We, as a community, need to reduce our environmental impact and make it more sustainable. Gareth Evans is someone who is very achievement oriented in a sustainable way. He saw building solutions at the asset where the energy is needed being critical.
Gareth joined us on the podcast to discuss today's energy reality. There is someone deciding what we pay, how we get energy, if we get it, and when we get it, and we actually don't really have a lot of control over that. Gareth and his company, Veckta, are paving the way to embrace the opportunity to take more control over our energy destiny.
Gareth is a dad, a husband, and an adventurer. He believes we need to work together, as a team, leading by example within Veckta, where every decision and action is founded on the belief that when employees are collectively successful, everyone is individually successful as a result.
Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.
YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human
Alex Cullimore: How's it going, Cristina?
Cristina Amigoni: It's going well. How are you?
Alex Cullimore: Good. That sounded like a slight journey just in that sentence. It's going well.
Cristina Amigoni: And it's only 11:35 in the morning. I feel like I’m not quite as productive by this time in the morning on most days. And today feels like it's been a whole day already.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah. And it feels like we've had a day and a half already. Although I will say our conversation with Gareth Evans, our guest today, was absolutely energizing. I feel this way about so many of our podcast guests. I don't know. That would be unfair to slander any of our guests. I always feel pretty energized after doing this. But this one actually particularly energizing ironically. Not ironically. Just –
Cristina Amigoni: Pun intended.
Alex Cullimore: Just as a pun. Because he works in the energy industry.
Cristina Amigoni: Yes. Yeah. He has a really cool company that's helping with the transition of energy from centralized unsustainable ways to individualized and sustainable ways, which we need – Well, yesterday, we needed. Hopefully we'll catch up before –
Alex Cullimore: About 20 years ago. But we'll have to do it today.
Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. Hopefully we'll catch up before the end of humanity is what I'm doing.
Alex Cullimore: It's been a bright, bright morning today for us. Gareth is one of those guys who is very accomplishment-oriented in a very sustainable way. He comes across with a very human nature. Very able to connect on that and understanding what the value is of this, not just of creating or growing a business. But what is the human potential both for the people inside the company and what the company can deliver? And it's incredible to watch that. It's definitely seems to be a way he lives his life and a philosophy he has. Just good energy all around.
Cristina Amigoni: Yes. I wonder how many times we can use the word energy in a podcast intro about an energy company.
Alex Cullimore: I don't know. We can energetically throw it in there at least one or two more times.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, very good conversation. And it's interesting, because at the beginning of the conversation, while knowing Gareth and knowing that we would have tons to talk about that relates to our podcast and aligns with our missions, it's not an automatic piece to think, "Oh, energy company. Uncover the Human. Wait. What? Why are you talking to this guy?
Alex Cullimore: Yeah, really interesting points about bringing the humanity into it. Like, just what energy means for he's not – We kind of think of it as this disembodied thing which inadvertently ends up controlling so much of our lives. And he brought in some really good tie-ins and ways to think about that that I hadn't considered, and I really liked the very human aspect of it.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, me too. I had no doubts that it would be obvious. It was more of an outside view-in of like, "Ha! I wonder how this is all going to tie together." And clearly it does because of who he is.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah. He's got good energy. And I hope it gives you guys good energy. So, please enjoy.
Cristina Amigoni: One more energy drop. Enjoy.
Alex Cullimore: Welcome to Uncover the Human, where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives.
Cristina Amigoni: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves.
Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.
Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni.
Alex Cullimore: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.
Cristina Amigoni: Let’s dive in.
“Authenticity means freedom.”
“Authenticity means going with your gut.”
“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”
“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”
“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”
“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”
“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”
Alex Cullimore: Well, welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. Cristina and I are joined today by our guest, Gareth Evans, from VECKTA. Welcome to the podcast, Gareth.
Gareth Evans: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Cristina Amigoni: Welcome.
Alex Cullimore: We're excited to have you. Gareth, let's just dive right in. What's a little bit of your background? What are you up to now?
Gareth Evans: Yeah. Currently, I suppose, dad, husband, adventurer. And day job is CEO of VECKTA. We're building the energy transition marketplace platform. Complex, hard for people to understand. But we're trying to simplify and accelerate the energy transition, which I think we're seeing all around us right now, which is super important. Being able to adapt purposely to changing conditions all around us is super critical and I think is essential to a thriving future. That's what we're completely focused on, is empowering businesses to be able to reduce their emissions, stabilize their costs and get greater energy security.
Alex Cullimore: That's a great vision. And obviously, they're very important right now.
Gareth Evans: It's funk. Funk is what's going on around the world, isn't it?
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, like the 100 degree weather that we're having in September, and hoping it won't turn into wildfires. Yeah, I think I was reading a very quick blog post by Seth Godin this morning around how we don't measure the cost. We don't have really a good idea of the cost of not addressing the climate crisis. We just kind of spend human and financially on it to mitigate it without really stopping and thinking through it.
