australia in 2001 that he felt he didn’t want to burden his parents with his living expenses as the university tuition fees were already so high.
“I was a waiter in a Cambodian restaurant in the trendy city suburb of Darlinghurst in Sydney. I was lucky to land the job, despite having no experience,” says Lim in an email interview.
“Apart from balancing trays, opening wine bottles and polishing wine glasses, I also developed people skills and interacted with strangers freely. The ability to engage in conversation proved to be a useful skill even today.”
In mid-2003, Lim moved to Canberra to further his education.
He found work there as a tea
Joseph Lim on his first visit to Paris in 2006. His work requires him to travel around Asia. lounge attendant in the five-star Hyatt Hotel Canberra that houses visiting international diplomats.
“I worked my way up to become a waiter in the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, supervising the VIP lounge and later, was promoted to butler.
“I had the opportunity to look after many world leaders,” he reveals, adding that his “most remarkable experience” was talking with then prime minister Datuk Seri (Tun) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. “The first time he saw me, he asked, ‘You are Malaysian, aren’t you?’ One morning, I served him a glass of cold fruit juice and he coughed throughout the day. I felt so guilty!” Lim says.
“On his last day, he showed me a golf bag made out of kangaroo skin that was a gift from then Australian prime minister, John Howard. That evening, I had to excuse myself early to make it for my class. He asked me to wait while he went up to his room. When he returned, he gave me two colourful notes. That was my tip and I kept it for three years before using them in London,” he says.
After completing his Masters degree in Canberra, he moved back to Sydney in 2005. He took up a job as guest relations officer at the Club Lounge of InterContinental Hotel there.
“The lounge located at Circular Quay offers a view of the entire Sydney harbour and the inner east suburbs. It is the most spectacular view in Sydney.”
The hotel also hosted international celebrities the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Michael Buble, Joan Rivers, Pink, Pussycat Dolls and Scissor Sisters. Part of his job was to look after them.
“I was there when Nicole Kidman celebrated her hen’s night with Naomi Watts and I told her how privileged I felt to have her there.
“David Hasselholf, a truly funny guy, asked me where I was from. I told him Malaysia, but I think he had no idea where the country is. Nevertheless, I told him we were all big fans of Baywatch and Knight Rider. He said he would visit Malaysia one day. I pointed out to him where Malaysia is on the world map!” says Lim.
In 2006, his aunt recommended a job in a pearl jewellery company based in Germany.
“It came at the right time because my permanent residency (for Australia) was granted then. I was having a great time working in the hospitality trade but felt I needed a serious career,” he says. He flew from Sydney to Hong Kong for the interview and was hired three days later.
He arrived in Stuttgart in October that year; it was his first trip to Europe.
“Stuttgart is a small city. At the airport, there was only one luggage belt! I told myself, this is not good,” reminisces Lim. “Whilst driving back to the office, I noticed that everything was grey and misty. There were no highrise buildings and or big billboards. As a city boy, I panicked!”
They put him up in a small city hotel for a week. It was a complete culture shock for him.
As he didn’t know the German language when he first arrived, he ate Turkish pizza and McDonald’s for dinner every day for the entire week. His first task at work had nothing to do with pearls. He was put in the logistics department to learn about the courier service.
“This job cannot be underestimated. There is a structured system and brand standard to adhere to. Even the way we package the pearls, the placement of cards and addresses are of importance. I did this for two months,” he adds.
After some German lessons, communication was easier and Lim managed to find his way around.
“I got to know the city and understand the people better. The Germans are fantastic. They are very honest and sincere.”
After a month in the company, he was asked to handle a pearl show with a jeweller in Indonesia. With the little experience that he had with pearls, he managed to pull off the show which was held at different locations in Jakarta.
“Just before Christmas, Lim returned to Kuala Lumpur to visit his family. During this time, he met up with Poh Kong’s merchandising director Alice Choon.
“We struck up a very good business relationship and over the years, a close friendship. We were both very enthusiastic and committed to bringing Schoeffel to Malaysia. Our first show in May 2007 was a success. By September 2007, we opened the first Schoeffel pearl boutique at the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur,” he says.
Today, Lim lives in Darlinghurst. When he’s not busy at work, he indulges in kite flying, body surfing, fashion, gardening and home decor.
“I live about 15 minutes’ bus ride away from Bondi beach. As much as my family hates my skin being overly tan, I love it,” says Lim, who learnt to surf recently.
His job takes him back to KL every so often. “From there, it’s easier to travel around Asia,” he says, adding that two of the most memorable cities that he visited recently are Paris and London.