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Is it possible for a Chief People Officer at an international IT consultancy company to take leave in one of the most hectic quarters, amidst the launch of several projects, to go sailing the Atlantic for a month? Let me tell you - Yes, it is! 

At Columbus, we put people first. That is part of our strategy: to build a workplace where you can thrive both professionally and personally, and to be an employer that allows you to follow your dreams. 

➡ Read also: A Career within IT and Digital Advisory - Meet Mathilde

Having a Supporting Manager

Per Fredriksson has had an interest in sailing for many years. He has been sailing in the Swedish archipelago and the Baltic Sea. The dream of sailing across the Atlantic has grown over the years, and Per has several friends who’ve embarked on this journey. The opportunity came quite suddenly, and Per reached out to his manager and our group CEO, Søren Krogh Knudsen, about his chance to make his dream come true. Many managers might have said no in this situation – end of Q4, and several projects being launched, but Søren showed his support. A couple of weeks later, Per was in Gran Canaria getting prepared to make his dream come true. 

2023-11-26 14.15.08Photo: Per Fredriksson, Chief People Officer at Columbus, sailing across the Atlantic

Preparing for the adventure of a lifetime

How is it possible to go on leave in such a busy time the way Per did? One thing is, of course, a supporting manager. It's about having trust in your co-workers’ abilities, and a team that works independently and collaboratively. “You should make yourself indispensable as a leader and not micromanage”, says Per. And he didn’t leave his team in the lurch. All projects had project teams and were meticulously planned and structured. Everyone knew what needed to be done.

You should make yourself indispensable as a leader and not micromanage

Seven merry men, everyone with a passion for sailing, gathered for a four-day briefing in Las Palmas. They learned about safety, meteorology, the starry sky, navigation, and practical training on the ship – a 62ft Oyster yacht. The crew consisted of one professional skipper and a first mate. "It felt almost a little bit like coming back to the partial conscription* (military service in Sweden), we stood there nervously giggling and excited," says Per. 

Per knew the Skipper previously, who has done many voyages over the Atlantic and was very educational and clear on who gives instructions. "For example, you should never echo instructions. When focusing on a task, it takes a different time for everyone to process information. The one giving the instructions should always be the one to repeat them", says Per.

Collaboration and Following Others

You quickly learned to never leave any loose objects and how to sleep strapped to the bunk

Per’s fellow companions on the ship are all leaders in their daily lives, and instead of leading, all are now following. In this situation, you need to accept that someone else is in charge and follow their directions. 

To get everyone successfully over the Atlantic Ocean (avoiding casualties at all costs), they all needed to collaborate and take responsibility. “We worked in shifts, you sailed for three hours, then rested for six. We divided the responsibility for cooking and cleaning, and every 7th day, you got a full night of sleep," says Per.

How did they keep up the good spirits for 18 days? Well, before taking off they all agreed that no politics is allowed to be discussed – it won’t get you anywhere. Be aware that you’re in this together and be clear that everyone needs to make an effort – even if you disagree sometimes.

arc23-1180Photo: The crew on the 62ft Oyster yacht

A humbling experience

For over a week they saw nothing, but water, and the closest ship could be many miles away if something happened. This meant they had to be self-sufficient. Per says it was a very humbling experience, and during the nights they were able to see the starry sky, galaxies, and the famous Seven Sisters. When they were sailing near the shores, they got the opportunity to see whales, and when reaching the Caribbean, they were followed by dolphins who played along the ship. 

For 18 days they had no access to the internet, and Per testifies to a completely different mindset and that the feeling of missing something quickly passed. The daily dopamine of a smartphone was replaced with amazing experiences of Mother Earth. During his hours of free time, Per read books, one about Christoffer Columbus, and watched downloaded movies from Netflix.

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Trusting the Skipper in rough weather

The sailing was not always smooth; sometimes there were huge waves, and you could wake up rolling around the bunk. Closer to the Caribbean, there was rainy weather and local squalls (squalls are suddenly increasing wind speed that lasts for minutes), and in a matter of seconds, the wind speed doubled from 15 to 30 meters per second.

Per says: "I had a lot of faith in the Skipper, so I never felt unsafe. But of course, there was a concern that somebody would get sick or hurt since there was no doctor. But we still had a sense of security, with GPS trackers in our life jackets and the nearest help (other ships) 5-8 hours away."

2023-12-07 06.43.36Photo: The Sailing crew arriving in the Caribbean 

Back on land

After three weeks at sea, Per and his fellow sailors were back on dry land on St. Lucia. It was a relief to be able to walk on land again, though it took some time to shake the feeling that you were still on a swaying boat. Before heading back to reality and the Columbus and the People team, Per took a well-deserved relaxing week on Martinique together with his wife. 

Follow your dream!

Per urges others to follow their dreams. As an employer, Columbus encourages employees to make their dreams come true and wants people to be able to combine their work at Columbus with their personal goals. Per is one example of this, and with this story, we hope to inspire you to follow your dream and grab the opportunity when it comes. Even if it is during a hectic time of the year. 😊


Are you curious about possibilities at Columbus? Check out our Global Career Site to find open positions in your location! 🌍

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