Profile of The Month: Colin Young, General Manager of JW Marriott Surabaya

“I’ll meet you in the kitchen!”, Colin Young, the General Manager of JW Marriott Surabaya told us excitedly when asked where he wants us to do the profile interview. Did I hear that correctly? You would think that he wants to show us off a little bit the more glitzy side of the hotel. Like maybe the hotel’s super cozy executive lounge that gives a sweeping view of Surabaya (in a clear day, you can even gaze all the way to Madura island and the Suramadu that connects it to Surabaya).

The hotel’s been around for more than 20 years, but it remains as one of Surabaya’s most sought after luxury accommodation. Currently, they are doing massive, yet gradual, revamping throughout the hotel’s facility, including a big change of the hotel rooms that now look completely different.

So why are we meeting the hotel’s GM in the kitchen? “Just a change of scenery. I like to keep things interesting, and I also like coming to the kitchen because it’s so different from all the reports and paperworks. You see creativity here.” Colin explains with a big smile.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I came from Sydney Australia, and joined the industry 30 years. I’ve been with JW Marriott for 22 years, and Hong Kong was my first posting. JW Marriott at that time was expanding. And the best way to grow your career is to work for a company that’s also growing. After Hong Kong, I moved to China, and later found my way to Surabaya, which is closer to home, which is a big bonus.

How are you liking Surabaya so far?
It’s great! I like the city, I like the people. This is actually my second time in Surabaya. 10 years ago I was here in the same position for about 1.5 years, but then they wanted me back in Shenzen, China, where I stayed for 8 years, until I decided to come back here.

Surabaya is a big enough city where there’s diversity and a lot of things happening, but it’s not as big as Jakarta, and Shanghai, and Beijing, where you can get lost in! In Surabaya, the people is a little bit more stable and less transient. It gives me the stability i look for, but it’s big enough that there’s diversity.

Taking it back to the start, why did you chose the hospitality industry?
I grew up in a restaurant family. My father was a restaurateur and I always helped on weekends, so I was involved in the F&B industry quite early. Which is also why I got interested in being a chef.

Fortunately at that time we had a good college in Hotel Management in Sydney. And later when I was in my 20s, I decided I needed to see more of the world and decided to move to Hong Kong.

What excites you in your job?
Definitely as my career progress, my motivation has changed over the years. Before it’s driven by promotions, career, career. I am happy where I am, but now I like to focus on other people. Working with my team, grooming them. Because I’ve been in the company for over 20 years, and I’ve had mentors groomed me too and giving me opportunities. And I want to do the same. It’s very satisfying to see who you mentor to succeed.

I also like the fact that it’s very diverse. I can come to work in the morning and look at numbers, and later in the day go to the kitchen taste some menu, after lunch I’ll sit with the engineering team to talk about the renovations, and so on. And you’ll also learn along the way about so many things. It’s a lot of fun!

Where would you take someone from out of town coming to Surabaya?
I would definitely take them to the Prigen Safari park in Pasuruan, about 1 hour from here that is a great place to be out in the open. I would also recommend going to Mount Bromo for the beautiful sunrise. I like to also go visit antique shops and the old buildings. I’d also recommend going to Tanggulangin, the center for leather goods industry in East Java, where you get to buy and get custom leather goods.

What do you like to do in the weekends?
I like to play golf because I just like to be outdoor. My favorite one is Ciputra golf course. I haven’t been, but I’m looking forward to Tretes, Finna, and Taman Dayu which have more challenging terrain actually. Other than that, I just like to have a quite time to myself to recharge or spend time with my family.

Have you ever thought about moving to Jakarta?
I’ve given it consideration. But it’s not just about the city, but also the property. It has to suit who I am. But having been here for 6 months, at the moment I am very happy here I am with the hotel and with my team.

5 words to describe you best.
I love my surabaya family!

What’s New Jakarta would like to thank Mr. Colin Young and his team for the time spared for the interview. For more information about JW Marriott Surabaya, visit 

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