Gareth Evans: Yeah. And I think the human mentality is we kind of just want to ignore it, don't we? I saw how – I think it was a community up in Oregon, they'd studied the wildfire risks around their community and then published the results. And the community actually asked them to remove the study and I suppose hide it from public view because they're worried that it's then going to impact their insurance rates and have multiple knock-ons. So, they prefer to not know the results and kind of ignore the fact that what was going on around them versus kind of dealing with it. And that's pretty commonplace I think, all around us, is lots of stresses in the world right now. And a lot of us just want to kind of ignore that they're going on instead of adapting and dealing with it.
Alex Cullimore: That brings up a great point, because I think with something like climate change especially, I mean, it's a global issue. It's something that feels so massive, how do you even begin to focus on it? And so, what was your journey to figuring out what you wanted to do in that, working on VECKTA and the energy transition?
Gareth Evans: It's honestly been a wild ride. And I definitely never thought I’d be leading a business that was focused on the energy transition. But I actually originally wanted to be a fast jet pilot with the Air Force. So, my whole childhood and schooling aspirations were geared towards that. And I did everything that I thought was necessary to go down that path. I joined the army cadet, air force cadets through university there. I joined the University Air Squadron, and they sort of paid for me to go to university. And I’d study during the week. And then the weekends, I’d go and fly military aircraft and got trained up. And it actually played out for the best. They'd ordered all these aircraft and they had showed up and they trained up a bunch of pilots and they said they didn't need any of us once we finished university. So, I ended up traveling the world with – I’d studied environmental science. Geography was my passion. That was kind of something I enjoyed. So, I traveled the world. Spent a couple of months with the Shaolin Monks in Northeast China as kind of the big blowout, "Let's do something crazy post-university and before we kind of go into the real world."Traveled through Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and kind of run out of money in Canada. And the oil and gas industry was booming there. And they had a lot of old well sites through the rocky mountains that needed to be remediated and reclaimed. So, I kind of got into the energy industry through the environmental path. So, I spent the first few years of my career cleaning up these old well sites. That really fired me up, because back in the 30s, 40s, 50s, these very adventurous people had gone off into remote parts of the country, drilled these wells and created energy for us to all use. And now this was kind of our way of kind of turning that land back to what it was, which was Crown Forestry Land for the most part. And that work then actually led to me building up enough experience that I was asked to go to Iraq, post Gulf war. And I spent two years there doing environmental and social liability assessments to document the condition of the country prior to kind of the US and, I suppose, international gas companies coming into the region. And so, that was highly stressful. We're getting mortar attacked most evenings. Going out in personal protection vehicles. Wearing Kevlar helmets and bulletproof vests to just go and do environmental work. That kind of gave me a real sense of managing teams under stressful conditions. But it was still heavily in the energy sector and seeing the opportunity and the money that could be produced. Meanwhile, the local populace was surviving on two to four hours of energy a day. I think that I was probably a key turning point for me seeing the just position of – The position that we find ourselves in as a community where you've got all this energy that you're sat on literally as a community and you can't access it. And then you – That impacts everything about your lifestyle, education, access to water. It sort of feeds on from itself. I needed to decompress after that period. I spent four years in Australia building some broader skills across commercial strategy sales. And then came back to the US, and the energy sector at the time was going through that transition of coal, gas, nuclear to renewables. But we started seeing that the centralized grid that we've kind of all relied on where we get power through transmission lines from a big power plant. In some cases, that's 100 years old. It's becoming less reliable. Costly to maintain. It's not designed for these conditions we're talking about at the start. And, yeah, it's becoming more expensive for us as users. And for businesses, less reliable. We, obviously, as a community need to reduce our environmental impact and make it more sustainable. So, we saw building solutions at the asset where the energy is needed being critical. But it's a very complex problem, and we thought we needed to create a solution to allow non-technical decision makers like ourselves. None of us know a lot about how the energy industry works in technical detail. But we know we have a desired outcome, whether it is emission reduction or cost certainty. How do we get there? What are the options? How do I get the results I need to communicate that to my stakeholders? And then who do I work with in the industry to actually then execute and deploy that solution? So, VECKTA is the platform that brings all that together, the processes, the workflows, the technology to inform businesses around the energy strategy.
Cristina Amigoni: That's quite the global tour of experiences literally. And also, just understanding all the pieces of humans, and environment, and energy, and now it's all connected in very different ways.
Gareth Evans: Yeah. And super lucky to – Obviously, my wife, I met her in Canada. To have someone that was flexible enough. She hadn't left North America when we met. And being able to willing to pack a duffel bag and go and base yourself in Dubai for two years while I was working in Iraq and then travel around the world together. I think that's key to being able to do things like that, is having a support network where people kind of rally around you and support you making those decisions, because they're tough. A lot of people say they want to do it. But when actually the opportunity crops up, very few people actually then pack their bags and go for it.
