Behind the Scenes | Sylvia Strijb, cleaning crew foreman

“If possible, I'll work here until my retirement.”

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Behind the Scenes | Sylvia Strijb, cleaning crew foreman

Keeping a university running is no easy feat. It takes a lot of hands to make sure everything is in order, from administration to cleaning and from security to technical maintenance. Who are the unsung heroes behind the scenes keeping everything on track? In this series, Cursor shines the spotlight on TU/e employees.

photo Asito

For the debut of the new series “Behind the Scenes”, Cursor spoke with Sylvia Strijb, foreman at cleaning company Asito. From there, she supervises the cleaning crew at three buildings on campus: Zwarte Doos, Vertigo and the Auditorium. With 19 years under her belt at TU/e, she has no desire to leave. “If possible, I'll work here until my retirement.”

What time do you clock in?

In the cleaning business, you have to be an early bird. “I start at 6 in the morning. There’s hardly anyone on campus at that time, except for the cleaners, of course.”

What does your day look like?

“The first thing I do is check to see if all my staff are present.” If that is not the case, because someone is sick, for example, Strijb puts on cleaning gloves herself and helps her team with the cleaning. “Then I go through the buildings: from Zwarte Doos, to Vertigo, and to the Auditorium, to thoroughly check the cleaning work. If things are still dirty, I talk to my team and they then fix it.”

In addition to standard cleaning work, she is also called upon to help with events that take place in “her” buildings. “When there are events, we make sure that the necessary furniture is set up or taken away (if the event has its own setup, Ed.), and afterwards, we clean everything and make sure everything is put back in place.”

What led you to this job?

Strijb has always been in the cleaning business. “First at Philips and later at DAF”, she says. “Eventually, I ended up working here because there was a staff shortage and I never left. Not planning to either!” In the 19 years she has worked for TU/e, she has had a variety of responsibilities. “I started as a cleaner, then I was in charge of laundry for a while – picking it up, washing it, folding it and returning it – and for the past four years, I’ve been a foreman."

What is the best part of your job?

For Strijb, these are her specific foreman duties such as leading her team and ensuring everything is cleaned properly. “I love arranging things,” she says enthusiastically. She also very much enjoys the social aspect of her job. “You get to be around people all day.”

And the least enjoyable part?

“Twice a year, we have a big external inspection, and if you’ve done your best and it still gets rejected, that’s very frustrating,” the foreman admits. However, that disappointment never lasts too long, because based on the feedback, they always manage to get it fixed up quickly for the re-inspection, says Strijb.

What are you most proud of?

“That I’ve been in the cleaning business for over 25 years, 19 of them spent here,” she says with a beaming smile. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

What time do you clock out?

“Officially, at a quarter past ten, half past ten. But I never actually manage to do so, I always end up staying longer,” she says guiltily. “Then I get a call and another one and I just want to finish those things up real quick before I leave. Ultimately, it’s my job to leave everything in good order.”

What do you do off the clock?

“I volunteer at hobby clubs for the elderly,” says Strijb. “There, elderly people can do crafts, like making cards and things like that.” When she is not at work or at the hobby club, she likes to spend her time with her grandchildren. “I have nine of them”, she says proudly. “Some of them are already grown, but I also have a few little ones between the ages of six and twelve. I often take them to the playground or for a day out.”

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