Climbing a 30-metre gum tree or fetching tennis balls from the roof posed no problem for me, after all I had learnt ropes and knot tying at Scouts, Venturers and Rovers. How little did I know at age 15, that these skills and fun activities would be a precursor for my later in life chosen career in window cleaning.
Around 1999 I approached a large Window Cleaning company in my hometown of Melbourne Australia where I started as a trainee. I was working on my own as a “Professional window cleaner” and 12 months later were offered a contracting position. That was it, I was hooked and since then.
However, in 2004, I was offered a job in Dubai as a Development & Installation manager for an automotive electronics company and as much as I loved my window cleaning work, the opportunities were so great that I reverted back to my old career and took the job. Window cleaning was put on hold. I packed up, moved to Dubai. Almost two years later with a wealth of great experiences and a fiancé; whom I had met during my stay and is now my wife, the lure of window cleaning was calling me back.
I was in love and away from home but the question was where are we going to live? Australia or Austria? Austria won the toss. Given that this is my wife’s country of birth and offered exciting prospects, the move wasn’t as hard as I had imagined though not speaking the language was always going to be the first hurdle.
In Austria I returned to window cleaning for a rope access company. I worked full time for about a year, then decided it was time to go solo and work for myself. Now the really challenging phase of my career began, IRATA Level 1 training (International Rope Access Trade Association). After many hours of theory and practice I achieved Level 1,2 and 3. This success has been one of my biggest achievements. That and learning to speak German all takes longer than you can imagine. I’m still working on the language, soldiering on and can get my way around with what I have learned so far. Having lived in Austria now for over ten years I have found the work to be irregular and seasonal, so in order to capitalise on my IRATA training I started working on Oil Rigs and Wind Farms both on and off shore. In those few years, I have had some great experiences, flying to work in a helicopter, jetting around Europe to destinations such as Esbjerg Denmark, a wind farm off the coast of Amsterdam, where I worked a two-week rotation living on a ship and even got to meet the dynamic entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson during one of my trips home. While there is some glamour attached to the travel, new environments and an outdoor lifestyle what also appeals is the financial reward, Window cleaning is the stable and enjoyable career I know I can always can rely on. The contract work is good and pays well, but there is risk as it can be determined by the seasons and contracts.
It may seem strange that someone can have such a passion for what seems to be a menial job, but trust me, it’s far from menial and is never boring. I guess that’s what I love about it. Every day is different. Every house is different. Every customer is different. Let me tell you a couple of stories.
One of the largest private homes I have washed was in suburban Melbourne. The house had 9 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, 13 toilets (yes 13 toilets. Lucky for some) and 70 mirrors (that’s a lot of bad luck if things go wrong). I didn’t know who the owner was until later on that night, when the boss told me he was the CEO for a very large chain of retail shops Australia wide. Not only was it a nice house where money was obviously no object but the owner was a ‘real’ person who appreciated my work and on top of his quote for the job, gave me a very generous tip.
Another fun experience was the MILLENIUM TOWERS in Vienna. It is the biggest building I have ever worked on. It was only a one-drop for an interview by an Austrian TV station about “Extreme window cleaning”,
Sadly, there’s the flip side of the coin when it comes to window cleaning. Not knowing what was in store I arrived at a house that should have been bulldozed. But I was not there to judge until I saw trees growing out of the flooring, twenty years’ worth of newspapers scattered everywhere, 80% of the window frames had been chewed and hacked by a dog. Oh dear. Then there was the smell, well let’s just say I did what I had to do quickly and get out of there. In spite of the terrible sadness I saw the customer was delighted and seemed to think that now the windows were clean the house would be better to live in. She was an extreme hoarder which is becoming more and more of a recognised condition and in spite of the obvious squalor that was still evident, she was over the moon and her view on it all was just a bit clearer. No doubt window cleaners around the world have similar stories to tell. There are good customers and, the not so good.
My final word is this. Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. So far that has been my mantra and it hasn’t failed me yet.