Cristina Amigoni: Very true.
Alex Cullimore: So, one thing I'm just curious about, you've mentioned spending two months with the Shaolin Monks. What was that like? What did that do for the rest of the journey? That's a starting point.
Gareth Evans: That's amazing. You reflect on that, and that was early 2000s. So, it wasn't like we had smartphones and Internet to be able to travel as we do today. And so, we found this website. And it's bizarre thinking back that we even thought that it was legit. We found the website, it's like minimum commitment. Two months. I think it was $700 for two months. And we paid. And then the instructions were simply be at this train station, which was 12 hours North East of Beijing. On this day at this time, we'll pick you up. And that was it. And we don't speak much English. So, make sure there's a translator who greets you. And then we're essentially taken to this remote traditional monastery where it's in the country. Horse and cart were still active use in the farming lands. The kids were dropped off at the age of three to this monastery. And they'd be there until 18. That would be their kind of almost boarding school, but shaolin training. And so, we were there with a few of the Westerners. And it was unbelievable. One of the guys who ran it was the former bodyguard for Chairman Mao. And so, these guys were properly legit. And so, I think what it taught us was the power of kind of routine and discipline. And so, every day, 5 a.m., we were up. We all had to go running. And we had to stretch. And we had to do all that so that we could do that in tai chi as the sun came up to build your chi energy. And sort of understanding some of these philosophies that we had never been exposed to were incredible. Then you'd have breakfast. And then you'd train all day, three to four, five o'clock. And then if you wanted to then fight or spar in the evening with some of the other members, you could. So, that was five days a week. And at weekend we'd get a day or two to go into town and take a break. But it was all day every day. It was super inspiring to see how they kind of live their lives. It was basic. Boiled eggs for breakfast and rice for lunch and dinner. And there was nothing fancy about it at all. It was a real proper, legitimate experience that then catalyzed the rest of the trip. You were super grateful for having that. I did it with three friends. We still talk about it to this day. So, having that kind of memory that you can draw on and probably the fittest we'll ever be in our lifetimes. And yeah, we've got a few photos to remember it by.
Cristina Amigoni: That sounds pretty incredible. And the contrast of that experience and seeing that type of life versus Middle East sitting on the energy that fuels most of the world and the wealth that comes with that, it's crazy. And then the Western type of life, where we'll consume more energy than we need to as much as possible.
Gareth Evans: Yeah, it's crazy, isn't it? I think one of the things that really sticks with me probably the most is we get security briefings every morning before we went out into the ground in Iraq. One day, they showed us a video that they've managed to capture. So, what happens is someone releases like a mortar or a rocket that's aimed at the base that you're staying on. And they've got these sensors to be able to detect where the rocket's coming from. And then the army will go out and surveil that area and make sure that there's no other risks. And they recovered a camera because the people who let off these rockets have to record it so that they can then get paid for doing what they're doing. And essentially, it was two guys. And it was raining, and it was cold. And they're talking to themselves. And we're told what the translation says. And it's essentially along the lines of, "I really don't want to be here tonight. I prefer to be at home with my family. But I kind of need the money." The rocket goes off. They obviously hustle to get out of there, knock over the camera, forget it. For me, this wasn't them not liking us or wanting to necessarily hurt us. My read on it was just them in survival mode. Looking to look after their families. And that's kind of what it all boils down to, isn't it? It's crazy the way the world works.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah, it's insane. So, how does this inform – I mean, I just love your description of like a community sitting on top of the world's energy and they don't even have access to it. I mean, how does this inform what you want to do with VECKTA? And how does that kind of carry forward?
Gareth Evans: Yeah. The platform we're building now is firmly aimed at business owners, because they're typically the biggest emitters. They have the money to actually do something about it. So, we're certainly starting with the problem there. And our mission is to really give them the technology and the data to make informed decisions to create a more sustainable and profitable business. Because you don't have to give up one for the other. You can be cleaner. You can be more cost effective. You can be more resilient. But you can actually then be more profitable as a result of that. And so, as a startup, we have to go where the money is. And that's what we're doing. And we're working on the larger scale projects; mining sites, food and beverage processing facilities, manufacturing customers, the big heavy energy users, to make the biggest impact possible in terms of emission reductions. But our vision and our ultimate aspiration is, is that you can bring that all the way down the curve towards communities and residential users. And the technology is getting better all the time such that it's possible for us to all generate our own energy. And one day we believe that it will be – We'll all have our own energy systems and they'll all be independent when they need to be. But then they'll interact when it makes sense. And self-healing, self-recovery, secure, resilient, but clean in the process. So, that's what we want to work towards. Just taking it one step at a time.
