18 October 2010

I remember at Ruthin School, we had an armory with hundreds of guns. Mainly World War II rifles, 303’s Enfield rifles, but we had a number of Bren guns too, a lethal machine gun last used in the Falklands. I was considering the army as a career choice. Every Monday we’d dress in full army uniform for school. It was called CCF (Combined Cadet Force) and is connected to some of my fondest memories running and climbing in the mountains and crawling through the mud of SENTA, an area approximately 31,000 acres (12,000 ha) of Ministry of Defence freehold land in Sennybridge, Wales. It was on one of the firing ranges at 15 years old that it was explained to me that the Bren Gun was decommissioned because it was too accurate. When I asked “how can something be too accurate?” I was handed a much smaller, lighter weapon with a shorter barrel and asked, “see if you can hit the same target?”

I aimed and squeezed the trigger, it gently vibrated and as hard as I hugged it to keep it on target the thing had a mind of its own, it felt alive as if it were wriggling. ” The bullets hit the target but they also hit everything else in a 10 ft spread.

The officer explained to me that “we don’t necessarily want to kill our enemy. By wounding them, we clog up their battlefields and hospitals, slow them down and demoralise them.”

I knew I had the makings of a great soldier, however the part of the army I loved involved was the outdoors,  places like  the Royal Artillery Adventure Training Centre at Capel Curig, a training camp near Betws-y-Coed. This where I learnt my love for the mountains. Where I’d spend weeks away from home from the age of 13 with Marines, Commandos and SAS. How can you not be influenced by these people. (Insanity  + Fear + Focus = Massive results). They are extreme people with extreme levels of determination that seperate supermen from mortals.

I learnt a great deal from my experiences with the military. I suppose I was at that impressionable age too and growing up strong minded men who confronted everything in their path with thought and intensity, taught me the best way to obtain the best outcome in any situation.

You learn a great deal about yourself when the pressure mounts and you are taken out of your comfort zone. We revert to our core traits when put under pressure. Put under enormous pressure you see the very best and extreme worst of your character.

Even now I hunger for the mountains and it’s back in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park, North Wales I find myself at UKFast influencing another generation, playing the same outdoor events I did with the military.

My favorite is Cat & Mouse, where we drop off 2 teams with an identical set of coordinates from different points, the slower group are given the destination 5 miles away, and the fitter team start 2 miles lower down the mountain. Its phenomenal when you are being chased just how the adrenaline lifts your performance. When you are in the Cats team with a 7 mile run and steep ascent ahead, you really need to dig deep to motivate yourself and your team to reach the levels that ensures you catch your prey.

Our route for the Cats is particularly tough and its always tempting to cut across what looks like simple moorland. I’ve even been tempted on a couple of occasions and every time we have ended up to our chests in a bog. This makes the run ahead even more punishing, but you quickly learn who has a sense of humour.

I am reminded how Gail spotted my PA amongst a group of new recruits. Rachael was in a group with Gail my wife and I came over the hill by a disused slate mine whooping like Indians. You ask them how they felt when we caught them. At this stage under extreme pressure, their brains take the scenario as 100% real and for a split second the adrenaline floods through their veins when they realise they have been captured. I was told afterwards that Rachael had been in tears at this point, yet in-spite of the pain and uncertainty of just how much discomfort lies ahead, she carried on with tears rolling down her cheeks. She never gave up. This to me is commendable, she had passed through her personal pain barrier and showed true grit determination of the highest calibre.

Tears are not a weakness, if anything tears are a sign of strength. This is definitely the case with Rachael.

Why on earth do we do this? I can hear some of you say. It’s a very good question. It’s expensive to take colleagues out of work for days at a time and we have gone to extraordinary lengths going the extra mile with our own dedicated training centre in the Snowdonian National Park. What’s the reason?

I believe you get to find out who are the people you want to work with straight away. In an interview process, people can come across as a superstar, people can talk a good game, yet when the real pressure mounts, they are nowhere to be found. You see the person for who they are, stripped bare of pretension.

I liken it to a snap shot of the person a year down the line when they are really settled in the office environment, when the honeymoon period is over. We have also learnt a great deal about what sort of person fits in to UKFast and what sort of personality traits are a fundamental necessity. So our Snowdon trip helps us match people perfectly.

Another reason to encourage people to get outdoors is the fact that individuals can withstand far more pressure when physically fit. There is is a significant connection between increased stamina and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time.

And when you boil this down, at UKFast we have a massive responsibility. We support huge numbers of businesses around the clock. I need naturally supportive people who, even when faced with the toughest challenges, see an opportunity or a clear path ahead. Snowdon Base Camp is the final part in a very effective filtration process to find like minded individuals who are not interested in themselves, in-spite of the pain they never want to let their colleagues down. They have a huge degree of pride and self motivation. They are the people who put others first whatever the circumstances. They are UKFast people bone deep.

This is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if it sounds the sort of thing that interests you, maybe you should give our recruitment team a shout, and I’ll see you at the top. The top of Snowdon!

UKFast team at Snowdon on Llyn Llwellyn

Bit of a breeze on UKFast Raft building exercise

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