story Nicholas Lua, Staff Writer | photo credit David Zhang
Not many people on campus have heard of the Security team. If they have, their encounters with Security tend to involve being told to go off campus to smoke, or rectifying a security breach. Small wonder then that these people in uniform are not always a welcome sight. But what does the Yale-NUS College community look like from their point of view? The Octant learns about life as a security guard here from Mohamad Affendy, Security Supervisor, and Mohamad Noor Bin Hassan, Group Leader. Excerpts from the interview follow:
What’s a job in Security like?
Affendy: We ensure the college is a safe and secure environment, for everyone to work, study and play in. To work towards this objective, Security performs patrols to check for suspicious persons or occurrences. We ensure the security system is working, with no faulty doors or gates. We also attend to emergencies such as fire [evacuations], … security incidents and handling lost and found property. And we do this with feedback and support from everyone: staff, students and faculty.
Eugene Tan, Senior Manager of Facilities is managing both Infrastructure and Security. I help him to oversee Security. I have my Group Leaders directly under me to manage daily operations. Each GL is in charge of a team of 2 outsourced officers. Security is a hybrid team. We have in-house staff like Noor and myself. But because it takes time to recruit future members, we call for tender to hire available agents from security companies in Singapore—our outsourced officers.
Noor: At any one time, we have three teams on, one team off. One team each for [the] morning, afternoon and night shifts. The last team is off. On the second day, the team [that was previously off] will take over as [the] morning [shift], and so on. Rotating shift duties.
How was your first day?
A: I came in on the fourth of May this year. That was the day we were moving from RC4. When you have a new day in the security line, you have other security officers there. The senior ones mainly will help you through the job. But on the first day when I came in, there was no one! There was nobody else in security besides me. There were [some members of the Facilities team, though]. I was so shocked. We were moving to a new building so it was a flurry of activity. When I first came in I thought I would just be doing shift work, managing my own people. But when I realized I was the first officer there … we [the existing members] had to set up the team, the security systems (including all the procedures, processes, logistics). There were so many things I came in not prepared for, but I had to take it as a challenge.
What are the challenges you face when doing your job?
A: Sometimes, people think security officers come in to chari pasal (look for trouble). That’s the common stigma. The image we want in the campus not someone to be scared of but a friend. Someone you can say “Hi abang (brother), how are you?” to. But it’s a mutual respect thing also. Yes, we do respect the students. We were young before, we know … naughty lah, mischievous lah. Our aim is not to punish or be very critical. We just want you guys to be safe, to not hurt yourself. If there’s a clear breach, for example smoking, we will have to act but we try to take a positive approach, not saman )fine) straight away … We’ll first say “This is not the best place to do it. There are other places you can do it and not get yourself into trouble.”
N: The Saga College water feature looks like a pool, but it’s not. Health-wise it’s not for humans … I came across a student inside there, so I advised him accordingly. He told me “Don’t worry, if anything happens I won’t get you involved.” So I advised him, “I’m paid to take care of this area. If anything happens to you, it’s my responsibility. No matter what, I’m still involved.” … Subsequently he followed my advice and stepped out.
A: The water feature looks very welcoming, but it’s not a pool. It doesn’t have a water filtration system … the water doesn’t get renewed and changed. No lifeguard on duty some more (laughs). Better not to swim in it, or else you’ll get sick.
What’s the best part of working in Security?
A: Working in a new environment… although it’s a lot of work, it’s still manageable – you have good friends, good colleagues, your boss is supportive… we don’t overwork. There’s time to socialize and interact. The good thing about working in a new environment is that there’s nothing under the carpet. Here, you’re fresh, it’s like a white piece of canvas.
N: It feels like we are the pioneers, we set up our own concept. It’s like building up your own journey. Fortunately… I can approach people for help, even in the middle of the night. If a water pipe bursts or there’s an electrical failure, I can approach my boss here.
A: Sometimes in our past experiences we encounter situations that aren’t favorable. … like some of the politics [from our previous jobs] that we cannot tahan (tolerate). We bring our dreams of what our ideal job would be like here. We build good relationships with our colleagues. Then we can truly say this is our second home.
You must have some interesting stories to tell!
N: Middle of the night, it happened in Saga—a faculty apartment. Earlier in the day, the contractor was doing some piping on the water heater. Late at night, when the faculty member switched on the heater for a shower, the thing burst. One thing good about him, he helped me out. He didn’t pressure me or anything [when I answered the call]. In fact, the water was like a waterfall from the ceiling—the connecting pipe to the heater burst. My uniform habis (was soaked). It was an experience for me. We managed to get hold of the contractor to shut it down. So he didn’t have a hot shower until the next morning.
I have also been an electrician. Once, the laundry at Saga wasn’t working. You know the washing machine’s hose burst. Using duct tape the Saga Rector and I tied up the thing. Subsequently, it worked!
A: My GLs are not only security officers, they are handymen (laughs). We are not professionals… not certified plumbers or electricians. But we need to think out of the box to deal with [certain] situations. We need to know how to react to different situations. Like Superman, only we don’t wear the red underwear lah! (laughs)
N: It’s kind of breaking the ice between Security and the rest of the school. Ms. Sarah [Weiss, Saga College Rector] knows I’m Security and what we do.
On belonging and the Yale-NUS Community:
A: We may look very garang [fierce], but actually no lah, it’s just the uniform. Still, we are very proud of the uniform because it’s Yale-NUS, and we are also part of the community. The students are the reason why we are here.
On Hobbies and Family:
N: I’m used to housework (laughs). I’m into fishing lah. … Nowadays, no [opportunity]. I mean, my kakis [friends]—all around my age lah… all family men lah. Help out, do housework. Sometimes, [I] go out with my son, go for walk, go for jog…
A: Our hobbies now are more family-related… The main things that we look forward to after our duties. We have a family to go back to.
On Hats and Philosophy
N: Must know how to relax, how to relieve stress…this is my life philosophy. I’m wearing different kinds of hats. In the home, I wear the father’s hat. When I’m out, the home one I leave inside, put on the wall… It’s something like that so I don’t mix up. So it’s more easy, you won’t stress out. You know your roles and you know your priorities.