Cristina Amigoni: It's a very good mission. Definitely.
Alex Cullimore: It goes back to what you're saying about the two guys with the mortar. I mean, it's just back to – We're all back to basics at some level. We're all just here to try and like help protect the people we know, save the people we know and do what we can in our corner. And yeah, that's an enormous amount of freedom if we could live in that, like in energy independence at the individual level would be incredible.
Gareth Evans: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, because we don't really realize it. But I’ve been writing a few of these blogs about the transition from web 1 to web 3, and the energy transition of the parallels. And we're certainly in this kind of web 1 era right now where – I don't know whether you remember the early days of the Internet, but someone would put data there and we could read it. But we couldn't interact with it. We couldn't even put the data there ourselves without being a computer science major. And that's kind of where we're at with the energy industry right now, is someone decides what we pay for our energy. How we get it? If we get it? When we get it? How dirty or clean it is? And we actually don't really have a lot of control over that. So, we certainly need to all embrace the opportunity to go on that journey and take more control over our destiny.
Cristina Amigoni: But then you have to convince the people that have the control to let it go.
Gareth Evans: Yeah, exactly.
Cristina Amigoni: If only human nature didn't get in the way.
Gareth Evans: Yeah.
Alex Cullimore: As we all turn away from fire reports, so we don't have to have insurance.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, As we worry about insurance increase as opposed to our house burning down.
Gareth Evans: Exactly.
Cristina Amigoni: Priorities.
Alex Cullimore: I’m going to log this under the I hope that never happens bucket, and just leave it there.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. It's very interesting. So, it sounds like you've found a way to combine the human side of let's do something for the world and for other humans. And also, well, have a job while I’m doing it. So, how do you kind of manage that passion and also living your life?
Gareth Evans: Yeah, definitely sort of seeking out adventure. And I think one of my taglines is going to live life to the max in and out of the office. And I almost feel like it shouldn't be in and out of the office, because it should all be kind of blended as much as possible. But, yeah, massive advocate for that. And I think especially, there's so many different opinions on how you should operate as a startup. Some people will say you should be burning the oil 18 hours a day, smashing it, abusing the team, making sure everyone's crushing it all day every day. And just maybe you get some short-term benefits of that. But I’m not sure that's overly sustainable. And it doesn't allow you to build the culture you want to build. So, I like to lead by example and show the team that it's okay to punch out for a weekend and go and have an adventure and take some holiday time. I think you'll be very aware of this, Cristina, in terms of like the holiday culture here versus Europe and other parts of the world. Actually, we have an unlimited vacation policy as a startup. But you almost have to force people who grew up here to take it. And so, yeah, for me it's about adventure actually makes me more productive, because I actually get to step away from the day-to-day grind. See the bigger picture. Once you're in nature, you actually have a far better perspective for how we fit into the grand scheme of things and it puts it all into perspective. And when you go on these adventures and you face adversity and you work through it, actually makes some of the day-to-day, things that feel stressful in the moment, it definitely puts it all into perspective. I think taking the time out, and stepping back, and letting the brain freely think, and explore, and deliver on what it is that you've kind of concocted, but maybe you haven't allowed it to come out, I think it's super important.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. Like, the leading by example is huge. Because in startups, there is that tendency to – Well, this is the expectations. You don't join startups if you want a nine-to-five job. And if you want a life outside of the startup, except that it's not their company. It's somebody else's company. So, that's already a false expectation to have. And it also doesn't – The short-term benefits are very, very short-term benefits. And I think they're getting shorter and shorter as we keep going. And so, it's important to show everybody else, like, "If I do this, it's a much better message than telling them they can."
Gareth Evans: Yes. And we definitely try and align incentives. So, all our employees have some equity in the business. So, they are all owners of the business. With that, obviously, the more we are collectively successful, everyone's individually successful as a result. But, yeah, I agree that the story that's told to people around go and smash it out and grind it hard and it'll come back and reward you. Often, a lot of startups actually don't even succeed. So, that's the reality of the situation, is we all just have to kind of live day by day and give it the best effort in the moment. And yes, there are some super long days and super long weeks, but also being able to balance that. And we've kind of built our values around that system. So, we have three values. We have adapted purposefully. And so, I think what we're talking about here kind of feeds into that. If it feeds into the energy industry, don't just knee-jerk reaction and let's go and stop building nuclear plants, or let's go and turn off gas and switch to renewables. You can't do that. It's called an energy transition because we need to transition. But let's do that purposefully. And same as a business. How do we grow purposefully? How do we grow sustainably? We challenge limits. So, I think that feeds into the adventure side of it and actually challenging the incumbent status quo that you referred to, Cristina, is how do you challenge an industry that has kind of done it one way for 100 years to actually think outside the box and disrupt their commercial models that have made them a lot of money and then empower co-creation? So, we're empowering a community to move forward. But also, as a team, we need to work together and make sure we pull as a team, not as individuals. So, we live by those quite aggressively.
