My first 30 days at Railnova: The Art of Un-Learning

Post by Mathilde Gardeau, Sales & Account Manager at Railnova
July 13, 2021

Could someone please flashy-thing me?

Or how my first 30 days at Railnova would have been easier with a Men in Black neuralyzer.

After 4 years as a consultant for digital transformation, I wanted to focus on the train market, because it’s a climate-friendly means of transportation, which can have a real impact on all CO2 emission reduction targets (and, let’s be honest, it was also because I find trains really cool).

When I first heard of Railnova, I thought this would be the perfect company to learn more about this industry while using everything I already knew about digitalisation.

Then, 30 days ago, I started working as a Sales and Account Manager for France, like a kid eager to have her first day at school, rejoicing over all the new things I will get to know: how does a train actually work, what kind of data are relevant for fleet & maintenance management, how can we get these data and make sense out of them, etc. My railway knowledge was limited, but I was ready to pounce on it and learn.

Little did I know that I would first need to un-learn many things.

Not the hard facts, but the working culture and daily routine I was used to. All the things that I had considered as annoying and toxic but somehow normal in the working place before, and which, as I have to admit now, had given me some security in the past.

It is not that I didn’t know what to expect: I was not recruited because I could show off with a few buzz-words from the railway market (“oh yes, I definitely think that predictive maintenance is the future of the industry”). They got me in because they judged during the interviews and the role plays that my mindset fits with the Railnovian spirit: digital affinity, empathy, flexibility of mind, customer orientation. And – let’s be honest – some kind of nerdy enthusiasm for trains.

Before starting, I got more and more excited about Railnova’s culture: in my job offer, they recommended reading 3 books (seriously, how cool is this, sending book recommendations to future colleagues?), one of them called “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work”.

It doesn’t have to be crazy at work … Really? Are you sure?

I thought ‘crazy’ was part of working life, it’s annoying but that’s the way it is. Having endless weekly calls with 30 people during which each person gives a status update are unavoidable. Harassing your colleagues to get feedback ASAP is part of the game. Sending emails early in the morning or late in the evening is necessary to show how committed you are to the job.
Of course, all of this is frustrating and toxic and prevents you from really investing the needed time to actually work, but hey, how do you want to push crazy projects forward without this level of craziness?

Well… spoiler alert: there is an alternative!

I read that at Railnova, projects, and work go forward based on asynchronous written communication.

Asynchronous written communication means for instance taking the time to put your thoughts in a written form, reflecting on what you want to say, why, and how you can say it. It also means giving your colleague the time to read, reflect and comment on what you wrote. It supports documented and informed decision-making. It means getting out of this ASAP mentality and trusting your colleagues to give you feedback – if not in the next 30 seconds, then in the next couple of hours, or the day after. Crazy, isn’t it?

So here we are, I’m starting the job, and I am really, really excited about experiencing this positively crazy culture. And then… then I felt an unexpected longing for the working structures of my previous job. Please, give me structure, give me meetings and deadlines, and reporting templates to fill! I felt lost without them! Please, colleagues, give me ASAP an answer to my questions, be always available for me!

Hum. Not really what I was expecting from me. And then I realized what “un-learning” a culture means: it means lots of mental work! To be honest, this is still a daily challenge. But it is such a great feeling to be able to organize my time the way I want.

Actually, it is only if you get rid of the toxic crazy things, embrace this new culture and accept uncertainties, that you can have the capacity to learn the cool crazy technical things: What are the specificities of the numerous loco types? How can the data acquisition be realized for each of them? How does the Railster work? How do we produce it? How do we connect it via the installation kit to the locos? How do Railfleet and Railgenius, our two main applications, work? etc. etc.

I still have tons of technical things that I have (and want!) to learn to serve our clients’ interests best and help them on their digitalization journey. But I can say with confidence after 30 exciting days working at Railnova: I will be able to learn them quickly – now that I have flashy-thinged myself and (mostly) freed my mind from the old toxic crazy working culture!

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