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Steffen Egelund Pedersen

Steffen Egelund Pedersen

When was the last time you travelled?

Mine was a trip to Phuket in Thailand with my wife and two kids to spend time with my parents, who were holidaying from Denmark in March last year. Just before the world closed down. Just before empty streets, pictures from Bergamo, singing from balconies, zoom calls, and way too much wine delivery…..

It seems like a world away. So many things have changed the past year, and so many things have remained remarkably exactly as they have always been.

So, what has happened since Phuket?

First of all, I’ve had the chance to spend more time with my wife and two twin boys. We’ve done home-schooling and work from home. We’ve made home-made pizza’s together, we have recently moved to a new house, and we’ve missed our friends and family in Indonesia and Denmark tremendously. Recently I passed my “Dad-jokes” examen with the following distinction delivered by 7-year-old Oskar: “Far (dad) if you move away from home, I’ll miss you, but I won’t miss your jokes”. It’s been a good year, but we look forward to being able to go to Indo and Denmark!

And what has happened then at everything Media Tracking?

In short everything and nothing.

When the world closed down, the truth is that my first thought was whether our colleagues in the Philippines were ok. I knew that the business would be ok. We were well prepared – in fact we had been practicing this for years without knowing it, but it was difficult to follow what happened in the Philippines, and to assess what could go wrong there. When they closed down, would internet still be up? How about electricity? Those were some of my – admittedly doomsday – thoughts, but first of all I didn’t know how bad the COVID situation would be. Luckily, they managed to keep it under relative control. There were times where it was bad with run over hospitals, but most of the times, it went pretty ok. Our colleagues were safe.

Media Track has about 300 employees in Manila and Cebu in the south Philippines. Besides admin and HR staff, we have 3 departments: Media Team with some 10 people, IT development team with 12 people, some analysts and translators, and most of the rest are data encoders – staff that work in our cloud-based newspaper digitization solution, where they train the AI software to “read” the newspapers and do quality control on the same.

These data encoders – or plotters as we call them – has always been working from home. First of all, because we’re able to. Our software isn’t placed on an old server in an office, our software is placed in the cloud. It’s a more expensive solution, but it’s also a much safer solution – something I’m so thankful for that we chose to do today. The second reason for plotters to work from home is that traffic in particularly Manila is really very bad. Why do we need to force our staff to travel two times 2 hours to go to and from work every day, when they can in-fact just get out of bed, log on their computer, and they are able to do their work? Thirdly, by allowing staff to work from home, our staff-churn has been remarkably low throughout the years. And lastly, all of this has made it possible for staff that otherwise would have difficulties to have a job, to come and work for us. Most notably women. Young mothers, that are not able to first travel 4 hours a day and then do an 8hrs workday and still take care of their kids. Hence, the majority of our plotters are young mothers, who in this way is able to keep a connection to the labor market. Something I’m extremely proud of.

So, in other words, for them there wasn’t much of a change from a work perspective, when the world went into work-from-home mode. It was business as (un)usual.

When I say that nothing happened, then that’s a really good thing, when you are a company that is reliant on delivering printed newspapers to companies that needs it in a consistent and timely manner without any production interruptions. But when I say that everything happened, it has to do with how the company operated internally and how we as colleagues interact with each other.

We have become far, far better at looking after each other. Both, off course, making sure that those that contracted the decease were well, but also that everyone was safe and sound from a psychological perspective. Going through a pandemic, like the one we’re at the end of now, is something that will affect everyone psychologically, and it’s been key to me, to make sure that we all looked after each other as good as we can internally in the company. And that changed everything from a company perspective. We grew closer and we got to know each other much better. Something I am tremendously grateful for.

It’s a little early to reflect on the pandemic – we’re not out of the woods yet, but it looks like we’re nearly there. How did the pandemic change you?

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