Cristina Amigoni: Great Values. And as we found out about a month ago, we don't even remember our own values. So, we're working on that.
Alex Cullimore: We redid those recently now.
Cristina Amigoni: It was inspirational. I was like, "Oh, maybe we can't remember four. Let's go down to three and make them memorable." Even though we do actually follow them when we have to make hard decisions.
Gareth Evans: Yeah.
Alex Cullimore: I think it's funny you talking about the startup culture needing to grind it out. And I think it's just hilariously darkly ironic to have like if you had like a sustainability company where you're spending all your time burning your employees out, and I think that would be pretty entertaining in a bad way for them. But I love that idea of working on the transition, because there's so – We have like climate changes and energy transition is the prime example that everybody I think can relate to, because we have the vision of like what we'd love this to be. What we want – We want some form of sustainability. We don't want to have to have brownouts, have fires, have whatever else. But that doesn't – You don't just get to jump to that. It has to work through the transition, and that's something that Cristina and I have learned time and time again. Every time we come up with clients that we do like change management projects for, it's always you see the desired state. You want to flip that switch. You just want to go straight to this is where we're – This is where we need to go. You have to walk all the steps up to that. And it's a repeated life lesson. But that's a very good one to have to focus on. And I like the idea of focusing on energy transition. That's what has to happen.
Gareth Evans: And you find particularly, or in the last few years, is that's been even harder for people just because of how much noise is going on around them in terms of COVID, political uncertainty, all this sort of stuff you find. I saw one graph that showed like the sadness ratio is going up. More people are sadder than they ever have been. You find getting people to go on that journey is becoming increasingly hard, because it just isn't the patience to take the necessary steps. Everyone wants kind of it now.
Alex Cullimore: Somewhat. Yeah, absolutely. There's just so much noise. And I think – Yeah, I have a secret hope. This is kind of a personal journey I went on of just you eventually get on so much noise that like it becomes very relieving when you find ways to cut that noise. And so, while I think we are running people kind of ragged, and I think we're going to fight that for a long time. We're going to have a lot of that impatience, that inability to get to those long-term visions. My hope is that because there is so much noise and the level increases so quickly at this point, maybe in a good way, we can reach some level of overwhelm to where it is a relief and people who are seeking out that greater patience. Because like we've tried this microwave version of life where you try and zap everything as quickly as possible, and it's not fulfilling. And maybe if we can get to the point where there's enough overload, it will force the conversation and share that people found a little bit more patience for it. And it's something that I have to remind myself constantly on the individual level. But it's something that I’m kind of hopeful that if we create – Since we are seemingly unable to stop the increasing noise, maybe there will be an advantage when we have to turn away. It's like, yeah, COVID. Eventually we all had to face some hard questions and facts and kind of our nature of our own relationship to work. And now we have the return to office backlash, then the quiet quitting, then the quiet quitting backlash. And it's going to be, I think, some pendulum swinging. But there's kind of a lot of hope if you reach those points. And the greater hope I guess would be that you don't have to reach the point of disaster to reach that.
Gareth Evans: That's the thing. I think it's easy to get sucked into that negative story, isn't it? But all this stuff is super exciting. And while the likes of the gas issues in Europe right now are obviously hurting a lot of people and it really sucks, it's going to be a massive catalyst for positive change. And I think being able to put that positive slant on and see the pros in kind of some of these negative outcomes. But I think it's certainly spurring the right focus and the right energy now. And we just need to make sure we do adapt and not just start throwing money at a problem that doesn't necessarily have the simple solution.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it's interesting, the gas situation has kind of accelerated the need for independence for plans that had been on somebody's shelf for decades. It was like, "Yeah, we eventually have to get there." And now it's like, "Oh, now, it's eventually." And so we have the plans. We have talked about this. Let's just get to work.
Gareth Evans: Yeah. And these are multi-year, multi-decades projects and aspirations. And, yeah, we definitely need to get going on this. We see all the time with our customers, they're making 2025, 2030 carbon reduction commitments. And I think a lot of people don't realize that between supply chain challenges and just the complexity of the projects, if you haven't started thinking about executing those projects today, then you're at big risk of mis in those targets. But I’m glad to see more and more people making the targets and setting the commitments. And now we need to help them get better.
Alex Cullimore: I’m curious, you talked about like leading by example in your company and kind of creating that own sustainability so you can go on things. You mentioned, like, being an adventurer is one of your taglines up front. And you find that sustainability in that. How are you helping people find that? Your employees find that? How are you helping your team find that? What are ways to incentivize those things?
