So you think you want my Job?

This undertaker made the headlines last year when her coffin-themed wedding photos went viral. Jenny Tay tells us more about what it’s like to be in the business of death.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
This undertaker made the headlines last year when her coffin-themed wedding photos went viral. Jenny Tay tells us more about what it’s like to be in the business of death.
123Rrf/Click Photos
123Rrf/Click Photos

A family business

When you talk about jobs that save lives, doctors, nurses, firefi ghters and the police comes to mind. But what about a career in taking care of the dead? Not many people would think of going into the funeral trade, but for Jenny Tay, being a funeral director is something she’s wanted since she was 18.

The 29-year-old entered the profession three years ago, and now she holds the reins as the managing director of Direct Funeral Services. The company was founded in 2000 by her father, Mr Roland Tay, who is well-known for providing pro-bono services for the poor, the destitute, and victims of murder.

“My job is definitely not for the faint-hearted because we deal with grief and death on a daily basis.” says Jenny. “However, it is a very meaningful career as we help families through the entire grieving process, and provide them with proper closure at their point of loss.”

Learning on the job

But how do you even go about becoming a funeral director? For Jenny, a business and marketing graduate from the University of New South Wales, she chose to do a four-year stint in the advertising and events management industry first before joining the family business. Turns out, her prior experience as an account executive is applicable even in her current role.“We handle several cases each day, so we need to arrange the logistics for each funeral efficiently. Working in an agency has taught me how to multitask and ensure effective communication so the funeral ceremonies are wellexecuted,” explains Jenny. And while paper qualifications are a bonus, she adds that it’s not an absolute indication of whether you’re cut out for the job.

What makes a funeral director

When looking for a new hire, Jenny shares that the top three qualities that she looks for in a candidate are compassion, emotional intelligence and good organisational skills. “A funeral director is there for you when you lose a loved one. It’s important that we know how to comfort and lend a listening ear to the bereaved family. People are also at their most vulnerable when a death occurs in the family, so we need to know what to say and avoid sensitive subjects that might sadden them even more.”

Moving forward

Her responsibilities doesn’t just end at funeral arrangements. As the managing director, she’s also in charge of developing the business. Since joining the company, she’s introduced a whole host of new features, such as memorial photography, floral setups, Wi-Fi, waitressing and night watch services for wakes. She recognises the need for more young people to join the industry, seeing that innovation and new perspectives is always needed to adapt to changing needs. Says Jenny: “Being a funeral director is more than a job; it’s a calling. We provide a vital service to grieving families. There’s an immense satisfaction in knowing that you’re called upon and trusted to help people in their time of need.”

Career Experience


Brand Communications Executive, In2 Marketing & Consulting


Managing Director,Direct Funeral Services


Senior Account Executive, Hakuhodo Singapore


Started beta-testing an app for the business