Back on Track

Nicholas Hill, CEO
By: Nicholas Hill
3rd February 2021

Anyone who has been following my previous blogs will know that my favourite time for thinking and writing is a long train journey. This is partly due to the absence of interruption, both electronic and human, but just as much due to the rather hypnotic experience of just gazing out of the window, watching the scenery unfold.

Sadly, I haven’t set foot on a train since March last year, so have missed out on this opportunity for head space. This isn’t due to any lack of trains, but rather the absence of reasons to travel. In normal times I would do four or five business trips a month to conferences, exhibitions, workshops and business meetings, travelling by train whenever possible. There hasn’t been a single instance of any of these in the last ten months, so I’m happy to report I’m back on track, so to speak. My current journey is a new one to me, heading north from Trondheim on the Nordlandsbanen. It’s currently sleeting, making the view through the windows a little hazy, and there is snow all around. You can’t see the sleepers, just two bright rails nestling in the snow and receding into the distance. We’re sliding along the edge of Trondheim Fjord at this point, so there’s a dramatic contrast between the tree-covered hills to the right and the open expanse of the Fjord to the left.

Perhaps I should add that I’m not actually in Norway, but in fact watching an old ‘Slow TV’ recording of the journey that I stumbled across recently. Playing full screen on a large monitor, it’s creating the desired effect surprisingly well. Still, as I look forward to all manner of things returning to normal this year, the need to make real train journeys again is high on my wish list.

If 2020 was the year in which it felt like we were all sliding gradually into the abyss, I see 2021 as the year when we climb back out, a prospect that really lifts my spirits. An early sign of a return to normal for Plextek is that we have restarted our recruitment programme. Back in April last year we put our recruitment plans on hold due to the huge uncertainty over how the year would pan out. A number of rather key roles were left unfilled, which caused a good deal of stress for those backfilling the missing positions, but it just didn’t seem the right time to bring new staff into the team.

We’re now moving forward with a half dozen of our most critical recruitments, including technical, project management, and sales roles, all of which help me feel we are looking forward once more. It will be a challenge to figure out how to interview and onboard new staff in the current lockdown conditions, but we’ll work through it. And it remains to be seen whether there is much appetite out there for moving jobs and possibly relocating at the moment.

And on the topic of looking forward, I note that I’m riding on a Diesel train through the snow. It’s clearly impractical to electrify a line like this due to its remoteness. Still, it would be nice to think that we could be using more sustainable technology to transport ourselves through such a beautiful landscape, which gives me an idea for my next blog topic – hydrogen trains.

In the meantime, I wholeheartedly recommend a virtual train journey if you need some thinking time. Let me know if you plan to join me on the Nordlandsbanen sometime, or if you’d like to recommend another destination!