Gareth Evans: Yeah. Well, I think, certainly, we use those values we talked about before to sort of celebrate and reflect on stuff. Every Friday, send out a note to the teams. What happened this week is how people lived by the values. Here's the call outs that we want to shine a positive light on. We have the unlimited vacation policy to encourage people to actually step away. We certainly, in terms of driving some of that sustainable activity, try to not be contacting people sort of outside of core business hours, because it's very easy to get pinged on a cellphone through email or text and then that suddenly trigger work mentality again. I think it's really important to sort of respect people's personal time and space. And there's definitely times where we need to tap into that and overcome that. But for the most part, everyone has flexibility over when they work and how they work. But at the same time, everyone's got their own personal time, and we need to not distract people from that, because that's super important. That's what keeps them coming back the next day and fired up and productive because they've had a good evening with their friends or family. And we obviously have built the company completely through COVID. So, we've all been remote. So, we try and do our virtual happy hours and coffee hours. We had our first summit the start of this year where we brought the whole team together for a week in San Diego and we rented a house. And it was super awesome, because you're living together, you're cooking together, you're working together, and you're building those bonds, you're building that trust, you're building the relationships that then when times get tough or you need to be able to pull on each other or talk to one another, that core relationship is there. So, these are all the little things we're trying to play around with to try and build some of the sustainable culture that has been a challenge through COVID. Because a big part of building a business is building that social interaction and building a network and being able to ideate in real time. And certainly, that's hard through these kind of virtual worlds.
Cristina Amigoni: Those are some great examples of the awareness that needs to be there. As entrepreneurs, our brain probably never shuts off from the work thoughts no matter where we are. And it's hard to remember this is not everybody else's reality, and it shouldn't be. And the expectation shouldn't be that. And so, how do we separate – And even for ourselves. It's like how do I stop letting work take over even if it's in my head?
Gareth Evans: I think, for me, that comes back to if you've got that hobby or something. For me, it's mountain biking, motorbiking. I actually can't think about work while doing that. Because when I do, I find myself lying on the floor having crashed. You have to be in the zone. You have to be focused. And so, that's what I love about having those kind of those hobbies or those getaways where you have to be in the zone.
Cristina Amigoni: Very good example. Yeah, you don't want to be thinking about something else while you're mountain biking or motorbiking.
Alex Cullimore: That was one of my favorite parts about doing any kind of sports or activities, especially like team sports, where you just have to be concentrated on the whole field. It's very liberating to spend a couple hours where that's literally all you can think about if you want to be successful at this and not even successful. Then like you want to progress. Just you don't want to end up on the floor crashed. It's very freeing to have something that is that mentally taxing.
Gareth Evans: Yeah. It's funny, because one of my vlogs I actually recorded and show myself all cut up. And it was because I was riding down this hill and I was thinking about what I wanted to say on the vlog. And before you knew it, I was lying there. And it had been so violent that somehow my gloves had come off. And so, I still can't figure out the physics behind how it works. But the bike is over there, and my gloves are over there, and my AirPods drop in the bushes. I was just like, "Nah. I need you to stay focused on what I’m doing."
Cristina Amigoni: That is a very good example.
Alex Cullimore: That's an aggressive metaphor for focus.
Gareth Evans: Yeah, exactly.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, it's pretty amazing. Well, even at work with the teams and part of that value creation and making sure that they're around an environment where they can do the best work they can bring, is that realization. Like, there's no such thing as multitasking. You can't be mountain biking and thinking about the vlog about mountain biking at the same time. It ends up badly. And it's the same thing at work. We can't expect somebody to focus on what they're doing while being in a meeting, or receiving 15 emails, or whatever it is that maybe going on. It's one or the other. We can pretend we're doing both, but we really are not.
Gareth Evans: Yeah, it's kind of shocking how many distractions there are in a day-to-day work, isn't it? That's certainly something we're trying to focus on quite heavily. So, we have like meetless Wednesdays. So, no meetings on Wednesdays. And for me personally, I’ve now like blocked out my day. So, all morning, I have kind of a sales flow block for an hour and a half where it's like calling customers, cold calling, all that sort of sales focus. Then I’ve got a 90-minute marketing branding block, which is when I do some of the social media stuff, branding and thinking about the marketing side. And so, that then takes up the whole morning. And I haven't looked up my emails or Slack or anything by that point. So, I’ve allowed myself to focus. And then I try and then use the second half of the day where energy's a bit lower and the mental capacity is probably not as good for meetings and admin and all that sort of stuff. I think you're right. Unless you do focus and block it off, you actually don't get much done. And I think that's probably why productivity levels are going through the floor. It's challenging.
Alex Cullimore: And having the blocks where you are doing the recharge is important as well. So, I think those blocks helps – I saw some quote recently, those like routines create freedom. As you get those blocks and you just get used to being in that rhythm, it makes a lot easier just to be in the sales pattern in the morning. It's a lot easier to be in the marketing pattern afterwards. And if you do actually take the time to recharge, you can just keep going instead of trying to fill every block with some work thing or some next problem to solve.
