‘They thought I was an office spy’: The NUS graduate who’s working as a cleaner

Jan 29, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

SINGAPORE — Last October, Ms Naomi Wu picked up a toilet brush for the first time in her life.

While her peers get to wear spiffy office attire to work, the National University of Singapore (NUS) graduate spends a typical work day dressed in a cleaner’s outfit — scrubbing toilet tiles, picking up trash or operating a heavy duty cleaning machine.

It was something few could have imagined her doing when she graduated with a major in Project and Facilities Management in 2018.

“Most of my friends were shocked to know what I ended up doing, since I am someone who takes pride in dressing up and looking good,” said Ms Wu, 27.

She is a senior executive with Hong Kong-based cleaning company Sapphire Universe Holdings.

As part of her training, she has to do a year-long training stint with Primech Services and Engineering, one of four companies owned by Sapphire Universe.


Not many local university graduates would choose the route that Miss Wu has taken.

Mr Vernon Kwek, the chief executive of Primech, believes that graduates usually associate the cleaning industry with low salaries and “dirty” work.“We understand that these same graduates are usually presented with many more glamorous and comfortable opportunities, and the stigmatised cleaning industry may not be their first choice,” he told TODAY.

Explaining why she joined the company, Ms Wu cited the “learning opportunities” presented to her.

Despite being a graduate, she was told by her boss to “go on site” to get hands-on experience.“He believes in working from the bottom for real learning,” she said. “He told me that once I learn how things are done on the ground, I will be able to manage better when I rise up the ranks in future.”

Ms Wu added: “Cleaners will find it difficult to respect a young person who has not walked in their shoes.” Read more at https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/they-thought-i-was-office-spy-nus-graduate-whos-working-cleaner


Now she is finding out how tough it is to walk in a cleaner’s shoes.

Ms Wu starts her day at 8.30am, battling grubby tiles and clogged toilet bowls in shopping malls and condominiums, or wherever she is rostered to work during her eight-hour shift.

The cleaners, who are mostly elderly, also found it odd that someone like her was doing “dirty” work.“They refused to talk to me initially. They didn’t trust me; they thought I was an office spy,” Ms Wu said.

She also experienced first hand how some people would treat cleaners.

Once, she held open a lift door for a condominium resident who did not even acknowledge her presence.“She made us feel like holding the doors was part of what we were expected to do as cleaners,” she shared.

There was another occasion when she saw a fellow cleaner getting scolded — for doing her job.“A lady marched past the cleaning notice displayed outside a toilet and asked my colleague why she was cleaning the toilet when people wanted to use it,” Ms Wu said.

Still, she believes that the industry needs more people like her, someone who can suggest new ways of doing things or how work processes can be improved.

For Ms Wu, she returns to the office once a week to consolidate her reflections and ideas on how to improve the Standard Operating Procedures for her cleaning colleagues.

The cleaning industry is also moving along with the times, with technology changing the way cleaners work.

Cleaning staff are now sent for courses to learn how to use mobile applications to operate robots or set cleaning programmes, among other things.

With new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things changing the labour-intensive nature of a cleaner’s job, Mr Kwek hopes that the industry will be able to attract a “more diverse pool of talent”.


For Ms Wu, her cleaning stint has given her a new perspective on cleaners, whom she described as “the least appreciated people around”.“Some people are very careless about their litter. They think that a cleaner is there to pick (the trash) up anyway,” said Ms Wu, who has also developed a soft spot for cleaners, many of whom are elderly citizens.“Many of them should be in their golden years by now, but they have to work so hard and live from hand-to-mouth,” she said.

She plans to look into improving their welfare by organising more appreciation lunches for the cleaners, for instance.

For someone who hardly does any cleaning at home, Ms Wu has also gained new knowledge she never learned in university.“I can now advise my mother on what chemicals she should use to clean different surfaces,” she said proudly.

PSP's Tan Cheng Bock voted out as Sec-Gen after alleged party infighting

Apr 01, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Former Republic of Singapore Air Force colonel Francis Yuen has been appointed secretary-general of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), taking over from party founder Tan Cheng Bock.

Dr Tan, 80, has become party chairman. This was announced by the PSP on Thursday (April 1), after its central executive committee (CEC) met on Wednesday.

In a Facebook post, PSP Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai said Mr Yuen was the committee's unanimous choice to "lead PSP to the next level".

"Francis will lead and galvanise the party while (Dr Tan) concentrates on strengthening external support for PSP," he wrote.

Chairman role is basically a glorified flower pot

In many organisations around the world, the Secretary-General position has the authority to make all the decisions of running the organisation - or party. The Chairman generally does not have any more power pe se than any other voting member of the Executive Committee, except the power to run board meetings.

Comparatively, the Secretary-General is like the Chief Executive Officer of the company.

For example, the People's Action Party chairman is Gan Kim Yong while the Secretary-General is Lee Hsien Loong.

Party infighting?

The change comes amid reports of a rift in the party. An online news site, the RedWire Times, said in March that some party cadres have demanded for Dr Tan to step down as secretary-general, and allow for "more talented rising stars" to take over.

Commenting on the Redwire Times report, PSP member Kumaran Pillai said the new CEC line-up is in no way a reflection of any disagreement over the leadership of the party. Rather, Mr Yuen assuming the secretary-general role is part of a planned transition, he added.

“When Dr Tan started the party, he said he will mentor someone younger, and he hasn’t deviated from his original mission. People shouldn’t be reading too much into it.”

Mr Pillai added that he had a long dialogue with the party cadre who was quoted anonymously by Redwire Times as saying that some cadres are mustering support to demand for Dr Tan to step down from his post.

“His intention is not to stage a coup within the party. I think people have misinterpreted it and misunderstood what he said, sometimes it's like playing broken telephone, you say one thing and by the time you get to the last person, the whole story gets distorted along the way... there’s no infighting, there's no malice,” he said.

In other words, the flower pot needs watering.