Cristina Amigoni: Some cat climbing over your shoulder.
Alex Cullimore: Some cat climbing you.
Cristina Amigoni: That's not a distraction.
Gareth Evans: And it's super hard actually – Yeah. It is hard, isn't it? Because you do feel guilty. I still suffer from it. And I can imagine that's a problem for a lot of people, is you kind of feel guilty for not being at your desk or not dealing with emails, or whatever it may be. There's still that background devil on your shoulder saying, "You need to be doing more." And that's the bit we need to overcome.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. That is tough. I like to use the mantra, "We're not saving lives." We are lucky enough to not be in the ER. So, this can wait an hour, a day, a week.
Alex Cullimore: It takes them an hour to email out. So, this brings up an interesting point. We talked about a little bit about like negative catalysts of things, like, the gas prices in Europe. They're very negative experience, but it's a catalyst for positive change. And we're talking about the guilt that we end up feeling being not at work all the time. And this is totally open for either of you. What are ways you'd like to see or have done to capitalize on negative events? Because there is a catalyst for tremendous change every time something like that happens. What are ways you guys like to either do that for yourselves or the team?
Cristina Amigoni: I like Gareth to go first.
Gareth Evans: Yeah.
Alex Cullimore: Or just throw that over the wall.
Gareth Evans: I did a bit of work with this guy once. He just said, "In any situation, just say yes." And so, the example he gave was, "I’m stuck in traffic for the next hour and half." I can either say this is really shit. Or I can go, "Yes! Now I get some personal time with myself. I get to catch up on my podcast." So, that's the attitude I try and take, is I just lost the job. Yeah, it sucks for a second. But, yes, this is what we've learned. This is how we're going to solve it. This is how we're going to deal with it next time. So, trying to put that positive spin on it and figure out what is it that we can take away from it. And how do we learn from it? And what can we do with that time in the moment? I thought that was a really good one. I’ll try and use that as much as possible.
Cristina Amigoni: I like that one. Yeah. I would say I try to understand why I have negative feelings about it. It's like what's the judgment that this is a negative moment? I’m making it a negative moment. Nobody else is to a certain extent. House burns down. Maybe it's not just me making a negative moment. But for more of the daily stuff or the normal life moment is why am I judging it as negative? Because I’m putting that label on. And so, then I can – By shifting that, I start doing a lot of values work. And I’m like, "Well, I’m suffering because it's misaligned with my values." Okay, what's that teaching me? So, then I move into the teaching part, "Oh, it teaches me to, well, never have a project that goes like this, because I can't show up as my best self." Or it teaches me to trust my instinct when I feel red flags at the beginning and I ignore them. Or other things that could come up. But I kind of do the self-reflection piece.
Gareth Evans: Yeah, I like that. What about you, Alex?
Alex Cullimore: I think there's a couple different angles. Cristina and I have joked about it like with clients whenever we end up with emergencies or something or they have a negative reaction. There's this like automatic, and this is not even like an attempt. We just kind of celebrate that. We get a chance at that point. When suddenly something catalyzes and people are angry. In fact, last week, we were told that one of the things we had created was being met with, and we're quoting here, "visceral hatred." And honestly, we laughed. It was great. That was exactly what we kind of needed to catalyze and create this moment for like, "Okay, now we're all seeing some of the gaps. And the plates were thrown in the air. Now, what do you want to catch? What do you want to receive?" And so, I try and bring that. And it's a lot harder the closer it gets to home, right? When it happens in your own business, you're like, "Oh! Crap. We got to go change something." And then you can go back into the – I really like that one you just mentioned, Gareth. I’d love to start trying that one just say, "Yeah. All right, let's do this. There's something here." This is what we get to do externally. Then it comes internally, it's a little harder. It goes individually in your life. It becomes even harder. But I think it really is that continual reflection of, "Hey, there really is an opportunity here." And it's not just something people say where every problem is an opportunity. It really is something that you get a chance to do that you basically got surprised with an opportunity. And if you can embody that and if you can look for the opportunities, it's a lot easier to face that seeming downturn otherwise.
Cristina Amigoni: And I think part of that space is to allow ourselves to feel sad, pissed-off, resentful and not judge that. And not say like, "Well, if this is an opportunity, then why do I feel like this?" And, "I don't know. I’m going to feel pissed-off right now for a while. And I’m going to go through it to the opportunity."
Alex Cullimore: That's a good point too. If you try and say, "Oh, immediately look for the opportunity." You might deflate that initial reaction, at which point you're just kind of harboring that anger or whatever else you've got stored until later.
Gareth Evans: Yeah. I like what you said Cristina about almost sitting with that emotion. I’m reflecting on why you feel the way you do. Because I think there's a lot behind that, isn't it? There's a lot of a lot of experiences, a lot of history, a lot of external expectations that lead to the way you feel. And actually, kind of sitting with that for a few minutes and reflecting on it. We learn a lot, don't we, about what it is that we actually want to feel or should be feeling instead.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, the shoulds. It's like I should be getting to my destination in 45 minutes, not an hour and a half. So, that's what I’m pissed-off about. I’m not pissed-off about the traffic. It's just the expectation that I was going to be 45 minutes early or on time.
Alex Cullimore: That's true.
Cristina Amigoni: So, where can people find you and VECKTA?
Gareth Evans: Yeah, VECKTA to be www.veckta.com, V-E-C-K-T-A. Yeah, sign up to the newsletter. Check out the website. It's actually just being redone. So, it should look completely different in the next few weeks, which is super exciting. Reflecting on everything we've learned over the last few years. So, I’m sure you guys go through this as well. You create something and you think it tells a crisp story, and then you realize no one actually gets it. And you've got to go back to the drawing board and just try again. So, yeah, new website coming out. Obviously, VECKTA on LinkedIn. For me personally, yeah, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, those are the main ones. There are some vlogs on YouTube if you want to check them out. So, email, always easy to get hold of me.
Cristina Amigoni: Very good vlogs. Highly recommended.
Gareth Evans: Oh, thanks.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah, they'll knock your gloves off.
Gareth Evans: Literally.
Alex Cullimore: So, one question, though, on VECKTA? What's the name? Where did that come from?
Gareth Evans: Yeah, we're talking before we started recording about trying to come up with a podcast name. Obviously, creating a name for anyone who hasn't done it is brutal, because any good name has been taken, whether it's on social media or the website domain. And so, VECKTA obviously isn't a real word, but it's on the basis of vector, which is to provide magnitude, scale and direction. So, we want to bring magnitude, scale and direction to the energy industry. And then in terms of the logo, the V is out with the old, the A is in with the new. And then obviously the green E is for a sustainable transition. So, there's a lot of stories kind of intertwined into it. We worked pretty hard on making sure it resonated with us and told the story. And yeah, it's not obviously immediately apparent. But I really like it. And it looks a bit techy, obviously being a software tech platform. So, that was the plan anyway. I don't know whether it resonates.
Cristina Amigoni: It definitely does. Yeah, that's a great story. And yes, the right name takes a long time to get there. The right feeling for the name.
Alex Cullimore: Mm-hmm. We are in the middle of that redoing our story process currently. So, definitely relate to that. So, we're rebranding on that.
Cristina Amigoni: I'm not going to change the name.
Alex Cullimore: No, no. Not the name.
Cristina Amigoni: Just the messaging. Yeah.
Gareth Evans: It's so hard, isn't it? Because I keep getting told, like, describe it like you're talking to an eight-year-old. And I get that. But also, it takes a huge amount of effort, doesn't it? To try and really just boil it down to such a concise simple message.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, we usually get people that will hear about us, meet us, read about us, and then will come up and say, like, "We love what you do." And we're like, "What is that exactly? Could you describe it so we could use the language?"
Gareth Evans: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Alex Cullimore: Yes. What resonated with you? That may or may not make it
Cristina Amigoni: We love what we do too. We just don't know how to describe it in seven sentences or less.
Alex Cullimore: So, one final question for you, Gareth. What is your definition of authenticity?
Gareth Evans: Authenticity, taking the mask off. Being you. Being who you are. Being in the moment. And getting after it.
Cristina Amigoni: I like it. Concise.
Alex Cullimore: Yeah. Well, thank you very much, Gareth, for joining us. Thank you for all of your thoughts and insights. Everybody should go check out VECKTA. It's a great idea. I love the energy transition and the whole marketplace idea. And obviously, very fun to talk to you. So, thank you so much for joining us.
Gareth Evans: Thanks for having me. Really fun.
Cristina Amigoni: Thank you. And hope to see you soon in Colorado again.
Gareth Evans: Yeah, I’ll definitely get back there soon.
Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. November, maybe? Next TEDx?
Alex Cullimore: Yeah.
Gareth Evans: Yeah. There we go.
Cristina Amigoni: Awesome. And hopefully it won't be 100 degrees.
Alex Cullimore: We'll see.
Gareth Evans: Yeah.
Cristina Amigoni: Probably be snowing and 10 degrees. Thank you, everybody, for listening.
Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast.
Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Rachel Sherwood.
Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.
Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast wearesiamo.com, or at our website, wearesiamo.com, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.
Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.
VECKTA CEO & Co-Founder
Dad, Husband, Friend, CEO & Adventure Seeker.
Mission - Simplifying and accelerating the energy transition!
Motto - Expect nothing, give everything. Live life to the max both in and out of the office.